“The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work”–The Afterword And Our New Book Study

This is the last chapter of our book study, “The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work”, by John Gottman, PhD.  Today we are looking at “Afterword: What Now?” and how to put some of things Dr. Gottman talks about in his book into play in our relationships.

He talks about “The Magic Five Hours”, Continue reading

Chapter 11: “The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work”

 

We are almost done with this book!  This chapter is all about creating a solid foundation for marriage through shared meaning, shared traditions, a shared family unity.

 

“Marriage isn’t just about raising kids, splitting chores, and making love.  It can also have a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together – a culture rich with symbols and rituals, and an appreciation for your roles and goals that link you, that lead you to understand what it means to be a part of the family you have become.” (pages 243-244).

 

I love that outlook, and how families create their own family culture.  I have written about creating family culture before on this blog, and this chapter just confirms for me how important doing this truly is for the health of a family.  It is not that a couple feels the same exact way about everything, but that there is an interplay and meshing of values and beliefs and attitudes to form this new family identity. 

 

In this chapter you will find a beautiful questionnaire starting on page 246 that discusses “Shared Meaning” and provides an interesting bit of food for thought regarding rituals, roles in the family, goals, and symbols of family life together.

 

The section on “Family Rituals” begins:  “It is a sad fact that less than a third of U.S. families eat dinner together regularly, and more than half of those that do have the television on during dinner.   This effectively ends conversation during dinner.  Creating informal rituals when you can connect emotionally is critical in marriage.”  This section has an exercise on rituals.

 

There are also exercises regarding family roles, personal goals, and shared symbols.

An excellent chapter for those working on creating a new family culture!

 

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

One special note is that the culture that develops

“Overcome Gridlock”: The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work

 

Dr. Gottman begins this chapter by writing that many couples actually handle “gridlock” well. You want children, he doesn’t; you want to go to church, he doesn’t; you are extroverted and want a party every night and he is introverted and wants to be home with a good book.  These problems seem insurmountable but yet some couples handle them exceedingly well and it does not tear them apart.  How do they do that?

 

Dr. Gottman asserts that the goal in dealing with gridlock is not always to get to solving the problem (believe it or not!) but to open a dialogue.  There are many problems in marriage that are just not solvable, but yet, we can still love each other and live in harmony. 

 

Sometimes the gridlock is caused by underlying feelings and dreams of things from childhood.  Perhaps the things you want most in life is being caused by wanting to emulate or distance yourself from your own childhood experiences.  Dr.  Gottman offers a helpful list on page 218 of people’s most common wishes,dream and desires that sometimes fuels gridlock in a marriage.

 

If we can communicate with each other and respect each other’s deepest dreams and wishes, then happy couples are often willing to overcome gridlock to help their partner be happy.  If the partner does not respect or find significance in their spouse’s dream or deep-rooted need, then this can cause severe marital problems. 

 

Sometimes when couples have opposing dreams regarding an issue, the only hope is to openly talk about why you feel that way and to listen as to why your spouse may feel another way.  When the real issues are out in the open, then you can have a dialogue and find a middle ground that feels okay to both of you.   Compromises are hard to accept, and yet, marriage is a field of compromise if the other person’s happiness matters as much or more to you than your own. 

 

Dr. Gottman notes on page 224: “Keep working on your unresolvable conflicts.  Couples who are demanding of their marriage are more likely to have deeply satisfying unions than those who lower their expectations.”

 

He provides a list of steps for those ready to move beyond gridlock in a series of exercises starting on page 225.  In Step One, Dr. Gottman lists common scenarios, and leaves us to fill in the dream that could possibly be found within the conflict.  One example he provides is a couple where the husband believes the wife is too neat and tidy and controlling.  The dream within this may be that the husband grew up in a very strict home and that the husband actually wants to be able to challenge authority; he wants his children to be able to challenge authority.  And perhaps the wife, who wants a neat tidy home, has as her dream a need for security because her home life was chaotic growing up.  She wants her children to feel safe; she wants to feel safe. 

 

In Step Two, Dr. Gottman guides the reader through picking a gridlocked issue in his or her own marriage and delving into the possible dreams beneath the conflict.  He asks that each person receive fifteen minutes to talk and explain his or her position without  attempting to solve the problem.  Listening is the first key to understanding. 

 

Step Three involves soothing each other, and goes back to the exercises found in the chapter, “Soothe Yourself and Each Other”, Chapter 8.  Step Four involves making a temporary compromise and living with that compromise for two months.  Dr.  Gottman provides the steps to work through  this in the exercise “Finding Common Ground”, found in Chapter 5.   He then instructs couples to live with that temporary solution for two months and then review.  He cautions readers not to expect the problem to be solved, but only that you and your spouse can live with the problem more peacefully than before.  Step Five is then to say thank you, in order to end on a positive note, and he provides an exercise for this on page 240-241. 

 

Another interesting chapter to read and think about!

Many blessings,
Carrie

“Coping With Typical Solvable Problems”–The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work

This chapter begins by citing the hot buttons of marital discord: “Work stress, in-laws, money, sex, housework, a new baby..Even in very happy and stable marriages, these issues are perennials…Although every relationship is different, there’s a reason why these particular conflicts are so common:  They touch upon some of the marriage’s most important work.

Wow.  Think about that for a moment.  These are issues that cover almost everything in life, and gives true credence to that idea that having a good marriage takes work.  However, what the author adds to this oft-repeated phrase and conversation about work in marriage is that it takes a “rich understanding” between the husband and the wife.  Both people need and should feel secure in the marriage.  Dr. Gottman cites that marriage should be a port in the storm , a place of peace.

I love this chapter because Dr. Gottman provides some real solutions to the six basic areas of stress. What I like about the sections devoted to each area is that he breaks it down to an essential task for the marriage to accomplish.  He starts with the stress of the work day, and then spends a particular amount of time on the stress that in-laws can provide to a marriage (including an exercise based around this for you to work on in your family).

He also provides a multi-step solution to  the dilemmas about money Continue reading

“A Donsy Of Gnomes: 7 Gentle Gnome Stories”

This  182-paged book is one of my favorites for five and six  year olds for “school” but also for bedtime reading for almost any age.  My seven and a half year old and I just got done going through these stories at bedtime again, and they are so lovable.  The stories are seasonal and so sweet, and include imaginative ways to present the stories and how to re-tell the stories.

The stories include the gnomes of Limindoor Woods and the two human children who live nearby.  The seven stories are:   Pebble (whose father teaches him the family trade of being a crystal gardener); Brother Acorn (who keeps the world forested) (this story has a lot of repetition and is shorter so may be of delight to even younger children); Tommy Tomten (a winter tale about giving); Teasel and Tweed (this is a longer story and has a rescue element – not scary, but may be better for children a bit older); Gilly ( a springtime tale); Bracken (an adventuresome gnome); Mossy (a Midsummer story that references all the other stories and characters in the book).

The stories have some simple, beautiful ink drawings to accompany them that are lovely and could be a springboard toward your own creation of wet on wet painting moving pictures (where the characters you paint move through the scene).

There are also many “extras” in this book:  Continue reading

“Solve Your Solvable Problems”: The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work

 

If a couple wants to solve a solvable problem, then the most popular conflict resolution method is to “put yourself in your partner’s shoes while listening intently to what he or she says, and then to communicate empathetically that you see the dilemma from his or her perspective.  It’s not a bad method – if you can do it.”

 

But many folks can’t do it.  By studying the happily married couples in his lab, Dr. Gottman came  up a five-step process for conflict resolution. 

 

Step One:  “Soften Your Startup” – Approach a subject you want to solve with humor; avoid criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling.  Be gentle with each other.  “Discussions invariably end on the same note they begin,” says Dr. Gottman.  So, if things start off defensive and nasty, the conflict is unlikely to end any better.

 

A harsh startup is more likely to happen if you let things store up; bring up issues as they happen.  Be clear, concise, polite, appreciative.  There are many exercises in this section to help you learn how to make a gentle startup. 

 

Step Two: “Learn To Make and Receive Repair Attempts”  –  This section talks about how to make repair attempts if the discussion gets off track and becomes harsh and defensive.  There is also a large section on phrases that will help soothe yourself and your spouse under the headings of “I Feel,”  “I Need To Calm Down,” “Sorry,” “Getting To Yes,” “Stop Action!” and “I Appreciate”. 

 

Step Three:  “Soothe Yourself and Each Other” –  Less stable marriages have a hard time with conflict discussions because inevitably one partner or the other becomes emotionally flooded.  If you are flooded, you cannot hear your partner and what they are saying.  If you become flooded during a conflict discussion, then you may need to stop and take a break.  Calming yourself down for twenty minutes or so before continuing the discussion can be invaluable.  After that, it is good to calm each other down.  Dr. Gottman notes that this is important: “Soothing your partner is of enormous benefit to a marriage because it  it really a form of reverse conditioning.  In other words, if you frequently have the experience of being calmed by your spouse, you will stop seeing your partner as a trigger of stress in your life and instead associate him or her without feeling relaxed.”

 

Step Four:  “Compromise” –  there are several exercises to work on this most important step.

 

Step Five:  “Be Tolerant Of Each Other’s Faults” – Don’t focus on the “if onlies” but on the acceptance of flaws and finding common ground.

 

Many blessings,

Carrie

“The Two Kinds Of Marital Conflict”: The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work

We are up to the seventh chapter!  Who out there is reading along?

This chapter brings up a really great point that no one ever talks about in marriage:  that there is two types of conflict in marriage.  One is the type of conflict that has a resolution, but the other type is perpetual and ongoing!  That’s what no one ever says, right?  That some marital conflict just IS and may be ongoing.

Dr. Gottman actually estimates that almost 70 percent of marital conflict is perpetual!  Wow!  He writes, “Time and again when we do four year follow-ups of couples, we find that they are still arguing about precisely the same issue.”

And guess what?  Despite the same perpetual problems and conflict, these couple remain happy and satisfied within their marriages!  This is because “they’ve learned to keep it in its place and to have a sense of humor about it.”

Problems are an inevitable part of intimately loving and living with someone else.  If we can develop strategies to cope with these problems, then we can live with it.  The difference is that in an unstable marriage, these perpetual problems kill the marriage because instead of coping with the problem, the couple just “gets gridlocked over it.”  Continue reading