Reviewed by Wally Goddard
For decades marriage education has largely operated on the same tired assumption: If you want to be happily married, you must learn communication skills so that you can express your discontents in fair ways. That assumption is at the heart of most marriage programs and books even today.
Fortunately there are good scientists who have done thorough tests of marriage assumptions. In fact one man, John Gottman, has led the revolution in the scientific study of marriage. He has turned the received truths of the past out to pasture. In their place is a scientific basis for marriage education.
Gottman has written many books that will appeal to scientists more than a general audience. For example, What Predicts Divorce?, The Marriage Clinic, and Meta-Emotion are insightful but technical. In contrast, Gottman has written two marriage books that are suitable for a general audience: Why Marriages Succeed or Fail and The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work. The latter is the more recent of the two and attempts to be more applied. Both are excellent.
In 7 Principles, Gottman outlines his keys to successful marriage. They include love maps, fondness and admiration, turning toward each other, accepting influence, solving solvable problems, overcoming gridlock, and creating shared meaning. At the heart of Gottman’s contribution are the discoveries that some conflict is universal but there are better ways of managing it, and we must learn to live with some unresolvable differences. Gottman provides a whole new way of looking at healthy relationships. Gottman’s discoveries are supported by good science and by good sense.
When a group of researchers compared workshops, therapy, and reading of this book, they found the reading of the book to be surprisingly effective, tied with a combination of workshop and therapy. If you are a person who is interested in strengthening your marriage, this may be the best book on the market.
John M. Gottman (1999). The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York: Crown.