Thursday, May 12, 2011

Couple Time: Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

When I was engaged, my mom was completing her bachelor's degree (GO MOM!) in Family and Consumer Studies. As part of a class, she was required to read this book:

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
by John M. Gottman

She already had thirty years of marriage under her belt, and she was able to recognize that this book had a lot to offer. As such, she gave it to me to read before and during the beginnings of my own marriage. I still refer to it now and again, after five years, and I believe it is worth sharing. As the title suggests, there are seven basic principles covered, each with several exercises and activities to complete with your spouse. Today, I will introduce just two of those principles.

Principle 1:
Enhance your Love Maps

My husband is a computer engineer, while my professional background is in elementary education. Needless to say, I often do not understand what exactly it is that he does at work all day... I can, however, tell you the title of his main project, the names of his bosses and his team, give a description, albeit brief and basic, of what his major work goals are, and I know to be excited when he comes home and says he actually got to program today. This is what Gottman refers to as a Love Map--a couple's understanding of the intimate details of each other's lives, including the parts that do not necessarily overlap.

From the book: "From knowledge springs not only love by the fortitude to weather marital storms. Couples who have detailed love maps of each other's world are far better prepared to cope with stressful events and conflict. ... There are few gifts a couple can give each other greater than the joy that comes from feeling known and understood."


1. The Love Map 20 Questions Game: Each partner randomly chooses 20 numbers within 1-60. Ask your partner the corresponding question. If he answers correctly, he gets the number of points indicated, and you get one point. If he answers incorrectly, neither of you get any points. Take turns answering questions about each other.

Sample questions:

1 point--Where was I born? What is my favorite color?
2 points--Name my two closest friends. What is my favorite movie? What do I most like to do with my time off?
3 points--Who was my best friend in childhood? Who is my greatest source of support (other than you)?
4 points--What makes me feel most competent? What do I fear most? What are some of the important events coming up in my life and how do I feel about them?
5 points--What is my fondest unrealized dream?

2. Make Your Own Love Maps: You are on a fact-finding mission. Using the questions provided, interview each other. Take turns as listener and speaker. Your goal is to listen and learn about your mate.

Sample topics:

The cast of characters in my partner's life
Recent important events in my partner's life
Upcoming events
Current Stresses & Worries
Hopes and Aspirations

3. Who Am I?: This is a self-searching exercise in which you come to understand yourself better and thus are better able to share with your partner. Each spouse should complete the activity for themselves and then share responses as a couple.

Sample topics:

My triumphs and strivings
My injuries and healings
My emotional world
My mission and legacy
Who I want to become

Principle 2:
Nurture your Fondness and Admiration

From the book: "Fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a rewarding and long-lasting romance. Although happily married couples may feel driven to distraction at times by their partner's personality flaws, they [should] still feel that the person they married is worthy of honor and respect. ... By simply reminding yourself of your spouse's positive qualities--even as you grapple with each other's flaws--you can prevent a happy marriage from deteriorating."


1. "I appreciate...": A list of 72 characteristics are given. Each partner should select only three that you feel are characteristic of your spouse. Then, share an incident in which that characteristic was displayed.

Sample characteristics:

A great partner

2. The History and Philosophy of Your Marriage: Discussing the happy times from your past together can help refocus your perspective on why you married in the first place. Thirteen questions are given covering The History of Your Relationship and Your Philosophy of Marriage to be discussed at length together.

Sample questions:

Discuss how the two of you met and got together. Was there anything about your spouse that made him or her stand out? What were your first impressions of each other?

Talk to each other about your parents' marriages. Would you say they were very similar to or different from your own marriage?

3. A Seven-Week Course in Fondness and Admiration: The purpose of this activity is to get into the habit of thinking positively about your spouse on a consistent basis. For seven weeks, there is a thought and a task given for the five weekdays. Think of the thought several times throughout the day, and find specific instances when that thought applied to your relationship, even if it isn't the "norm" presently. Be sure to complete the task, even if it might not fit how you are feeling about your partner on that particular day. As the weeks progress, the tasks become more involved and gradually include your partner more directly and more frequently.

Sample week:

Thought: I am genuinely fond of my partner.
Task: List one characteristic you find endearing or lovable.

Thought: I can easily speak of the good times in our marriage.
Task: Pick one good time and write a sentence about it.

Thought: I can easily remember romantic, special times in our marriage.
Task: Pick one such time and think about it.

Thought: I am physically attracted to my partner.
Task: Think of one physical attribute you like.


Thought: My partner has specific qualities that make me proud.
Task: Write down one characteristic that makes you proud.

From Laura:

It is my belief that good marriages only really happen because serious effort is put in, on a consistent basis and by each partner, to keep that relationship strong and healthy. My purpose in sharing what I have today is to give some tools to help in building up and strengthening your own marriage. I would like some feedback in regards to this and potential future posts for Thursday's Couple Time. Please take a few moments to leave a comment!

What kinds of marriage topics would you be interested in discussing on this blog?

Was this introduction to the seven principles of interest to you? Do you think you will use any of the tips suggested? Would you be interested in reading more about the other principles (or more details on these two shared)?

Thanks for sharing!

1 comment:

Britta said...

I am going to buy this book! I think its what we need right now, thanks for introducing it!

We'd love to hear about: date ideas and finding ways around kids, money and time restraints. How do you split up chores and responsibilities around the house? Maybe something about expectations about our physical appearance (when issues with weight, hair loss, etc creep up...)

Now about the post: My husband and I did this a lot when we were first married and I loved it! Having kids and a career has really pushed us apart and reading this made me remember all those times we just talked before, and what we talked about! I'm glad you introduced this so we can get back into knowing eachother better!