Marriage can be compared to a garden. Both require effort and care to thrive. Just like a garden needs regular watering, weeding, and tending to grow and flourish, a marriage requires effort and care to maintain a healthy and fulfilling relationship. This might involve investing time and energy into communication, problem-solving, and other relationship skills. Through over 40 years of research in the so-called ‘love lab’ John and Julie Gottman have found seven principles that make marriage work. Here I summarize each of the principles and give you examples of how to apply them with your loved-one.
1 - Enhance your love maps
Make an effort to learn about your partner's inner world by asking questions about their thoughts, feelings, and stressors. For example, you might ask your partner about their goals, values, or favorite memories. What would you like to know about your partner?
2 - Nurture fondness and admiration
Make an effort to express appreciation and admiration for your partner on a regular basis. This might involve telling your partner why you appreciate them, or simply expressing gratitude for their presence in your life. What’s one behavior that you are taking for granted and would miss if your partner stopped doing it?
3 - Turn towards each other
Pay attention to your partner's bids for connection and make an effort to respond positively. This might involve taking a few minutes to listen to your partner when they want to talk, or simply giving them a hug when they're feeling down. When was the last time your spouse wanted to connect with you and how did you respond?
4 - The positive perspective
Make an effort to see the best in your partner and to focus on the positive aspects of your relationship. This might involve looking for the good in your partner when they're going through a tough time, or simply trying to find the silver lining in difficult situations. What attracted you to your spouse before you got married?
5 - Manage conflict effectively
Learn how to handle conflicts in a healthy and constructive way. This might involve listening to your partner's perspective, compromising, and finding solutions that work for both of you. What do you need to do to be present and open to listen to what your partner has to say?
“Thus, the critical dimension in understanding whether a marriage will work or not, becomes the extent to which the male can accept the influence of the woman he loves and become socialized in emotional communication.” ― John Gottman
6 - Make life dreams come true
Support each other in achieving your individual goals and dreams. This might involve offering encouragement and motivation, or helping each other to overcome obstacles and challenges. What’s one way you are supporting your partner’s dreams?
7 - Create shared meaning
Work together to create a shared sense of purpose and meaning in your relationship. This might involve setting goals and working towards them as a team, or simply finding ways to connect and enjoy each other's company. What’s one life goal you are working on together?
By following these principles, couples can build a strong foundation for their relationship and create a sense of connection and support. It's important to remember that every relationship is different, and what works for one couple may not work for another. It may take some trial and error to find strategies that work for you and your partner, but with some effort, it is possible to build a strong and healthy marriage. Just like a garden takes time to grow and mature, a marriage takes time to develop and strengthen. It's important to be patient and to give your relationship time to grow and evolve over time.