When you close your eyes and picture a healthy relationship, what do you see? We all have different ideas of what makes a relationship healthy and happy. We might have specific couples in mind. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell why some couples last and others don’t. As a Gottman trained couples therapist, I believe that it’s never too late to make your relationship better.
What’s the secret? Dr. Gottman, expert in marriage and relationships, has identified not only one, but seven key principles to healthy, long-lasting relationships. These principles apply to people of any age or sexual orientation, and can be customized for each couple’s challenges.
1. Building love maps
Love maps are our understanding of our partners’ worlds-- what their daily life is like, how they feel and think, what they value, and where they’re coming from. Throughout a relationship, our love maps grow as we continue to learn about one another.
2. Nurturing fondness and admiration
Sometimes, it can help to think about what we cherish about our partner. Can you think of a time where you really appreciated your significant other? Do you often bring up happy memories that you’ve shared? Learning to appreciate each other and living with your differences can go a long way in a relationship.
3. Turning toward each other
Turning toward your partner means connecting with them on even the smallest level. This can span from laughing at their jokes, listening and reacting warmly to their comments, and being supportive in all aspects of their life.
4. Accepting influence from each other
Try your best to share power within the relationship. When making decisions, do you usually take the lead, or do you take your partner’s feelings into account? This can go a long way in helping your significant other feel valued and respected.
5. Solving problems that are solvable
Conflict can be tricky to tackle. Proven problem-solving techniques include: leading the discussion without being critical, expressing yourself clearly and positively, de-escalating any negativity or tension, soothing one another, compromising, and being tolerant of each other.
6. Managing conflict and overcoming gridlock
Gridlock can happen when one partner feels stuck and ignored in an argument. When this happens, we can feel rejected, become unwilling to budge in our point of view, and over time, become emotionally disengaged. Couples who successfully overcome gridlock are motivated and willing to explore the deeper issues that are causing it.
7. Creating shared meaning
A shared meaning refers to your inner life together-- this can be anything from roles, symbols, rituals, and goals as a couple. When couples have a shared sense of meaning, their conflicts are often less intense and less likely to lead to gridlock.
These seven principles, along with trust and commitment, have been shown to have lasting effects on the durability and happiness of relationships.
To learn more about these seven principles, you can read Dr. John Gottman’s book: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, or watch the video below: