The 7 Principles – Making a Marriage Work

make a marriage work

The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work by John M. Gottman

A healthy marriage is so important to our well-being… So why don’t we invest more time to strengthen it? We spend so much time on our hobbies and jobs, surely we can find more time to invest in our life partner, right? People often become complacent and kind of lazy in keeping the relationship alive and growing. For a marriage to really work, you have to grow together, accept one another (flaws and all), keep the passion alive, know each other on a deep level, respect and understand each other, support them, defend and stand up for them, and work as a team. This is just a short list, but you get the idea. A successful marriage does require work, but the reward is well worth the effort. If you’re willing to put in the effort, all you have to do is get the knowledge on what makes a marriage thrive. That’s where this book comes in.

This book is relationship gold! It’s based on scientific data from decades of research that John and his team have gathered. If you want to take your relationship to the next level, you have to buy this book. John tells us that traditional marriage counseling, which focuses on active listening and conflict resolution, doesn’t work well. It has very low success rates (20-30%). John does a great job of demystifying why marriages are so tough at times, how to prevent a marriage from going bad, and how to rescue one that is already in trouble.

The book is full of exercises that you and your spouse can do together or alone. It’s great to be able to take the knowledge and apply it to the relationship as you’re going through the book. It’s not just a book, it’s also a workbook.

Myths about marriage

Myth 1 – personality problems ruin a marriage

Myth 2 – common interests keep you together

Myth 3 – avoiding conflict will ruin your marriage

Myth 4 – affairs are the root of divorce

Myth 5 – men are not biologically built for marriage

The determining factor in whether wives feel satisfied with the sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple’s friendship. For men, the determining factor is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple’s friendship.

What makes a marriage work

    • Mutual respect
    • Attunement – mutual understanding of each other on a core emotional level
    • Positive sentiment override (PSO) – look for your partner’s good qualities, give each other the benefit of the doubt, have positive expectations of each other
    • Trust and commitment
    • Assume the best about each other
    • Acknowledge each other’s perspective
    • Support each other’s hopes and aspirations
    • Build a sense of purpose


How to predict divorce – it’s not what they argue about, it’s the way they argue.

Harsh start up – Negative, accusatory, criticism, and sarcasm at the onset of any debate/talk.

The four horsemen

Criticism – attack on character and “you” statements. Critical of each other. A complaint on the other hand is ok.

Complaint – “There’s no gas in the car. I’m upset that you didn’t fill it up like you said you would. Could you please deal with it tomorrow?”

Criticism – “Why can’t you ever remember anything? I told you a thousand times to fill up the tank, and you didn’t. You’re always so careless.”

Contempt (as well as sarcasm and cynicism) – a sense of superiority over one’s partner. Name calling, mockery, etc.

Defensiveness – an indirect way of blaming your partner

Stonewalling – tuning out the other partner

Flooding – psychologically or physically overwhelmed due to an overly negative spouse. People (usually men) stonewall to protect against this. Repeated flooding leads to emotional distancing, and then loneliness.

Body language – repeated episodes of flooding cause severe emotional distress as well as elevated heart rate, etc. (think fight or flight response). If you’re having that reaction when talking to your spouse, you’re headed for a divorce unless you turn things around.

Men are more easily overwhelmed by marital conflict than are their wives

Failed repair attempts – a repair attempt is something that is done to help stop an argument from getting out of hand. It can be any statement or action – a silly gesture like sticking your tongue out, taking a break, saying sorry, laughing, or making a weird face. Some couples have certain repair attempts they stick to that help deescalate a fight. When these repair attempts stop working, it can lead to increased emotional tension and flooding. Often, in a failing marriage, a feedback loop develops between the four horsemen and failed repair attempts. When the four horsemen rear their ugly head, the marriage has an 82% chance at failing. Add in the failed repair attempt and it jumps to over 90%.

Bad memories – Couples who look back on their early days with fond memories are happier and more likely to stay together than those that look to their early days with a negative view. In happy marriages, past highlights are remembered rather than the low points. They remember how positive and excited they felt at the beginning of the relationship. They remember the passion and what brought them together in the first place. Even if things didn’t go well, happy couples draw strength from their adversity and glorify the struggles they made it through together. Couples who look back at their beginnings with a negative view create a distorted perception of the past which creates negative future expectations.

Preventing a divorce isn’t just about conflict resolution techniques. Think about it, we usually notice marital troubles once we have a big fight. It’s at that point we really reflect on the marriage and say, “If we didn’t fight or if we could stop it from getting out of control, our marriage would be great”. But John states that the key to divorce proofing or reviving a relationship is all about how you engage with each other when you’re not fighting. Coping with conflict is important, but first you have to strengthen the friendship and trust between each other.

Principle 1 – Enhance your love map

The idea here is to know and understand your partner at the core level. Enhancing your love map is expanding and deepening your knowledge of each other. This should be fun… not a chore. How many details do you really know about your spouse’s life? Do you really know their current likes, dislikes, goals, aspirations, worries, stresses, hopes, and fears? The love map is all the information about your spouse’s world, and you need to be intimately familiar with it to have a fulfilling and happy marriage. You have to know what your partner is thinking and feeling to create that feeling of togetherness. This all sounds like common sense, but how often do we get wrapped up in our own world and forget to check in with your spouse to see what they are thinking, feeling, and dreaming about? You have to take the time to catch up with each other’s day, every day. Don’t take your partner for granted – make your partner a priority.

Below are some sample love map questions to ask your partner (or you can quiz yourself to see how well you know your partner):

Who are your best friends?

What are my favorite hobbies?

What or who is stressing you out right now?

What are some of your dreams and goals?

What are your religious beliefs and ideals?

What is your basic philosophy of life?

What’s your favorite music?

Which relatives do you like the most and which do you like the least?

What are your 3 favorite movies?

What was my favorite vacation?

What would I consider my dream job?

What’s my favorite tv show, book, etc.?

Also, ask open-ended questions:

How are you feeling about your job, family, etc. these days?

How do you think life would have been different if you lived 100 years ago?

How would you like life to be different 3, 5, 10 years from now?

What do you worry about the most when it comes to your future?

What qualities do you look for in a friend?

Do you feel like anything is missing from your life?

You get the point. Ask questions that get you to know your partner on a deeper emotional level. There are a ton of questions in the book, so I recommend you pick it up and then ask each other these questions. We change over time, so it’s good to do this exercise often.

Not only are the exercises good for getting to know your partner, but they will also help you discover more about yourself. Ask yourself, what are my triumphs and strivings, my good times and bad times, my goals and aspirations, my mission in life, and who do you want to become? What’s my emotional world like – How do I express my emotions (like anger, affection, love, and pride) and what’s my philosophy on expressing emotions? Do some self-discovery in the process and share this information with each other. Share your inner self with your partner! That’s how you really get to know someone.

Principle 2 – Nurture your fondness and admiration – cherish each other

Remember when you first started dating your spouse and you had so much excitement towards him/her? You honored and respected them. Over time, it can feel like we begin to take each other for granted and then before you know it, we are not really honoring and respecting each other anymore. Reflect on the early years and do your best to put a positive spin on it if needed. Having a positive view of your spouse is essential to a healthy marriage, especially if you run into hard times. The overwhelming positive view will create a buffer during trying times. Bottom line, remind yourself of your spouse’s positive qualities – focus on their good qualities and actions. Additionally, let your partner know what you love about them and what you’re grateful for.

When you have respect for someone, you’re able to listen to their perspective (when disagreeing on something) without acting contemptuous. This is easy to do in certain settings (strangers, work, etc.) but when we get very comfortable with someone, we can lose sight of that line of respect. Search for and express gratitude for your partner’s positive behavior.

Can you list three things you admire about your partner?

When apart, do you think fondly of partner?

Do you respect your partner and does your partner respect you?

Do you feel accepted and liked by your partner?

Is there fire and passion in your relationship?

Is romance still a part of your relationship?

Do you like your spouse’s personality?

When I go into a room, is my spouse glad to see me?

If you’re struggling in this area, the first thing you should do is realize how valuable your partner is. Think about what makes you treasure him or her. Acknowledge and openly discuss positive aspects of your partner. There are several more exercises in the book on how to nurture fondness and admiration.

Exercise 1 – Tell your partner what you appreciate about them (list five things). It can be anything; a hug, taking the trash out, cleaning, dishes, the kids, caring, dinner, etc.

Exercise 2 – Remember how and why you became a couple. Discuss how you first met, the first date, your first impressions, what activities you did, the highlights, how you felt about each other, why you got married, how the honeymoon was, how the wedding was, how your first year of marriage was, what it was like becoming parents, happy moments throughout your early relationship and marriage, and how things have changed or adjusted. Look back over the years at some hard times – why do you think you stayed together? How did you get through these difficult times? Do you still do things that bring you both pleasure?

The whole point of these exercises is to reflect on the past to recharge the relationship. These exercises help in reminding couples why they got together in the first place and the deep feelings of love that inspired them to marry.

Exercise 3 – Cherishing your partner – Write down 10 qualities about your spouse that you cherish (caring, authentic, fair, creative, truthful, calm, devoted, etc.). Think of a time that they displayed this quality. This should trigger a sense of gratitude for your partner. You want to maximize the positive qualities of your spouse and minimize the negative ones. You can go one step further and express these to your partner over an intimate date.

Principle 3 – Turn toward each other instead of away

Romance is kept alive in the small daily acts of affection. On a daily basis, we bid for each other’s attention, affection, support, and humor. It can be something as simple as asking for a back-rub, a kiss, or something to drink. During these requests for attention and affection, we either turn away or turn towards our partner. When you turn toward your partner, you’re strengthening the trust, passion, emotional connection, and sexual satisfaction in your relationship.

There’s a reason that seemingly small events are fundamental to a relationship’s future: each time partners turn toward each other, they are funding what I’ve come to call their emotional bank account.

Pay attention to these mini moments – they are opportunities to help your relationship grow. The secret to reconnecting isn’t to go on a fancy vacation, it’s noticing the small moments in everyday life where you can make an impact. Become more attuned to your partner and pay attention to what they are saying or how they are behaving.

Is your marriage primed for romance? Do you enjoy doing small activities together (dishes, etc.)? Do you look forward to spending free time together? Are you glad to see your partner at the end of the day? Do you love talking to your partner? Do you share many dreams and goals? Do you have a lot to say to each other?

Make an effort to listen to your spouse, respond with thought, and help him or her. In doing so, you will make your marriage more romantic and stable. Two things to be aware of: some bids (for attention, affection, support) are wrapped in anger or another negative emotion. Focus on the bid and not the delivery. Pause for a moment and try to detect if there is an underlying bid. John suggests saying something along these lines, “I want to respond to you positively, so can you please tell me what you need right now from me? I really want to know.” And the second thing to be aware of is the distraction phones, computers, and other technology can have on a relationship. Practice being more present with your partner – be aware and pay attention to them (not glued to your phone all the time).

Couples often ignore each other’s emotional needs out of mindlessness, not malice.

Exercise 1 – Pay attention to how often your partner does turn toward you. You can write these down or keep them in your head. Once you have a couple items listed, thank your partner. It could be talking at the end of the day, cooking, shopping together, watching your favorite show, going to church, calling or texting each other, or listening to music together. Choose activities that you appreciate your partner having done with you.

Exercise 2 – The stress reducing conversation. At the end of the day, reunite and talk about how your day went (for 20 minutes). Do it during a time you are both in the mood to talk. This isn’t a time to discuss marital issues, it’s a time to discuss other areas of your life. This is a great time to vent to each other and support each other with empathy and without judgement. A couple more ground rules to this daily talk: take turns, show genuine interest, don’t give unsolicited advice, communicate your understanding, take your partner’s side, express a “we versus others” attitude, show affection, and validate emotions. Talk about what you would like from your partner when you’re stressed. Give your partner the gift of being there when he or she is upset.

How to cope with your partner’s sadness, fear, and anger – be there for your partner, see the world from their perspective, and empathize with negative feelings.

When you are in pain, the world stops and I listen

1 – Acknowledge the difficulty of confronting negative emotions

2 – Self soothe if your partner is overwhelming you (more to come on how to do that)

3 – Try to understand their perspective (don’t problem solve)

4 – Use exploratory and open-ended questions to get to the problem (tell me more, what are your concerns? etc.)

5 – Don’t ask why, instead ask “what”. Why questions can sound like criticism.

6 – Bear witness – witnessing your partner’s distress and repeat back what your partner says in your own words.

Additional tips – ask what’s missing, don’t try to cheer up your partner, don’t take anything personally, don’t tell your partner to calm down (this can mean their feelings aren’t justified), search out the goal and obstacle, express understanding and empathy, and don’t minimize it.

Principle 4 – Let your partner influence you

Make your spouse a partner in your decision making. Respect and honor their opinions and feelings.

Men who allowed their wives to influence them had happier marriages.

This doesn’t mean men should give up all their power and let their wives run their lives! Ha. It means that couples should share decision making, allow sharing of power, and search for common ground. Think about it, do you really want to make decisions that leave your wife feeling deprived? Respect each other and talk about the problem until you can find something you both agree with. Don’t allow any of the four horsemen to come into the picture – this is a sure sign of resistance. Simply showing your willingness to work together in finding a solution will soften your partner up.

The wives of men who accept their influence are far less likely to be harsh with their husbands when broaching a difficult marital topic. This increases the odds their marriage will thrive.

When a husband accepts his wife’s influence, he also strengthens their friendship.

Accepting influence doesn’t mean never expressing negative emotions toward your partner. Marriages can survive plenty of flashes of anger, complaints, even criticism. Trying to suppress negative feelings in your spouse’s presence wouldn’t be good for your marriage or your blood pressure.

The more open to influence both partners are, the smoother a marriage.

Learn to yield to your partner. Try to respond to the message rather than the tone of your partner’s voice. When it’s an abrasive or negative tone, view that as an expression of how important the issue is to them – not an attack on you. Look for the reasonable part of a request and find common ground – compromise. Sharing power = respecting the other person’s view.

The first half of the book focuses on getting to know your partner better, increasing fondness and admiration, turning toward each other, and accepting your partner’s influence. The next 3 principles focus on conflict. Conflict drives a wedge between couples – conflict distances couples because they are trying to protect themselves.

There are two types of conflict; perpetual and solvable. Perpetual problems are those that never go away – conflicts over kids, sex, housework, religion, etc. Perpetual problems, if not dealt with, can kill the relationship. The other type, solvable problems, can be dealt with some conflict resolution techniques. Solvable problems are typically less personal, painful, and intense than the perpetual ones.

Despite what many therapists will tell you, you don’t have to resolve your major marital conflicts for your marriage to thrive.

Some overall tips on solvable and perpetual problems:

Negative emotions are important and hold crucial information. Listen to your partner’s negative emotions without feeling attacked. Remember to be gentle with each other.

No one is right – there are two sides to every story.

Acceptance is crucial. No one will take your advice without them knowing that you understand where they are coming from. Understanding, accepting, and respecting the other person is the first step in effectively communicating with them. Let your partner know that you accept them and that it’s ok to have negative emotions – you accept those too. This makes growth and change possible.

Focus on fondness and admiration, especially if you’re having a hard time seeing your partner’s perspective. Let them know that they are loved and accepted “warts and all”. Pardon each other and give up on past resentments.

When you forgive your spouse, you both benefit.

Learn to view your partner’s shortcomings and oddities as amusing parts of the whole package.

Principle 5 – Solve your solvable problems

This is where John disagrees with some of the traditional marital conflict resolution techniques. Traditional techniques focus on putting yourself in your partner’s shoes and then empathizing with your partner. The problem is, it’s hard to put yourself in their shoes when the person they are having a problem with is you. So, John has a different approach.

1 – soften your start up – don’t start the conversation with an attack. Don’t bring the four horsemen with you (no criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling).

A harsh start up usually begins the cycle of the four horsemen, which leads to flooding and, in turn, increased emotional distance and loneliness that lets the marriage wither.

The best way to start is: share some of the responsibility, express how you feel about a specific situation, express what you need. It must be devoid of criticism and contempt.

Remember, complain but don’t blame, make statements that start with I instead of you, describe what is happening (don’t judge), be clear about your positive need, be polite, be appreciative, don’t store things up.

2 – Learn to make and receive repair attempts. Learn to terminate discussion or de-escalate them before they spiral out of control. When a conversation starts going sideways, use a repair attempt to slow things down. If you have to, be more formal at first so that the message is getting through to your spouse. Say “please, let’s stop for a while”, “I agree with part of what you’re saying”, “my reactions were too extreme. Sorry”, “I feel criticized. Can you rephrase that?”, “I am starting to get flooded”, etc. It may feel a little weird at first, but it will get easier over time. There are also many more examples in the book. Accept the repair attempt if your partner tries one as well (this is an example of principle 4, accepting your partner’s influence).

3 – Soothe yourself and each other. If you’re getting flooded, end the discussion. Take a 20-minute break and listen to music, take a walk, meditate, or read. Suspend any feelings of innocent victim-hood (why is she always attacking me) and righteous indignation (I don’t have to take this). Soothe your partner as well (only if you are calm). Discuss what makes us feel flooded, what soothes them and yourself, and what signals can we use to show we are feeling flooded. To soothe each other, give a massage or guide them through a meditation. Once you’ve calmed down, you can begin the discussion again.

4 – Compromise – Once you’ve followed the steps above, you can negotiate and accommodate each other. Practice gratitude for what you have and don’t try to alter your spouse. Be open-minded: consider their position before you become completely entrenched in your own.

Search for the part of your spouse’s perspective that an objective bystander would consider reasonable.

When you want to tackle a solvable problem, sit down and find common ground. Each partner writes down a couple things they can’t give in on and then they list a couple things they can compromise on. Once you’ve made the two lists, share and compare with your partner. Is there anything you can agree on? What are the most important feelings here? What common goals can we have? Come up with a compromise and try it out for a little while.

5 – Dealing with emotional injuries. Address any past issues that need processing. All experience is subjective and this means that both sides have validity.

Step 1 – choose a specific incident to work through

Step 2 – decide who will speak first (without interruption)

Step 3- say out loud what you were feeling then, share your subjective reality and what you needed

Step 4 – identify and explore your triggers

Step 5 – acknowledge your role in what happened

Step 6 – what can we do to prevent this from happening again?

Attaining a rich understanding between partners will allow both of them to feel safe and secure in the relationship.

Additional tips for common arguments

Maintain connection and intimacy amid technology – set up rules on phone use that you’re both comfortable with (no phone during meals, end of day conversations, etc.).

Make your marriage a place of peace – take the time after work to decompress (don’t dump your work stress on your spouse). Build time to unwind into your schedules.

Establishing a sense of we-ness or solidarity – The spouse should always side with their husband/wife over in-laws/family. He is a husband first and she is a wife first. Being a son or daughter is secondary. This is a tough position to take. Don’t do anything to disrespect or dishonor your parents, or compromise who you are, but you must stand with your spouse when you are in the middle. Additionally, never tolerate any contempt toward your spouse.

Balancing the freedom and empowerment money represents with the security and trust it also symbolizes. Money buys pleasure but it also buys security. This is a common argument among couples because money means something different to everyone. You have to do some clear-headed budgeting and work as a team on financial issues. Express concerns, needs, and fantasies.

Step 1 – itemize current expenses (food, rent, utilities, etc.)

Step 2 – manage everyday finances (decide and compromise on what’s essential)

Step 3 – plan your financial future. Imagine your life 5, 10, 20 years in the future and decide some financial goals together. Think about what you most desire and what you most fear. Share your lists and compromise on what’s important. Work as a team and devise a plan together.

Creating a sense of fairness and teamwork with housework. Usually the woman cares more about the cleanliness of their home (there are exceptions of course). Men don’t realize how important it is to them. When they leave the place a mess, the other spouse often feels disrespected and unsupported. To fix this, again, sit down and go over who is responsible for what chore. Make a list and do the chores without having to be asked by your spouse.

Becoming parents – expand your sense of we-ness to include your children.

Having a baby almost inevitably causes a metamorphosis in the new mother.

The mother’s purpose and meaning in life may change and often the husband is left behind. The husband must also make this transformation and follow his wife into this new realm. If he doesn’t go through the change with her, he will resent the child for taking his wife away. Focus on your marital friendship, don’t exclude dad from baby care, let dad be baby’s playmate, carve out time for the two of you, be sensitive to dad’s needs, and give mom a break.

Sex – fundamental appreciation and acceptance of each other. Make sex a priority in your marriage. Make time to talk about it and to have one on one time together. Talk about your sexual needs and ensure your partner can do the same while also feeling safe. When you talk about it, be gentle and positive (no criticism), be patient with each other, don’t take anything personally, and compromise. Talk about what felt good last time and what you need to make sex better. Enjoy the whole process (not just the big O). Lastly, learn to initiate sex and how to refuse it gently. You can have an agreed upon ritual with your spouse – for example ask your partner how amorous they are feeling from 1-9. There are many other ways to initiate, so come up with your own (from simply asking to lighting candles). If you’re not in the mood, let your partner down softly. For example, “I’m sorry honey, but it’s not the right time for lovemaking for me. But I still love you a lot, and you are very attractive.” So, what about the flip side? How do you cope with a no? There cannot be any negative consequences when a partner says no. If you complain or sulk about it, you’re less likely to get it in the future.

Counter-intuitive as it sounds, husbands who reward (expressing they understand or asking what they want to do instead) their wives for saying no will end up having a lot more sex.

Principle 6 – overcoming gridlock

What do you do about those perpetual problems you cannot overcome in a marriage? Couples know these issues will never go away, but they keep it from overwhelming their marriage. It’s critical to learn how to discuss these issues without hurting each other. Gridlock is always a sign of dreams for your life that your partner isn’t aware of, doesn’t respect, or hasn’t acknowledged. Happy couples are aware of each other’s hopes, aspirations, and wishes. They support each other and incorporate their goals into their lives. You can both pursue your dreams, and although there may be compromise at times, no one has to give up their dreams outright.

Different things have different meaning and value to people, so it’s important that you respect and take your spouse’s dreams seriously. Talk to your spouse about their dreams and what they symbolize to them. What are some of your deepest dreams? What about your spouse’s dreams? Some examples: a sense of peace, a sense of freedom, a sense of adventure, traveling, a spiritual journey, exploring who you are, and exploring your creative side. When you hear your spouse speak about their dreams, you will have a deeper understanding and respect for them.

When you bury a dream, it just resurfaces in disguised form – as a gridlocked conflict

Keep working on your unsolvable conflicts. Couples who are demanding of their marriage are more likely to have deeply satisfying unions than those who lower their expectations.

Be patient. Acknowledging and advocating for your dreams is not easy. The very nature of gridlock means that your dreams appear to be in opposition, so you’ve both become deeply entrenched in your positions and fear accepting each other’s influence and yielding.

1 – Explore your dreams – explain them to your partner, where they come from, and why they are so important to you. Talk honestly if you’re sharing and suspend judgment if you’re listening to your partner’s dreams. Tell your partner that you support their dream, express understanding, and be interested in learning more about it.

2 – Soothe – pay attention to how each of you are reacting to the conversation. Take a break if needed.

3 – Reach a temporary compromise – find common ground. This will help defang the issue. Explain non-negotiable areas as well as areas of flexibility. You may have to alter the timelines on your dreams, but come up with something you’re both comfortable with… something that honors both of your dreams.

Don’t expect this to solve the problem, only to help you both live with it peacefully.

Rather than seeing each other’s dreams as threats, see them for what they are: deep desires held by someone we love.

4 – Say thank you! These can be stressful topics to cover, so thank you partner for having the patience to discuss them with you. Tell them three things you appreciate about them.

With these steps, you should be able to discuss perpetual problems with more love and joy rather than anger and frustration. As I said, the problems won’t go away, but you’ll be able to cope with them better. You’ll be able to talk about them good naturedly and maybe with some humor.

Principle 7 – Create shared meaning

The four pillars of shared meaning:

1 – Create rituals of connection that are meaningful and intentional – holiday meals, family dinners, evening walks, annual vacations, weeknight activities, weekend activities, etc.  Create some rituals around birthdays, holidays, New Year’s Eve. Create a date night, a getaway, special dinners at home, times to sit and talk at night, morning routines, falling asleep together, etc.

2 – Support for each other’s roles. When you both have similar expectations of what you and your partner’s roles are, your marriage will thrive. Do you share similar views about parent’s roles, spouse’s roles, work roles, mission in life, importance of family, etc.? Express to each other how you feel about your role as a spouse, husband, wife, parent, son, daughter, worker, friend, etc.

3 – Shared goals. Start with exploring your deepest goals and compare with your spouse. Are they similar? Write a mission statement for your life, write down what you want to accomplish in the next 5, 10, 20 years, what’s your legacy?

4 – Shared values and symbols. Symbols often reflect family values. Does your family have a set list of values they live by? Do you have any symbols in the household? What do they represent? Do you see eye to eye on what home means, the meaning of family, the meaning of being married, importance of education, trust, and personal freedom?

Bonus – The magic six hours

Putting 6 hours a week into your marriage is what it takes to make it thrive. Here is how to get the best bang for your buck:

  • Partings – learn one thing that is happening in your spouse’s life that day (daily).
  • Reunions – hug and kiss your partner for at least 6 seconds when you get home. Have a stress reducing conversation at the end of the day (20 minutes).
  • Admiration and appreciation – communicate genuine affection and appreciation toward your spouse.
  • Affection – Give physical affection when you’re together during the day and especially before you go to bed at night.
  • Weekly date – once a week go out for a 2 hour date and update your love maps. Get to know each other and what’s going on in your lives.
  • State of the union meeting – once a week, make time to sit down and talk about what went right in your relationship this week. Express some things you appreciate about them this week. Also, discuss issues that may have arisen. At the end, ask what you can do to make them feel loved in the coming week.

Working briefly on your marriage every day will do more for your health and longevity than working out at a health club.

Remember, talk about issues in your relationship while they are still minor. Don’t let them build up and become bigger than they need to be.

Lastly, a note on criticism:

Criticism comes from 2 sources. First, an emotionally unresponsive spouse. Criticism will drive a partner away, so do your best to turn toward them (principle 3). They will have to turn toward you as well. The other source of criticism is yourself. It’s connected to self-doubt.

If you consider yourself inadequate, you are always on the lookout for what is not there in yourself and in your partner.

Forgive yourself for all your flaws and accept yourself despite all of your imperfections. Focus on what you’re grateful for instead of what’s missing. Count the blessings in your life and express praise and thanksgiving. Shift your focus toward what is right and appreciate the good things in life. Next, give your spouse one genuine praise each day. Don’t reserve this for your spouse alone… Use it everywhere in life (children, co-workers, strangers).

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