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The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

One of the most widely read and cited books on marriage is The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman, Ph.D., and Nan Silver.

Gottman can predict whether a couple will divorce after watching and listening to them for only five minutes. His predictions are correct 91% of the time. He watches for four things as they try to resolve an ongoing disagreement. Here's what tells him a couple is likely to divorce:
1. A harsh startup to the discussion
2. The "Four Horsemen" of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling
3. Flooding (feeling so overwhelmed that you avoid further discussion)
4. Body language indicating a fight-or-flight response
5. Failed repair attempts
6. Bad memories (rewritten history of their relationship)

The antidote, Gottman claims, is a strong friendship between husband and wife. This helps them remember, when things go badly, that they are dealing with a friend. Gottman claims that 69% of all marital conflicts don't get resolved, perhaps can't be resolved. Those who enjoy their marriages find playful and supportive ways of dealing with these differences.

His Seven Principles emphasize Emotional Intelligence and friendship. Each one comes with a set of exercises. Couples who do them together will build Emotional Intelligence skills and strengthen their friendship with each other.

Those who already Assume Love will find it much easier to master Gottman's Seven Principles. They will also have a great tool for fighting off the Four Horsemen: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. John M. Gottman, Ph.D., and Nan Silver. New York: Crown, 1999. 288 pages.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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