Wellness Wednesday: Unpacking the Seven Principles 

Last week in the post entitled “ Couple’s Wellness “ I referenced the work of Julie and Stuart Gotten of the esteemed Gotten Institute and the Seattle Love Lab. I introduce their book entitled “ The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”. However we didn’t really go into what those principals really are. This week I will give you a thumbnail sketch of each in the hopes that you will be interested enough to pursue more study. They are as follows: 

  1. Enhance Your Love Maps
  2. Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration
  3. Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away
  4. Let Your Partner Influence You
  5. Solve Your Solvable Problems
  6. Overcome Gridlock
  7. Create Shared Meaning 

Enhance Your Love Maps

The love map is a term for the area of the brain which holds all the information about your partner. The Gottmans propose that having a detailed love map of your partner enables you to love better, and weather challenges more easily. This is done by concerning yourself with all the things that are important to your partner and keeping up to date with what is going on in their life. 

Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration

Fondness and admiration usually exist at the beginning of any relationship. However, as time passes and life’s difficulties are encountered, they may diminish. Expending effort to deliberately keep these past memories and present feelings of fondness and admiration alive will prevent bad feelings from developing in their place. In particular, the Gottmans state that fondness and admiration are the antidote to contempt. 

Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away

A couple’s connection is built of many small connections throughout the course of everyday life. When one partner reaches out even slightly in speech or gesture, the Gottmans call this a bid. If the other partner turns away from (disregards) the bid, the bidder is slighted and some degree of detachment or irritation takes place. However, if the partner turns toward the bid responsively, their connection is strengthened. The Gottmans teach that a tendency to turn toward your partner’s bids build trust, goodwill and emotional connection. 

Let Your Partner Influence You

The Gottmans have found that partners who share power are more likely to have happy and long lasting marriages. Part of sharing power is allowing influence to flow back and forth. In these marriages conflict prompts a search for common ground. 

Solve Your Solvable Problems

This sounds hard at first but the Gottmans break it down as follows: 

  1. Soften your start-up. 
  2. Learn to make and receive repair attempts.
  3. Soothe yourself and each other.
  4. Compromise.
  5. Prices any grievances so they don’t linger. 

These are the features that an effective problem solving session needs to have. They liken good problem solving to that done between respectful professionals or esteemed guests. 

Overcome Gridlock

The Gottmans assert that gridlocked issues in a marriage touch on deeply held beliefs or wishes, or each partner’s dreams for their life. If partners sit down with each other and try to discern the real basis of the tightly held position, then perhaps a common ground can be found. 

Create Shared Meaning 

The Gottmans assert that a real marriage is more than the sum of its parts. By parts I mean living or loving each other, raising kids competently, and having sex. Instead, they argue, the couple must create a their own unique culture, which incorporates both partners' closely held beliefs and dreams. The Gottmans have identified four aspects of creating shared meaning:

  1. Rituals of connection, such as a family sit down dinner 
  2. Support for each other’s roles
  3. Shared goals 
  4. Shared values and symbols.

This will give us all a lot to think about until next week on Wellness Wednesday.