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The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

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The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
AuthorJohn Gottman
PublishedMarch 16, 1999

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is a 1999 book by John Gottman, which details seven principles for couples to improve their marriage and the "Four Horseman" to watch out for, that usually herald the end of a marriage.[1] The book was based on Gottman's research in his Family Research Lab, known as the "Love Lab", where he observed more than 650 couples over 14 years.[2]


In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman argues that the basis for a happy marriage is a deep friendship with mutual respect and a positive attitude. He also emphasizes the importance of emotional intelligence in couples.

In the course of the book, Gottman details seven principles for couples to follow in order to nurture their friendship and improve their marriage in order to help them endure during challenging times. These principles include: enhancing their "love maps"; nurturing their fondness and admiration; turning toward each other instead of away; letting their spouse influence them; solving their solvable problems; overcoming gridlock; and creating a shared sense of meaning.

Gottman also writes about the "Four Horseman" that are important to minimize and avoid: 1) criticism, 2) defensiveness, 3) contempt, and 4) stonewalling.[1] Of these four, he warns that contempt is the highest predictor for divorce. He defines contempt as a spouse viewing themselves as better than the other spouse. Gottman defines criticism as verbally attacking a spouse's personality or character with criticism vs. a complaint (a healthy form of communication). Defensiveness he defines as victimizing the self to ward off perceived verbal attacks, and it is really a way for the defensive partner to blame the other. Finally, there's stonewalling, which Gottman says is withdrawal from interaction to avoid conflict. It manifests itself in the silent treatment, conveys disapproval of the other, and is an unwillingness to properly communicate during contention.

The seven principles[edit]

1. Share Love Maps: This is where all the information learned about our partners gets stored. One example of information gathered and stored is the things that they like and things that they dislike.[3][4][5]

2. Nurture Your Fondness & Admiration: This is showing that you care about the other person and focusing on and acknowledging the positives. The basis for this starts in friendship.[3][4][5]

3. Turn Towards Each Other Instead of Away: This is doing things together and showing the other person that they are valued. It is taking the time to listen and not telling them you don’t have time.[3][5][4]

4. Let Your Partner Influence You: This is sharing the decision making and being willing to both make decisions and respect your partner's decisions.[3][4][5]

5. Solve Your Solvable Problems: this is realizing which problems can be solved and solving them using skills for managing conflict, which include: using Softened Startup, Repair and De-escalation, Physiological Self-Soothing, Accepting What You Cannot Change, Accepting Influence, and Compromise.[3][4][5]

6. Overcome Gridlock: This is figuring out what is causing a block in your life and taking steps to overcome this block. It does not necessarily mean fixing problems but taking steps to overcome them.[3][4][5]

7. Create Shared Meaning: This is creating a life that is shared and meaningful for both of you.[4][5] “Marriage isn’t about just raising kids, splitting chores, and making love. It can also have a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together–a culture rich with symbols and rituals, and an appreciation for your roles and goals that link you, that lead you to understand what it means to be part of the family you have become” (Gottman & Silver, 1999).[3]


The book was released to generally favorable reviews.[6][7][8] It was a New York Times bestseller,[9] and was included in the U.S. Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program.[10] It has been included in numerous publications' lists of best relationship books.[11][12][13] A 2001 study noted the book aligned with feminist principles and research stating that shared power is essential for a successful marriage.[14]


Psychologist Milton Spett criticized Gottman's lack of scientific rigor in his claims of low relapse from his marital therapy: "Gottman makes these claims without reporting any of the standard techniques of outcome research: no control group, no random assignment to treatments, no blind assessment of outcome."[15] Therapist Robert F. Scuka argued against Gottman's criticism of the effectiveness of active listening based on the Munich Marital Therapy Study, saying, "Gottman cites only certain (one-sided) results from the study."[16]


  1. ^ a b Van Zutphen, Neal (2016-12-31). "Book Review: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work". Journal of Financial Therapy. 7 (2). doi:10.4148/1944-9771.1141. ISSN 1944-9771.
  2. ^ "Review of The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work". Tom Butler Bowdon. Archived from the original on 2014-10-31.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Gottman, John Mordechai (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. Nan Silver (1st ed.). New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 0-609-60104-0. OCLC 39985594.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "7 Research-Based Principles for Making Marriage Work". Psych Central. 2012-01-08. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Brown, Michael; MSC; LMFT (2014-11-05). "John Gottman's Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work". Happy Couples Healthy Communities. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  6. ^ Keyt, Andrew (Jun 2003). "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work". Family Business Review. 16 (2): 151–152.
  7. ^ "Love Skills – Book Review". www.ejhs.org. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  8. ^ Pounda, Linda (July 2003). "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work". The Family Journal. 11 (3): 327–328. doi:10.1177/106648070301100319. S2CID 144943114.
  9. ^ "Best Sellers Plus". The New York Times. 1999-09-05.
  10. ^ The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program: Family skills component. Gottman, John M.; Gottman, Julie S.; Atkins, Christopher L. American Psychologist, Vol 66(1), Jan 2011, 52–57. doi: 10.1037/a0021706
  11. ^ Berger, Sara Stillman; Nicolaou, Elena (2020-05-26). "Every Couple Should Read These Marriage Books". Oprah Magazine. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  12. ^ "15 Books All Couples Should Read, According To Marriage Therapists". HuffPost. 2019-08-23. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  13. ^ Schneider, Katy (2019-02-13). "The 6 Best Books for a Healthy Relationship, According to Psychiatrists". The Strategist. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  14. ^ Zimmerman, Toni Schindler; Holm, Kristen E.; Starrels, Marjorie E. (April 2001). "A feminist analysis of self-help bestsellers for improving relationships: a decade review". Journal of Marital & Family Therapy. 27 (2): 165–175. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0606.2001.tb01154.x. PMID 11314550.
  15. ^ Spett, Milton. "John Gottman Proposes Revolutionary New Form of Couple Therapy – or Does He?". NJ-ACT.
  16. ^ Scuka, Robert F. (28 May 2005). "The Munich Group Study". Relationship Enhancement Therapy.