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The Gottman's Seven Principles for Making a Longterm Relationship Work

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A successful and fulfilling relationship is built on love, trust, and mutual respect. Renowned psychologists Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Gottman have extensively studied couples and identified key principles that contribute to lasting and happy relationships. In this blog post, we will delve into the Gottman's seven principles for making a longterm relationship work, offering valuable insights and practical tips to strengthen the foundation of your partnership and foster a lifelong bond of love and understanding.

Build Love Maps

Love maps involve knowing each other's inner worlds deeply. Take the time to understand your partner's dreams, aspirations, and fears. Regularly engage in conversations about each other's interests and emotions. Stay curious and attentive to the changes and growth in your partner's life. Building love maps cultivates emotional intimacy and a strong sense of connection.

Try out the Love Maps Questionnaire on a date night, a lazy Sunday or a long car ride.

Nurture Fondness and Admiration

Express admiration and appreciation for your partner's qualities, efforts, and accomplishments. Focus on their positive attributes and remind them of why you fell in love. Showing fondness and admiration fosters a positive atmosphere in the relationship, reducing the impact of negative interactions.

Not sure how to show fondness and admiration for your partner? Here’s some ideas:

  • Compliment your partner sincerely and from the heart.

  • Acknowledge when your partner does something “right” and express your gratitude.

  • Share a cherished memory from your past together that brings a smile to your face.

  • Express how proud you are, either of your partner's accomplishments or in the strength of your relationship.

  • Let your partner know that you love them deeply.

  • Show physical affection through kisses, hugs, hand-holding, and cuddles.

  • Show gratitude for the various ways your partner has supported you, whether it's fulfilling your dreams, being a listening ear on tough days, or providing comfort during difficult times.

  • Surprise your partner with a thoughtful gift, just because you were thinking of them.

  • Plan a special date, outing, or vacation together to emphasize the importance of spending time with them.

  • Write a heartfelt love letter or leave a note to let your partner know they're always on your mind.

Turn Towards Each Other

In everyday interactions, actively respond to each other's bids for attention, affection, or communication. Turning towards your partner, even in seemingly small moments, communicates validation and support. These micro-interactions build trust and emotional security, creating a foundation for greater intimacy.

Accepting a bid or turning towards your partner can take many different forms. It can be very direct: your partner might say something like, “I had a bad day, and I could use a hug,” and you would “turn toward them” by giving them a hug. Bids can also be more subtle such as a smile or a wink your partner gives you, to which you might smile or wink back.

Let Conflict Become a Path to Understanding

Conflict is inevitable in any relationship. The key is to approach conflicts as opportunities for growth and understanding. Practice active listening and empathy during disagreements. Seek to understand your partner's perspective without judgment. Address conflicts with kindness and respect, working together to find solutions that meet both of your needs.

Solve Solvable Problems

Not all problems in a marriage are unsolvable. Focus on addressing solvable issues with a problem-solving mindset. Approach these issues collaboratively, discussing potential solutions and compromising when necessary. The ability to resolve solvable problems strengthens your partnership and builds trust in your ability to work together.

Overcome Gridlock

In some cases, you might find yourselves facing recurring conflicts that seem insurmountable. All couples periodically find themselves either "stuck" or "in dialogue" with ongoing issues in their relationships, which typically revolve around differences in personality or fundamental needs. Being in dialogue about the issue is ideal and means that the couple has learned to embrace their differences on the matter, even though minor disagreements may still occur. In general, couples who are in dialogue have reached a peaceful understanding on the issue and generally agree to disagree.

Transitioning from being stuck to engaged involves delving into the significance and aspirations underlying each partner's unwavering viewpoint. Each partner may discover a way to honor their significant other's aspirations, often tied to fulfilling a fundamental need related to the matter in question. Couples who successfully navigate recurring issues in their relationship have mastered the art of acknowledging their partner's individuality. They can engage in conversations about and appreciate the deeper meaning behind each other's stances on the issue.

Tips for learning to be “in dialogue” with recurring issues:

1. Practice active listening and take turns speaking. As the speaker, be open and honest about the origins and significance of your stance on the issue, as well as the dreams it represents for you. What core needs or lifelong aspirations are at the heart of your perspective?

2. As the listener, create a safe environment for the speaker. Refrain from judgment or argument, and avoid offering unsolicited advice or solutions. Show genuine interest in your partner's perspective, and allow them the time and space to fully express their concerns. Ask questions to explore the issue and its underlying significance thoroughly.

3. Seek opportunities for small compromises that can lay the foundation for larger plans. If your dreams differ, look for areas of common ground or make plans that can give both partners a chance to pursue their dreams and make them a reality.

Create Shared Meaning

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Cultivate shared rituals, traditions, and goals that give your marriage a sense of purpose and meaning. Shared experiences and visions for the future foster a strong emotional connection and create a united sense of purpose in your relationship. Here’s some ideas to spark these conversations with your partner and/or family:

1. Discuss your family backgrounds with your spouse to better understand your family cultures and consider creating new traditions together. Ask each other:

  • What childhood memories do you have regarding holidays and family time?

  • What were your family's traditions, and which ones have you continued in your own family?

  • Are there any traditions you'd like to adopt in the future?

  • Reflect on what you felt your family lacked growing up and if there are things you wish your parents had done differently.

2. Establish family rituals, such as:

  • Regular meals together, particularly dinner.

  • Bedtime routines for children, like storytelling, prayer, or listening to music.

  • Birthday customs, such as serving breakfast in bed or preparing a favorite meal.

  • Holiday traditions, such as crafting handmade ornaments, celebrating religious ceremonies, or organizing special events like Easter egg hunts or July 4th barbecues.

  • Ways to stay connected, such as writing family letters and organizing family reunions.

  • Designating a weekly family night for quality time.

  • Volunteering together as a family in your community.

3. Share your personal goals with your spouse. Find a peaceful moment to discuss your most important aspirations, including short-term and long-term goals. Identify common goals and discuss how you can support each other in achieving those you don't share. To start the conversation, separately answer these questions:

  • Current personal goals.

  • Goals for the next 5 to 10 years.

  • One dream you'd like to fulfill in your lifetime.

  • Five most valued things in life.

4. Craft a family mission statement collaboratively. Collect ideas from all family members about your shared goals, values, and principles. Condense these into a concise statement, print it on quality paper, frame it, and proudly display it in your home.

5. Collect family stories as a bonding activity. Encourage each family member to write down a favorite memory or story related to your family. You can select themes like best family vacation, cherished traditions, or funniest family moments. For young children, allow them to illustrate these memories with drawings.

The Gottman's seven principles for making a marriage work offer valuable guidance for building a strong and loving partnership. By building love maps, nurturing fondness and admiration, and turning towards each other, couples can foster emotional intimacy and a deeper sense of connection. Approaching conflicts as opportunities for understanding and working collaboratively to solve solvable problems strengthens the foundation of the relationship. When facing gridlock, understanding each other's deeper needs and creating shared meaning can lead to resolution and growth. Embrace these principles, and embark on a journey of building a thriving and fulfilling marriage that stands the test of time.

Want to learn even more about the Gottman’s 7 Principles? Check out their book.

Want help incorporating the 7 Principles into your relationship today? Reach out to book a free 30-min consultation to learn more about couples therapy with me. We can chat about what’s going on, what you hope to achieve, and how I think I’ll be able to help you.

Send an email to book a 30-min consult today!

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