by Ashley Corbaley
My wedding day was the best day of my life so far. Since that day there have been many good days and bad days and in-between days. There have been tears and laughter, joy and sadness. Some days have been sunny and others full of rain. Of course marriage isn’t always easy, it isn’t meant to be. Marriage is meant to be a union between two imperfect individuals perfectly committed to each other and to their relationship.
But why is marriage so hard sometimes? What makes make marriage work despite the challenges that may arise?
Dr. John Gottman, a marriage expert who has conducted over 40 years of marital research, put the question of: “what makes marriage work?” to the test. In a laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle, Dr. Gottman studied day-to-day interactions between husbands and wives. The laboratory was designed to look like a normal apartment equipped with a TV, sofa, and a kitchen. Couples were asked to go about their day as naturally as possible. By the use of one-way mirrors, cameras, microphones and heart sensors, Gottman and his team of scientists measured the couples’ interactions with each other using the couples’ facial expressions and heart rates as a means of interpreting their emotions. After many years of research, Gottman was able to answer to his question.
His solution is seven principles for making marriage work:
Principle 1: Enhance your love maps
Love maps are the part of your brain where you store all the information about your partner’s life. “The principle of building Love Maps is simply this: knowing the little things about your partner’s life creates a strong foundation for your friendship and intimacy” –Ellie Lisitsa, The Gottman Institute
Principle 2: Nurture your fondness and admiration
Try to always have a positive view of your spouse. Take a moment to look at things from their point of view. Express appreciation to them regularly. “Sharing fondness and admiration is a friendship skill which serves as the antidote for contempt”-Zach Brittle, The Gottman Institute
Principle 3: Turn towards each other instead of away
Give your partner your full attention. Do things together, the small things matter the most. Your partner should be the first person you turn to in situations both: good and bad, big and small.
Principle 4: Let your partner influence you
You and your spouse are a team, so act like one! Tackle problems together. Show empathy for your partner. Avoid criticizing each other. Take the time to really listen and show you care.
Principle 5: Solve your solvable problems
Solvable problems are those problems with no underlying conflict. To solve your solvable problems try: approaching the situation sensitively, make attempts to diffuse a tense situation, be willing to compromise and be tolerant of each other’s faults.
Principle 6: Overcome gridlock
Gridlock is a conflict in marriage that just can’t seem to be solved. It seems as though that part of your marriage is at a standstill. Gridlocks are often situations that are unlikely to ever be solved. However, by learning how to adapt and adjust to gridlock, we can move from gridlock to dialogue. If we listen, show respect and compromise we will be on our way to overcoming gridlock in our marriage.
Principle 7: Create shared meaning
Create traditions and rituals with your spouse. Work with your partner towards a common goal. Find a shared dream with your spouse and work together to fulfill that dream.
I have found these principles to be incredibly useful guidelines that can be applied to any relationship. I would encourage all of us to try a little harder at doing everything we can to improve our relationship with our spouse. No matter how hard you try, there will be times when rain may be inevitable. Marriage, then, isn’t about avoiding the storms that roll in, but learning how to get through them together. The rain may be unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean you have to get wet.