Gottman’s “Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work”


According to John Gottman, emotional intelligence is the key towards the realization of a successful marriage, with the basic argument being that a person who is more in touch with emotions is likely to get along well with other people. Gottman further asserts that emotional intelligence is not acquired naturally; instead, it is learned over a long time. In addition, emotional intelligence plays a vital role in helping couples to recognize the value of marriage, which is the key to a successful marriage (Gottman, 1999). Gottman notes that the case of unhappy marriages is characterized by psychological arousal, which may be propagated to the body and mind. Gottman thinks that successful conflict resolution does not guarantee a happy marriage, and that therapeutic approaches that emphasize interpersonal communication such as active listening, do not constitute a successful marriage due to the fact each couple will insist on defending his/her stance, thereby jeopardizing emotional intelligence that is the building block of marriage.

Gottman’s argument regarding emotional intelligence as being important in successful marriage is correct. However, the proposition that conflict resolution and interpersonal communication skills are not vital in the realization of a successful marriage is contestable. This is because the major cause of rifts in marriages is conflicts, and adopting a strategy for solving the conflicts through effective interpersonal communication is vital in ensuring that marriages work. The approach by Gottman towards the realization of a successful marriage is more practical compared to the therapeutic approach that proposes effective interpersonal communication as a means of conflict resolution in marriages. This is important in some cases whereby Gottman’s viewpoint is not applicable. It can be perceived that Gottman’s approach to a successful marriage is just a more revised approach to the conventional approaches.

Principle 1: Enhance your love maps

This plays an important role in having knowledge of one’s partners, their desires, hopes and dreams. In addition, a love map helps in maintaining one’s interest in the relationship. Without a love map, couples have no information concerning their partners, and such a relationship is detrimental to the success of a marriage. Additionally, couples who have each other’s love maps are adequately equipped to cope with rough times and stresses that may affect their marriage. It is important to note that knowing a spouse better is an ongoing, lifelong process; as a result, it requires a constant update regarding the knowledge of the other partner. According to Gottman, a love map is only an initial step to the realization of a successful marriage. Therefore, couples can build and enhance their partner’s knowledge in various important ways (Gottman, 1999). For those starting a relationship, love maps do not only provide a framework for understanding one another but also facilitate the aspect of fondness and admiration, which forms the basis of the second principle for a successful marriage.

The aspect of love maps is an important contribution towards the realization of a successful marriage. It can be seen as a form of empathy; therefore, it facilitates the understanding of the needs of one’s partner. It can be argued that this principle is important in the development of a successful marriage. The effectiveness of the principle relies on the fact that love maps are developed by emotionally intelligent couples, which facilitates the process of familiarizing with one another’s world. Couples that have love maps normally remember significant events in their histories, and they continually update their information in accordance with the observed feelings of their spouses. Personally, love maps are an important principle in ensuring the success of a marriage (Gottman, 1999).

Principle 2: Nurture your fondness and admiration

This principle refers to the laying down of a positive perspective about one’s partner and entails having respect and appreciation of their differences in opinions (Gottman, 1999). To implement this, couples must focus on the positive aspects of their spouse and use them in saving the marriage. Gottman argues that fondness and admiration are core elements in ensuring that romance lasts long enough to save a marriage. As such, personality flaws should not serve as a hindrance towards treating your partner with honor and respect. In fact, the lack of this makes it impossible to revive a relationship. A functioning fondness and admiration are developed by focusing on the past, through which a person can identify positive feelings. Spouses can use the positive attributes of their partners to overlook their personality flaws to save the marriage from deterioration (Gottman, 1999). The basic argument is that fondness and admiration serve to offset contempt. Therefore, couples that uphold respect for their spouse are less likely to behave in a disgusted manner in case of a disagreement.

The proposition by Gottman concerning the principle of fondness and admiration is important for a successful marriage is true. This is because fondness and admiration transform to respect and honor for your partner, which plays an important role in influencing the way in which couples confront each other in case of a disagreement. This approach to handling issues in a marriage is effective in ensuring that there is a calm environment after inters personal conflicts in marriage (Gottman, 1999). The effectiveness of a conflict resolution strategy depends on how fast the happy environment is restored, and the principle of fondness and admiration offers a perfect framework for such an approach to interpersonal conflict resolution and overcoming tough times in marriage. Therefore, it is true that Gottman’s proposition is that fondness and admiration are core ingredients to the realization of a successful marriage.

Principle 3: Turn toward Each Other Instead of Away

This principle primarily entails the acknowledgment of one’s spouse’s small memories in life and drawing oneself towards them (Gottman, 1999). This facilitates the creation of the required connection, which is a basic requirement for a healthy relationship. It is important for a husband and wife to connect, which is an indication that they are turning towards one another, and this is only achieved by the acknowledgment of minor times that are spent together connecting. Gottman asserts that turning toward each other forms the foundation of emotional linking, passion, romance, and an enjoyable sex life among couples. In addition, turning toward each other equips partners so that they can face the rough times in their marriage because they have the ability to maintain a positive aspect of their spouse when rough times hit the marriage. According to Gottman, emotional reconnection is achieved through the little everyday things that make your spouse feel appreciated and valued (Gottman, 1999).

It is arguably evident that good relationships are based on emotional reconnections, a proposition that this principle emphasizes that can be achieved by expressing concern in the little everyday activities. Gottman is arguably correct regarding the role this principle plays in the development of a successful marriage because it facilitates the aspect of bond deepening. In addition, turning toward each other is important in eliminating instances of conflict within the marriage because it ensures that differences in terms of opinions do not take a center stage in the relationship. In addition, turning toward each other increases the friendship, which in turn helps in balancing the power among the married couples. The basic argument implied by this principle is that an appreciation of your partner’s opinion is facilitated by upholding respect and honor. This helps in influencing the way spouses react to different opinions from their partners. It is justifiable that this principle helps in the development of a successful marriage.

Principle 4: Let Your Partner Influence You

Maintaining one’s identity is important in interpersonal relations. However, it is also important for a person to surrender and give in by offering room for influence from your spouse (Gottman, 1999). Gottman asserts that if spouses can give room for influence, it will go a long way to cultivate respect at a deeper level. Gottman argues that cases of happiest marriages are evident when there is sharing of power and decision-making, this means that in case of disagreements, couples will aim at finding the common ground instead of each couple maintaining his/her own grown regarding the issue at hand. Couples mustn’t accept influence as a means of expressing negative feelings towards one’s spouse. Additionally, holding back negative feelings from your partner is not good for the realization of a successful marriage. A significant element of this principle is that it needs a firm basis for compromising. In addition, spouses should be able to learn from each other to build a healthy relationship.

This principle is important in ensuring a successful marriage, provided it is based on a compromise that takes into consideration the roles of the spouses in ensuring that the marriage turns out successful. Gottman’s proposition that couples should have room for the influence of their partners is an important strategy for the realization of a happy marriage. This principle is particularly directed to husbands who are more resistive towards the influence of their wives. The basic implication is that husbands should not be in total control of the marriage, rather should they be bullies in their marriages. Involving one’s partner in important decision-making processes results in the development of a marriage that is characterized by couples who are intelligent emotionally. With regard to this principle, it is arguably evident that it plays a significant role in the realization of a successful marriage.

Principle 5: Solve Your Solvable Problems

Gottman states that compromise is important to facilitate the resolution of conflicts that can be solved (Gottman, 1999). This can be accomplished by using the following five steps: the softening of one’s startup, learning to create and receive repair attempts, soothing oneself and your partner, compromising and tolerating the faults of one another (Gottman, 1999). These steps do not need much training to be effective in the solution of problems that are affecting the marriage. The basic requirement of this principle is to have good manners, which implies that couples should treat each other with respect. A soft start-up does not involve contempt and the directing of criticism towards one’s partner; this is usually an effective approach to conflict resolution owing to the fact that the end of discussions depends on the way they started. As a result, a soft start-up implies that the discussion will end up in the same tone. The underlying argument in this principle is that effective resolution of conflicts in the marriage is initiated by the outlined steps (Gottman, 1999).

Despite the fact that this principle is contrary to the conventional conflict resolution approaches, it is arguably evident that it is an effective way of resolving conflicts, in cases whereby epithetical communication approaches cannot work. In addition, this principle advocates for an understanding of your partner’s emotions when addressing conflicts. Based on these steps outlined in the principle, it is arguably evident that there are minimal exceptions that the principle will not be effective in resolving conflicts that have affected marriage. With respect to thus this principle, Gottman’s approach to conflict resolution can be considered more effective compared to the therapeutic proposition of empathetic communication. The most notable similarity between this principle and interpersonal conflict resolution using effective communication is the aspect of compromise.

Principle 6: Overcome Gridlock

According to Gottman, most of the problems that cannot be resolved in marriages are principal because of the differences in the opinions, which are significantly attributed to a lack of deep communication and understanding of one’s partner. The objective of this principle is to establish a position that can allow one’s partner to empathize with one’s opinions (Gottman, 1999). This is an effective way of solving interpersonal conflicts in cases, whereby compromise has failed or couples are not willing to compromise their positions in the dispute. In addition, overcoming gridlock does not serve to solve the conflict, rather change the situation from gridlock to dialogue. Overcoming gridlock requires one to have an understanding of the cause, which in most cases involves hiding dreams from one’s partner or showing no respect to your partner’s dreams. The bottom line is that for marriages to be successful, dreams have to be respected as one of the important goals in marriage, and therefore, couples should help each other in the realization of their dreams. On a similar account, Gottman asserts that dreams should be hidden in marriages, and so couples have to be dream detectives.

It is arguably evident that this method is an effective conflict resolution strategy in cases whereby compromise has failed. Allowing your partner to empathize with your situation can definitely play a significant role in solving problems that are imposed by differences in opinion. This principle plays an important role in the establishment of a successful marriage that can overcome rough times. The basic argument is that partners should be open regarding their dreams, as such, they have the responsibility and a goal of marriage, it is important that partners help each other in doing achieving the dreams. This can only be achieved by openly talking about them. Based on this, I agree with Gottman concerning the vital role that this principle plays in the realization of a successful marriage.

Principle 7: Create Shared Meaning

This principle focuses on the creation of a shared value system, which constantly creates a connection between couples by using activities such as traditions, symbols, and responsibilities that are shared. The establishment of a connection is important in the development of a successful marriage owing to the fact that it facilitates the development of shared meaning in the marriage. As a result, there will be minimal instances associated with gridlock or poor conflict resolution. In addition, a shared meaning in marriage also plays an integral role in harmonizing the differences in opinions that may exist between the husband and wife. This is one of the most important goals in marriage, which should not be overlooked. A marriage may look fine on the outset, but a lack of shared meaning is likely to fuel differences that will not be easy to solve. This implies that it is vital for couples to create a shared meaning so that the thoughts that are deeply held can be harmonized irrespective of the differences that may exist.

Deeply held differences in marriage are normally difficult to solve, and they are a significant impediment to the realization of a successful marriage. The basic argument implied by this principle is that an appreciation of your partner’s opinion is facilitated by upholding respect and honor, which is achieved effectively using the creation of shared meaning. This helps in influencing the way spouses react to different opinions from their partners. It is justifiable that this principle helps in the development of a successful marriage. This implies that couples should openly state their inner feelings and dreams so that they facilitate the creation of a better environment through which each partner can develop his/her partner’s dream. This is the one vital aspect that most marriages lack and can be significantly detrimental to the realization of a successful marriage.


Gottman, J. M. (1999). The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work. New York: Crown Publishers.