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7 Principles for Making Marriage Work!

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Have you ever tried to find a book, class, or advice on marriage and relationships and gotten lost in the number of resources? Here is one resource that will end your search! It is based on research on over 3,000 couples and has repeatable results for happy marriages!

"The 7 Principles of Making Marriage Work" is based on the research of Dr.'s John and Julie Gottman. Through this research in their Love Lab, they were able to see differences between the Master couples (people that were in healthy, stable relationships) and the Disaster couples (people that were unhappy and/or lead to divorce). The Master couples had all of these 7 principles whereas the Disaster couples were missing one or more. Why is this good news?! We can learn from others' mistakes! If you and your partner are missing any of the following 7 principles, you can work on them and turn your relationship from Disaster to Master!

  1. Building Love Maps

  2. Building Fondness and Admiration

  3. Turning Towards

  4. Accepting Influence

  5. Solve Solvable Problems

  6. Overcoming Gridlock

  7. Creating Shared Meaning

Building You Love Map

Love maps are like road maps of your partner's inner world. You can either have a vague idea of what the map looks like or you know the map like the back of your hand. The Masters of relationship know their partner's love map really well! They regularly have conversations about what is new in their lives. They share about their day, new interests they have, stressors they are going through, thoughts they are having, dreams about the future, and so on. The Disaster couples know about their partners, but their knowledge was sometimes outdated or not very detailed.

Building Fondness and Admiration

Fondness and admiration are saying thank you, noticing the positives that your partner brings into the relationship, what they are doing for you, for your children that you share, and for the work they do outside and inside the house. It is using positive adjectives to describe your partner and letting them hear these positive adjectives. In the love lab, the Disaster couples only saw about 50% of the positive actions that their partner was doing in comparison to the Master couples that saw about 80% of the positive actions their partner was taking. We miss about 30% of the positives if we are not looking for them! Imagine how it would feel if you scanned the environment for the good things rather than scanning it for what was going wrong!

Turning Towards

In the love lab, the Master couples turned toward each other about 88% of the time while the Disaster couples only turned towards each other about 30% of the time. Turning towards means accepting your partner's bids. What are bids? Bids are anything that your partner says or does to reach out for connection. This can be as subtle as saying "wow, look outside, it is such a nice day." Or as obvious as "can you come sit next to me?" The Master couples in both of these situations would respond positively to these statements. They would respond with connection, while the Disaster couples would either not respond at all or respond with a negative response (turning against).

Accepting Influence

This is exactly what it sounds like. The Master couples in the love lab were able to hear their partner tell them they did something wrong, while the Disaster couples denied the wrongdoing or just ignored it. The Masters also were able to listen better to their partner's opinions and accept that they might be on the right track. Let's look at an example: Let's say you and your partner are doing a home improvement project. You disagree on what type of countertop is best for the new kitchen, or what paint color would go best on the accent wall. Master couples shared their reasoning behind their opinion (rather than just arguing for their opinion or stating their opinion as fact) saying things like, "when I see other homes with this color it makes me feel..." or "I really like this counter top because I think..." and their partner was actually listening to it. The partners were also able to say, "Okay, I can see where you are coming from", or "I can see how you think that is the best option." Accepting influence does not mean that you are just complying, or saying okay to your partner, it means that you value their opinion and are willing to hear it and even maybe (not always) change your opinion of the situation after hearing your partner's opinion.

Solve Solvable Problems

When we are in a relationship, only about 30% of your problems are actually solvable! What this means is that when you come across a problem that is solvable, we want to be able to actually solve it! Master couples were able to have conversations around these issues and come up with a solution or compromise where Disaster couples let the problem go for years and slowly build resentment.

Overcoming Gridlock

This is the other side of problems in a relationship. About 70% of problems in a relationship come from just being different people! There is no solution to this type of problem; it just is what it is. When we are gridlocked about a problem, every time it shows up , there is an argument and most likely more distance created between you and your partner. Overcoming gridlock means we change the conversations around these chronic problems. The Masters in relationships talked about the deeper meaning behind their opinion or their actions. Their partner was able to hear them and they were both able to make a temporary compromise to work on the problem. When the problem showed up again in the relationship, they had this type of conversation again, knowing that it was an unsolvable problem.

For example, people have different spending habits. Let's say one person is more savings oriented or the other is more "I have the money so I spend the money" oriented. The Disaster couples would just argue about the money, whereas Master couples would talk about why they approach money in these different ways, where they learned these money habits, and why it is important for them to have these money habits. They were able to talk about their non-negotiable aspects of spending and where they might be flexible. They came up with a plan of attack that was a compromise within the flexible areas and revisited the conversation when one of the partners started to feel uncomfortable again with their partner's spending habits.

Creating Shared Meaning

Because we are different people and have different families that we grew up in, we all have different ideas of family. What does family look like? What do you do during your free time? What does taking care of each other look like? How do you approach sex? What does sex mean in the relationship? How do you celebrate holidays? How often do you connect with people outside of the relationship? And the list goes on. When you create a shared meaning in your relationship, you have conversations around the differences of your background and create something that is new and unique to your relationship. You create your own traditions, ways of connecting, ways of having free time, and ways of taking care of each other. You create rituals together that foster connection and well-being.


Hi, I’m Kristina Anzell, I am a Clinical Social Worker dedicated to providing specialized and compassionate support for postpartum mental health. My mission is to empower you to thrive in your role as a mother while nurturing your own well-being. If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my blog here! If you want more information or are seeking treatment, feel free to reach out!

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