What makes a relationship work and get better over time? We all know that marriage is really tough because you have to deal with feelings and lawyers. If you just look at Hollywood, a marriage is a success there if it outlasts milk. So what does happen in a good relationship and what we can learn from them to maintain the intimacy in the relationship? John Gottman, a relationship expert, has been working with and researching couples for years. And in his book, he has come up with seven principles that really could be useful in building a relationship. In this summary, I'd share with you all the seven principles and how you can apply them to your relationship so that you get closer to your partner over time.
In a good relationship, friendship is really important. It's not just how you deal with conflict. It's about intimacy and maintaining that intimacy. The first three principles are designed to build an intimate friendship with your partner.
The first principle is to enhance your love map.
This is an internal roadmap that you have in your mind about your partner's inner world. It's being known and feeling that your partner is really interested in knowing you, feeling like you want to know your partner. It's about interest in one another, like knowing who are the main people in their lives, what is stressing them out, what's exciting? What are some of their dreams? Now, how do you find this information, … asking questions, of course. Especially open-ended questions like, how do you thinking about your job? How would you like our life to be? These kinds of questions help to build the lovemap and keep asking these questions to keep the lovemap updated.
The second principle for intimate friendship is fondness and admiration.
This is communicating respect in small ways. Saying thank you, I am proud of you, I admire you even for small and trivial things. And also saying it often.
Like saying: thanks for doing the dishes, even if it's their turn to do the dishes. No one likes feeling unappreciated. So, you start scanning the environment for things to appreciate and then express your appreciation to your partner, simply by saying thank you.
The third principle to build intimacy is turning toward your partner instead of away.
This is making little bids for emotional connections and responding to these bids. For example, John is cleaning his glasses and Mary looks outside the window and says, ‘Oh, there is a pretty boat out there.’ This is Mary bidding for a connection. And if John shows no response, we call that turning away. Instead, he can give a minimal response, like by looking only for a couple of seconds. And it will be turning toward Because it's some response rather than no response at all. Or he can even say, ‘Wow, that is really pretty.’ If there is no response from John, chances are that Mary will stop bidding on these tiny emotional connections and their relationship will grow apart from each other.
The other principles for making a marriage work are related to the ability to deal with conflicts in a constructive manner.
Principle number four is to overcome gridlock.
John Gottman found that most conflicts, in fact, 69 percent of them, are never solved during the marriage. So when you pick someone to marry, you automatically inherit your set of unresolvable relationship problems. Remember this, marriage is an attempt to solve problems together that you even didn't have when you were on your own. Like, if you marry a person that is very clean while you are sloppy, you're always going to have conflict and it's not going to change unless she gets therapy. Every relationship will have some perpetual problems due to personality differences. John Goodman says that marriage lasts to the extent that you've selected somebody whose irritating qualities you can stand. The couples who end up getting a divorce, their perpetual problems have resulted in gridlock. Gridlock is like two fists in opposition, no compromise. So, the major problem to make a relationship work around conflict is not resolving the conflict, because most conflicts don't get resolved. It's moving from gridlock to dialogue. The reason that gridlock happens is that partners have different life dreams. The solution is to make the relationship safe enough and find out what their dreams are by asking questions and then find a way to honor both of your dreams. Once both dreams are honored, the greatest source of conflict becomes the greatest source of intimacy.
Principle number five is to solve your solvable problems.
These are the 31 percent of the problems that could be solved. You can do this by Genteelness, by presenting issues in a very gentle way. For example, if Mary feels that she's not getting enough attention from John, she may say, ‘John, you are so emotionally unavailable to me. What is wrong with you?’ She may think that she is just expressing her feelings very clearly, but most probably after hearing this, John doesn't want to spend time with her. Instead, Mary can say, ‘you know, I am feeling kind of lonely. I really miss you. I just need more of you in my day.’ This is basically the same complaint, but with a softened start-up. Rather than criticizing John, she's still expressing what she needs, which is more of him, and she also says it very directly. Also, Gottman found that calming down during conflict is very important to solve the problem. When your heartbeat is up, you are in the state of fight or flight and there is no way you could be a good problem solver. So when conflict gets heated, stop, just take a break and wait until your heartbeat is back to normal.
Principle number six is to let your partner influence you.
Gottman found that couples in marriages that work are really accepting influence from one another. In particular, guys are accepting influence from women. By studying newlyweds, Gottman found that four guys who came up close to the level where women were in accepting influence, their relationship stayed together. Nowadays, women are empowered economically, politically, and in so many other ways. And guys are starting to realize that it makes a difference to honor women. It can be as simple as putting down the toilet seat after you go to the bathroom. It shows that you are thoughtful. Or paying attention to small things, like you say, ‘Good point. I never thought of that. Tell me more about your opinion.’ The guys who say these are way ahead of the game.
The last principle is to create shared meaning.
This is to feel that being together has some meaning and purpose. Marriage has a spiritual aspect to it, and for that to develop, you must build a sense of shared meaning. You don't have to completely agree on what is meaningful for your lives together. But the more shared feelings you can find, the deeper and more fulfilling your relationship will be.
These principles are guaranteed to make your relationship better over time. All you have to do to have a thriving relationship is to build a love map, build fondness and admiration, and notice bids for connection and turn to your partner rather than envy. When this happens, you are in a positive rather than a negative state which helps to deal with conflict. Also during conflicts. Be aware that most problems don't get solved in a relationship, and you can avoid gridlock by adapting to problems and focus on solving the solvable problems. Accept influence from your partner and finally create a shared meaning system together. And that's what makes a relationship work well.
I think this would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt. I myself am single by choice, not my choice though. I think a man is incomplete until he is married. After that, he is finished. Let me know in the comments what do you think about the secret of a happy marriage, do you think it still remains a secret or not? May god save us all in our marriages!