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Friday, July 24, 2015

"The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work" (John M. Gottmann and Nancy Silver)

TITLE: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert
AUTHOR: John M. Gottmann and Nancy Silver
PUBLISHER: New York, NY: Harmony Books, 2015, (320 pages).

When it was first published back in 1999, this book made a huge impact that shot authors and marriage counselors, John Gottmann and Nancy Silver to fame, becoming their most popular book. Using interviews, research, and scienfic data analysis, the authors begin with a startling claim: They can predict an impending divorce with a 91% accuracy just by looking at various signs. Moreover, they criticize most marital therapies as ineffective. They can recognize the four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse. They can also tell the health of a marriage by asking a few questions and observing the responses. Fortunately, they are able to come up with seven principles not just to make marriage work, but to sustain it over the long haul. In brief, the principles are:

  1. Learning to enhance one's love maps
  2. Nurturing fondness and admiration for each other
  3. Turning toward each other instead of away from
  4. Letting One's Partner Influence You
  5. Solve the Solvable problems
  6. Overcoming gridlock over unsolvable ones
  7. Creating shared meaning

Filled with plenty of tips and advice, the authors know that marriage has far more complications in real life. In fact, one criticism of the first edition of this book is the heavy dependence on data and scientific analysis, just like a book having lots of theory but little practice. This second edition tries to correct this imbalance by putting their findings to work through the Gottmann Institute. Using direct support for couples, marital therapies, and training sessions, they have accumulated more statistics on the Seven Principles. They claim that couples who read the book without additional professional assistance "were significantly happier in their relationship." Not only that, the helpfulness continued even after a year. Updated for more diverse groups, the book now includes findings for same-sex couples, new parents, and mixed marriages. The questionnaires are updated. The statistics are refreshed. The numbers are crunched with consistent results.

Let me offer three thoughts on this book. First, this book speaks deeply into the issues of marriage. The way the authors have written show how much they understood couples and the marital struggles. Many of the examples given have struck a chord in readers deeply. The love maps questionnaire for instance, force individuals to dig a little deeper into their hearts prior to answering the simple Yes/No questions. It is not easy to simply tick off an answer thoughtlessly. They show us that marriage is not about "knowing" each other mentally, it is a lot more about connecting with one another at every level. While reading a book alone may not necessarily heal a marriage, it can certainly orientate any marriage more constructively. Second, this book is high on implementation. In other words, many of the suggestions are easy to understand and implement. While there are lots of scientific work and data analysis, one may accuse the authors of analysis till paralysis. That is not true, especially in this new and updated edition. The chapter on "Coping with Typical Solvable Problems" is a case in point. The authors take a break between Principles 5 and 6 to include some modern distractions like the electronic additions, relations with in-laws, money matters, housework expectations, sex, and the ubiquitous nuisance: Stress. Third, this book contains many packages of helpful tips. Those who like to have ready to remember strategies will appreciate them. Some of the more notable ones are:
  • Six Signs of Failing Marriage
  • Seven Week Course in Fondness and Admiration
  • Stress Reducing Conversations
  • Seven Tips for Listening to Fears and Sadness
  • Two Kinds of Marital Conflicts: Perpetual and Solvable
  • Seven Steps to Dealing with Emotional Injuries
  • Signs of Gridlocks
  • Four Pillars of Shared Meaning
  • The Magic Five Hours
  • ....
Even if readers do not agree with all of the principles, I am convinced that at some point in the book, they would be touched. I have read this book more than twice and are still amazed at the dynamism and wisdom of the teachings. This book remains my favourite book for marriages of all types.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Harmony Books, a division of Random House Book Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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