Drs. John and Julie Gottman are well-known researchers and psychologists in the field of relationships. John Gottman is famous for being able to predict divorce with a 94 percent accuracy based on his observations of couples when they fight. Although some challenge this claim, much of what he has found in his research rings true. The Gottmans have written several books guiding couples in improving their relationships. Here is a summary from one of them that may help you build – and maintain – a solid relationship.1
1. A solid relationship has many levels that often build on each other. The Gottmans suggest developing a Love Map to your partner. Get to know your spouse’s inner world, his/her needs, feelings, values and dreams. The best way to do this is to just ask. Your spouse may not know how to answer all of your questions, but will likely love that you cared enough to ask.
2. Expressing fondness and admiration for each other is often done during the dating years, but is frequently forgotten in marriage. You may have fond thoughts for your partner, but you need to actually say it. It also should be expressed with physical touch.
3. Turning towards your partner when he/she has something to say or show you is a way to express that you care to connect with your spouse.
4. Positive perspective. Your spouse has made mistakes and, of course, so have you. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Challenge negative thoughts. Negative thoughts about your spouse is one of the ways Satan breaks the marital bond.
5. Manage conflict to where there is only one negative comment for every five positive comments, even in the middle of the fight. Instead of saying “You always . . .” which typically leads to a defensive response or an attack, say “I feel . . .” (use real emotion words) “about . . .”(treat the problem as separate from your spouse); “I need . . .”(what do you need in order to address the issue). This is called a soft start-up. It doesn’t guarantee a positive response, but it is definitely more likely.
6. Honor each other’s dreams. Find ways to fulfill your spouse’s dreams and life goals.
7. Create shared meaning. Talk about what is meaningful to you and what gives your life a sense of purpose. This is important to do in our spiritual lives. Then help each other fulfill those desires.
Your spouse may be resistant to make any changes but, when one partner changes, it can improve the interactions the two of you have. Continue to pray for your relationship to keep the tempter at bay who wants nothing more than to destroy your marriage.
Alina M. Baltazar, PhD, MSW, LMSW, CFLE, is a licensed clinical social worker, associate professor of Social Work, and a certified family life educator who has been married to her high school sweetheart for 26 years.
1Gottman, John and Gottman, Julie Schwartz. 10 Principles for Doing Effective Couples Therapy. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2015.