Marriage: Horsemen, Principles, and Living Longer

Need a good reason to work on your marriage?  Try this on for size:  "People who stay married live four years longer than people who don't."  That's way better than a Stairmaster, says John Gottman, who has spent twenty years researching marriage. Gottman has studied so many couples--following their relationships for decades--that he can tell within 5 minutes, with 91% accuracy, if a couple will divorce.  He calls negative interactions like criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," signaling that the end is near.

Not only does he know what signals divorce, but he also knows what makes couples satisfied and successful in marriage.  So when he writes a book called The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work--and includes a bunch of quizzes and exercises to boot--it seems to me that all of us married people ought to read it and at least consider what the man says.

Gottman's book is not about behavioral technique.  He doesn't really care if you have differences of opinion--even ones that get pretty loud.  He doesn't care if you say the right thing in the right way.  He claims (based on his research) that what really matters are things like deep friendship and admiration for one another, a true caring connection, mutual honor and respect.  With those things, you can live through differences and not be too worried about getting every little thing just right.  And his ideas are directed at being deeply satisfied in marriage, not just staying together in boredom or misery.  This is about growing a marriage that's full of life and nourishment.

Here is Gottman's advice for a marriage that works, and works well:

  • Enhance your love maps
  • Nurture your fondness and admiration
  • Turn toward each other instead of away
  • Let your partner influence you
  • Solve your solvable problems
  • Overcome gridlock
  • Create shared meaning

He's got specific ideas for simple, proactive interactions that provide maximum benefit to marriages--things we can all do in just a few minutes a day.

To see how he fleshes out his advice, buy the book--and enjoy those four extra years of life!

Print Friendly and PDF