Rory was a pediatrician whom everyone loved. Though he was reserved, he was warm, humorous and charming, but his wife, Lisa, hardly ever saw him. Rory didn’t know the name of the family dog or even where the back door of their house was located, because he was hardly home enough to ever use it. This is one of the couples that Dr. John Gottman interviewed during his research on marriage.
With 91% accuracy, Dr. John Gottman can predict if a couple is going to divorce. Gottman has been researching what makes marriage work since 1972. That’s longer than I’ve been alive. He has found 7 principles that, if followed, guarantee you will stay in love and have a thriving marriage.
1. Make your emotional love map stronger
According to Gottman, an emotional love map describes the details you know about your spouse’s inner and outer world, their dreams, the details of their day, what colleague is annoying them at work, the most traumatic thing that’s happened to them, etc. And you keep updating this as they grow and change. If you don’t really know someone, how can you truly love them?
2. Cultivate fondness and admiration for one another
Fondness and admiration is the basis for a strong relationship. Sometimes the stresses of life and marriage have gotten in the way of even being able to feel fondly toward one another. Gottman suggests talking about the early days of your relationship and how you met and fell in love to see if you can unearth those original feelings. My husband and I love sharing the story of how we met in Africa even though we grew up three hours away from each other in the same state. We always come away feeling a bit more in love after sharing the story of how we fell in love.
3. Turn toward one another instead of away
When living with someone and sharing so much, it is easy to offend and hurt your spouse. But when we make “repair” attempts to fix something or even when nothing is wrong, but just to be close, it’s essential that we accept the partner’s desire to be close. Turn toward them instead of away.
4. Let your partner influence you
How much do you let your partner influence you? How much does your partner let you influence him? Learning to yield to one another and compromise is key. The other day my husband and I were with a friend who was lending us their truck to move a piece of furniture. I gave my husband a few pieces of practical input into the details and logistics of the next few hours. And my friend turned to me and said, “Wow, he actually listens to your input.” Apparently, her husband didn’t listen to her.
5. Solve problems well
Instead of focusing on the problems that have always been an issue between you, focus on the solvable ones. You can do this by making sure you start the conversation softly instead of harshly; know when you or your partner need to take a break if you’re overwhelmed by the discussion, learn to compromise and become more accepting of each other’s weakness.
6. Honor each other’s desires and dreams
Helping each other realize their dreams is one of the goals of marriage. Sometimes there’s a dream at the root of conflict, and it’s not evident and needs to be unearthed and realized by both parties. This will often help when working through a gridlocked problem. For example, a gridlocked problem could be very different comfort levels with expressing emotions. The dream or value in this for her is that it’s part of her identity and part of what gives meaning to her life. For him, he sees being emotional as weakness. They can be flexible and honor each other by accepting their spouse cannot change a basic personality trait.
7. Create shared meaning together
What things do you agree on that form the core of your identity or purpose in life? Maybe your spiritual faith is deeply important to you both. Maybe it’s serving the homeless or elderly or maybe you work hard to create certain family traditions and moments that give you shared meaning and purpose. Whatever it is, these things will strengthen your bond.