How to Make Marriage Work

Photo by John Moeses Bauan 

I met a couple celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary recently.

I was blown away that a marriage could last this long!

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro? Sure.

Running a marathon. I can see it.

Walking a 100 km on a pilgrimage to the Palani Murugan temple in Tamilnadu. Ok.

But a long-lasting, thriving, 60 year marriage?

Seems impossible.

Santa is more likely to exist than 60 year marriages, right!?!

Not only did my marriage end but I see so many unfulfilled and unhappy marriages around me.

There must be some kind of secret to this thing??

What actually makes marriages and long-term relationships work?

A woman I met recently suggested I pick up this book, The 7 Principles of Making Marriage Work.

While we’re no longer talking and I couldn’t make that budding relationship last, her book suggestion was invaluable.

I got a better a picture of what it takes in the book, The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.

I’m still not sure I can fulfill these 7 principles but I finally got a scientific, research-based answer of what it’s going to take.

Here are the 7 principles it will take to make marriage work, if not for this marriage, then at least for your next one:   

1.Being familiar with each other’s worlds.

You’re familiar with intimate details of your spouse’s life and you pay attention to these details. As the author puts it, couples who know each others love map, “know each other’s life goals, worries, and hopes.” When you have greater personal insight about your spouse, you’ll know your spouse better. When you know your spouse better, there’s more room for love and affection.

2.Look at each other with admiration.

Behind the antagonism and fights of a unhealthy marriage, can you still care for each other? Do you still find things that you like and respect about each other? The idea is to continue to cherish and appreciate each other in the normal course of the marriage. If you see your spouse with positivity and admiration, you can save your marriage and be happily married.

3.Turn toward each other.

You can make your marriage work better by regularly connecting with and turning towards each other. Are you being thoughtful towards each other, helping each other and being there for each other? Each time you help each other out or are there for each other, you are funding your emotional bank account. It’s paying attention to everyday interactions and valuing them, instead of taking your interactions for granted.

4.Let your partner influence you.

You have to an equal partner with your spouse to make the marriage work. You have to both participate in the decision making and respect and honor each other’s opinions and thoughts. You have to be willing to give and receive input to each other and take their thoughts into account when making decisions. When you accept the other person’s influence in making a decision, you strengthen the friendship between both of you. “…the goal is for both of you to be influential and to accept each other’s influence.

5. Solve your solvable problems.

Take a new approach to settling conflict and solving problems that can be solved in a marriage, as opposed to the perpetual problems in a marriage. The most effective steps for resolving issues starts with softening your start-up, making and accepting repair attempts, soothing yourself and each other, compromise, and processing grievances so they don’t linger. The basic idea is to have good manners and to treat each other as you would a work colleague or guest when resolving problems.

6. Overcome gridlock.

Some arguments never end and both sides believe they are in the right. The issue becomes increasingly polarizing over time and neither side wants to compromise and lose. The best thing to do is to avoid or sidestep gridlock if you can avoid it. If you can’t avoid it, figure out a way to acknowledge it and discuss the issue without hurting each other. Neither party has to give in and lose, Gottman points out. “In satisfying relationships, partners incorporate each other’s goals into their concept of what their marriage is about,” he writes. He suggests ways to uncover each others deepest hopes and dreams to help couples find common ground and be able to support each other in the pursuit of these hopes and dreams.

7. Having a shared meaning.

Each successful marriage has it’s own culture. It symbolizes something and stands for something. “When a marriage has this sense of meaning, conflict is much less intense and perpetual problems are unlikely to lead to gridlock,” observes Gottman. The more you agree about the big picture or the profound things in life, the better your marriage is likely to be. Even if you don’t agree, if you can speak honestly and understand each other’s convictions and beliefs, your marriage will fare well. Meaning can be enhanced in 4 ways; creating rituals of connections around different aspects of your life. You can also develop meaning by supporting each other’s roles in the family, supporting each other’s personal goals and finally, having shared objects or activities that symbolize your shared values and purpose in life.

The idea of this book isn’t about doing everything but doing something. It’s about re-evaluating, communicating and implementing some of the many ideas discussed.

If you’re at a critical point in your marriage where some changes need to take place, pick up this book today.

The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work is the conversation starter and invitation to explore and understand each other more. Self-awareness and self-understanding, individually and as couples, can go a long ways in improving the quality of a marriage.

Pick up The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work here.