Summary: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work By John Gottman
Summary: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work By John Gottman

Summary: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work By John Gottman

Principle 1: Enhance Your Love Maps

By giving honest answers to the following questions, you will get a sense of the quality of your current love maps. For the most accurate reading of how your marriage is doing on this first principle, both of you should complete the following.

Read each statement, and circle T for “true” or F for “false.”

  1. I can name my partner’s best friends. T F
  2. I can tell you what stresses my partner is currently facing. T F
  3. I know the names of some of the people who have been irritating my partner lately. T F
  4. I can tell you some of my partner’s life dreams. T F
  5. I am very familiar with my partner’s religious beliefs and ideas. T F
  6. I can tell you about my partner’s basic philosophy of life. T F
  7. I can list the relatives my partner likes the least. T F
  8. I know my partner’s favorite music. T F
  9. I can list my partner’s three favorite movies. T F
  10. My spouse is familiar with my current stresses. T F
  11. I know the three most special times in my partner’s life. T F
  12. I can tell you the most stressful thing that happened to my partner as a child. T F
  13. I can list my partner’s major aspirations and hopes in life. T F
  14. I know my partner’s major current worries. T F
  15. My spouse knows who my friends are. T F
  16. I know what my partner would want to do if he or she suddenly won the lottery. T F
  17. I can tell you in detail my first impressions of my partner. T F
  18. Periodically I ask my partner about his or her world right now. T F
  19. I feel that my partner knows me pretty well. T F
  20. My spouse is familiar with my hopes and aspirations. T F

Scoring: Give yourself 1 point for each “true” answer.

10 or higher: This is an area of strength for your marriage. You have a fairly detailed map of your spouse’s everyday life, hopes, fears, and dreams. You know what makes your spouse “tick.” Based on your score, you’ll probably find the love map exercises that follow easy and gratifying. They will serve as a reminder of how connected you and your partner are. Try not to take for granted this knowledge and understanding of each other. Keeping in touch in this way ensures you’ll be well equipped to handle any problem areas that crop up in your relationship.

Below 10: Your marriage could stand some improvement in this area. Perhaps you never had the time or the tools to really get to know each other. Or perhaps your love maps have become outdated as your lives have changed over the years. In either case, by taking the time to learn more about your spouse now, you’ll find your relationship becomes stronger.

There are few greater gifts a couple can give each other than the joy that comes from feeling known and understood. Getting to know each other shouldn’t be a chore.

Don’t pass judgment on what your spouse tells you or try to give each other advice. Remember that you are simply on a fact-finding mission. Your goal is to listen and learn about your mate.


Principle 2: Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration

To assess the current state of your fondness and admiration system, answer the following.

Read each statement and circle T for “true” or F for “false.”

  1. I can easily list the three things I most admire about my partner. T F
  2. When we are apart, I often think fondly of my partner. T F
  3. I will often find some way to tell my partner “I love you.” T F
  4. I often touch or kiss my partner affectionately. T F
  5. My partner really respects me. T F
  6. I feel loved and cared for in this relationship. T F
  7. I feel accepted and liked by my partner. T F
  8. My partner finds me sexy and attractive. T F
  9. My partner turns me on sexually. T F
  10. There is fire and passion in this relationship. T F
  11. Romance is definitely still a part of our relationship. T F
  12. I am really proud of my partner. T F
  13. My partner really enjoys my achievements and accomplishments. T F
  14. I can easily tell you why I married my partner. T F
  15. If I had it all to do over again, I would marry the same person. T F
  16. We rarely go to sleep without some show of love or affection. T F
  17. When I come into a room, my partner is glad to see me. T F
  18. My partner appreciates the things I do in this marriage. T F
  19. My spouse generally likes my personality. T F
  20. Our sex life is generally satisfying. T F

Scoring: Give yourself 1 point for each “true” answer.

10 or higher: This is an area of strength for your relationship. Because you value each other highly, you have a shield that can protect you from becoming overwhelmed by any negativity that also exists between you. Although it might seem obvious to you that people who are in love have a high regard for each other, it’s common for spouses to lose sight of some of their fondness and admiration over time. Remember that this fondness and admiration is a gift worth protecting. Completing the exercises in this chapter from time to time will help you to reaffirm your positive feelings for each other.

Below 10: Your marriage could stand some improvement in this area. Don’t be discouraged by a low score. There are many couples in whom the fondness and admiration system has not died but is buried under layers of negativity, hurt feelings, and betrayal. By reviving the positive feelings that still lie

deep below, you can vastly improve your marriage.

If your fondness and admiration are being chipped away, the route to bringing them back always begins with realizing how valuable they are. Remember that they are crucial to the long-term happiness of a relationship because they prevent contempt—one of the marriage-killing four horsemen—from becoming an overwhelming presence in your life. Contempt is a corrosive that, over time, breaks down the bond between husband and wife. The better in touch you are with your deep-seated positive feelings for each other, the less likely that you will act with contempt toward your spouse when you have a difference of opinion.


Principle 3: Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away

To get a good sense of how your relationship is faring (or is likely to fare in the future), answer the following questions.

Read each statement and circle T for “true” or F for “false.”

  1. We enjoy doing small activities together, like washing the dishes or watching TV. T F
  2. I look forward to spending my free time with my partner. T F
  3. At the end of the day, my partner is glad to see me. T F
  4. My partner is usually interested in hearing my views. T F
  5. I really enjoy discussing things with my partner. T F
  6. My partner is one of my best friends. T F
  7. We are spiritually very compatible. T F
  8. We just love talking to each other. T F
  9. When we go out together, the time goes very quickly. T F
  10. We always have a lot to say to each other. T F
  11. We have a lot of fun together. T F
  12. My partner tells me when he or she has had a bad day. T F
  13. I think my partner would consider me a very close friend. T F
  14. We tend to share the same basic values. T F
  15. We like to spend time together in similar ways. T F
  16. We really have a lot of common interests. T F
  17. We have many of the same dreams and goals. T F
  18. We like to do a lot of the same things. T F
  19. Even though our interests are somewhat different, I enjoy my partner’s interests. T F
  20. Whatever we do together, we tend to have a good time. T F

Scoring: Give yourself 1 point for each “true” answer.

12 or higher: Congratulations! Turning toward is an area of strength in your marriage. Because you are so often “there” for each other during the minor events in your lives, you have built up a hefty emotional bank account that should support you over any rough patches in your marriage (and keep many at bay). It’s those little moments that you rarely think about—when you forward a joke that’s making the social-media rounds, set the table together, or have a quickie catch-up call while you’re both still at work—that make up the heart and soul of a marriage. Having a surplus in your emotional bank account is what makes romance last and gets you through hard times, bad moods, and major life changes.

Below 12: Your relationship could stand some improvement in this area. By learning to turn toward each other more during the minor moments in your day, you will make your marriage not only more stable but more romantic. Every time you make the effort to listen and respond to what your spouse says, to help him or her, you make your marriage a little better.

Sometimes, and especially if a relationship is going through a rocky period, a spouse may not recognize when the partner is making a bid for connection because it comes out sounding negative. The partner then reacts to the negativity and misses the hidden plea.

So before you reply defensively to your partner, pause for a moment and search for a bid underneath your partner’s harsh words. Then, focus on the bid, not the delivery. If you find it difficult not to react defensively, first take five really deep breaths, counting slowly from one to six as you inhale and then slowly from seven to fifteen as you exhale. Then say to your partner, “I want to respond to you positively, so can you please tell me what you need right now from me? I really want to know.”


Principle 4: Let Your Partner Influence You

Perhaps the fundamental difference between husbands who accept influence and those who don’t is that the former have learned that often in life you need to yield in order to win. When you drive through any busy city, you encounter frustrating bottlenecks and unexpected barricades that block your rightful passage. You can take one of two approaches to these impossible situations. One is to stop, become righteously indignant, and insist that the offending obstacle move. The other is to drive around it. The first approach will eventually earn you a heart attack. The second approach, yielding to win, will get you home.

Read each statement and circle T for “true” or F for “false.”

  1. My partner is really interested in my opinions on our basic issues. T F
  2. My partner usually learns a lot from me even when we disagree. T F
  3. My partner wants me to feel that what I say really counts. T F
  4. My partner wants me to be influential in this marriage. T F
  5. My partner can listen to me, but only up to a point. T F
  6. My partner thinks I have a lot of common sense. T F
  7. My partner tries to communicate respect even when we disagree. T F
  8. If my partner keeps trying to convince me, he or she eventually wins out. T F
  9. My partner doesn’t reject my opinions out of hand. T F
  10. My partner doesn’t think I am rational enough to take seriously when we discuss our issues. T F
  11. My partner believes in lots of give and take in our discussions. T F
  12. My partner is very persuasive and usually wins our arguments. T F
  13. My partner wants me to have an important say when we make decisions. T F
  14. My partner usually thinks I have good ideas. T F
  15. My partner thinks I am basically a great help as a problem-solver. T F
  16. My partner tries to listen respectfully even when we disagree. T F
  17. My partner usually thinks his or her solutions are better than mine. T F
  18. My partner can usually find something to agree with in my position. T F
  19. My partner thinks I’m usually too emotional. T F
  20. My partner thinks he or she needs to make the major decisions in our relationship. T F

Scoring: Give your partner 1 point for each “true” answer, except for questions 5, 8, 10, 12, 17, 19, and 20. Then subtract 1 point for each “true” answer to questions 5, 8, 10, 12, 17, 19, and 20.

6 or higher: This is an area of strength in your marriage. Your partner willingly cedes power to you, a hallmark of an emotionally intelligent marriage.

Below 6: Your marriage could stand some improvement in this area. Your partner is having some difficulty accepting influence from you, which can make a marriage dangerously unstable. Your partner should reread this chapter if he or she is still unclear about why power-sharing is essential. Then the following exercises will help you move forward.


Principle 5: Solve Your Solvable Problems

To get a sense of whether harsh start-up is a problem in your marriage, answer the following questions.

Read each statement and circle T for “true” or F for “false.”


  1. My partner is often very critical of me. T F
  2. I hate the way my partner raises an issue. T F
  3. Arguments often seem to come out of nowhere. T F
  4. Before I know it, we are in a fight. T F
  5. When my partner complains, I feel picked on. T F
  6. I seem to always get blamed for issues. T F
  7. My partner is negative all out of proportion. T F
  8. I feel I have to ward off personal attacks. T F
  9. I often have to deny charges leveled against me. T F
  10. My partner’s feelings are too easily hurt. T F
  11. What goes wrong is often not my responsibility. T F
  12. My spouse criticizes my personality. T F
  13. Issues get raised in an insulting manner. T F
  14. My partner will at times complain in a smug or superior way. T F
  15. I have just about had it with all this negativity between us. T F
  16. I feel basically disrespected when my partner complains. T F
  17. I just want to leave the scene when complaints arise. T F
  18. Our calm is suddenly shattered. T F
  19. I find my partner’s negativity unnerving and unsettling. T F
  20. I think my partner can be totally irrational. T F

Scoring: Give yourself 1 point for each “true” answer.

Below 5: This is an area of strength in your marriage. You and your spouse initiate difficult discussions with each other gently—without being critical or contemptuous. Because you avoid being harsh, your chances of resolving your conflict or learning to manage it successfully together are dramatically increased.

5 or higher: Your marriage could stand some improvement in this area. Your score suggests that when you address areas of disagreement with your spouse, one of you tends to be harsh. That means you immediately trot out at least one of the four horsemen, which automatically prevents the issue from being resolved.

If you are the one more responsible for harsh start-ups in your relationship, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to the fate of your marriage to soften up. Remember: If you go straight for the jugular, you’re going to draw plenty of blood. The result will be war or retreat on your partner’s part rather than any meaningful, productive discussion. If you’re angry with your spouse, it’s worth taking a deep breath and thinking through how to broach the subject. Softening your start-up will be easier if you constantly remind yourself that it is the optimum strategy for resolving the conflict. If you feel too angry to discuss the matter gently, your best option is not to discuss it at all until you’ve calmed down.


Principle 6: Overcome Gridlock

Whether they seem important or petty to outsiders, all gridlocked disagreements share four characteristics. You’ll know you’ve reached gridlock if:

  1. You’ve had the same argument again and again with no resolution.
  2. Neither of you can address the issue with humor, empathy, or affection.
  3. The issue is becoming increasingly polarizing as time goes on.
  4. Compromise seems impossible because it would mean selling out—giving up something important and core to your beliefs, values, or sense of self.

As with most difficulties, the best approach to coping with gridlock is to avoid it in the first place. Fortunately, the more adept you become at following the other six principles, the less likely you are to gridlock over intractable differences. As you come to know and trust each other, you will find that disagreements that once would have overwhelmed you are more easily handled

A significant key to preventing gridlock is also to be on the lookout for those small moments where you “miss” each other’s needs. If either of you is feeling a lot of hurt over seemingly minor slights, you may want to spend some extra time on strengthening your fondness and admiration

and practice turning toward each other

Not acknowledging and talking out these small moments can make a relationship more vulnerable to gridlock over significant issues.


Principle 7: Create Shared Meaning

A rewarding marriage is about more than sidestepping conflict. The more you can agree about the fundamentals in life, the richer, more profound, and, in a sense, easier your marriage is likely to be. You certainly can’t force yourselves to have the same deeply held views. But some coming together on these issues is likely to occur naturally if you are open to each other’s perspective. A crucial goal of any marriage, therefore, is to create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her convictions. The more you speak candidly and respectfully with each other, the more likely there is to be a blending of your sense of meaning.

The Four Pillars of Shared Meaning


Rituals don’t necessarily have to derive from your respective childhoods and family histories. You can create your own. If you wished your family had gone on outings together on the weekends, you may want to incorporate that into your weekly routine.


Our sense of our place in the world is based to a great extent on the various roles we play—we are spouses, perhaps children and/or parents, and workers of one kind or another. From the standpoint of marriage, our perspective on our own roles and our mate’s can either add to the meaningfulness and harmony between us or create tension.


Part of what makes life meaningful are the goals we strive to achieve. While we all have some very practical ambitions—like earning a certain income—we also have deeper, more spiritual aspirations. For one person, the goal may be to find peace and healing after a tumultuous, abusive childhood. For another, it may be to raise children who are good-hearted and generous. Many times, we don’t talk about our deepest goals. Sometimes, we haven’t even asked ourselves these questions. But when we start, it gives us the opportunity to explore something that can have a profound impact on ourselves and our marriage.


Values and beliefs form the final pillar of shared meaning in a marriage. These are philosophical tenets that guide how you wish to conduct your lives. For some people, values are deeply rooted in religious conviction. But couples who are not religious may also have a belief system that determines their perspective on life and informs the choices they make.