The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
by John M. Gottman, Ph.D. and Nan Silver
Despite being very happy in my relationship with my husband, I learned a few things from this book that I am plan to implement. There's always room for improvement, right?
Dr. Gottman's main theme stated that "happy marriages are based on a deep friendship,...a mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other's company," and when speaking about couples that "their positive thoughts about each other and their marriage are so pervasive that they tend to supersede their negative feelings."
I won't regurgitate the entire book, but here are some of the key points that I took away from it:
1. Soften your startup. Don't start off by accusing or sniping at your partner. Instead, try to ease into your conversation, and definitely avoid being hostile or accusatory.
2. Learn to make and receive repair attempts. Usually, these are attempts by either partner to add some levity to a disagreement or to prevent the argument from getting into ugly territory. Often this can be a funny statement or even just a request to get back on topic or take a break.
3. Soothe yourself and each other. If you start to feel overwhelmed by the discussion, let your partner know you need a break. When you feel the fight or flight response of a conflict, it takes a good 20 minutes to effectively remove the chemicals from your body and allow yourself to relax. So take 20 minutes, listen to music or deep breath before returning to the discussion.
4. Compromise. Even if you are convinced that you are right (any you may be, who's to say), the only way to manage your conflicts is to compromise. It's fine and dandy to be always right, but is it worth your marriage? Of course not. Work on making trade-offs.
5. Be tolerant of each other's faults. Neither one of you is perfect. (No really, you're not.) Focus on what you love about each other and designate your faults into the cute or quaint category. Maybe even be thankful that someone loves you, flaws and all.
My favourite tip is to treat your spouse "with the same respect you offer to company." This is the one of the pieces of advice that rang most true for me. If someone came into my home and knocked over a cup of coffee, I would be all over myself trying to make them feel less bad about it. Why in the world would I not do the same for my spouse? Why would I feel like I need to be disparaging, "Great, now I have to clean up this mess because you're careless"? Instead I should be making a real effort to be more polite and loving under these circumstances.
I would definitely recommend this book. I found several helpful nuggets of wisdom in it. So much so that the first person who comments that they would like the book (Canada or U.S., sorry, shipping elsewhere is a killer) will get my beat-up, highlighted copy mailed to them. (yes, the copy with the mod podged front in all of its, uh, attractive glory).