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The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert

By John M. Gottman and Nan Silver
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (1999) draws on data from relationship studies and interviews to do exactly what it promises in its title. These blinks take you through the key changes you can make to overcome the common problems that damage relationships and build a supportive, romantic marriage.

Key idea 1 of 10

Principle One: Functioning couples have a richly detailed love map.

If you have a husband or wife, you’ll likely be wise to plenty of special, private or sensitive information about them. But did you know this information is actually stored in our minds in a love map?

The more developed your love map, the stronger your love.

In several recorded cases of divorce, partners weren’t actually that familiar with each other; they didn’t dedicate enough space in their brain for the marriage. With no love map, you can’t fully know your partner, and without really knowing your partner, how can you truly love them?

Take the example of Rory, a pediatrician who ran an intensive care unit for babies. Being a workaholic, he often slept at the hospital overnight. At work he got along well, but his homelife was a different story. He didn’t know the family dog’s name or where his house’s back door was. In fact, he had become so tangled up in work that his emotional connection to his wife and children had deteriorated. His love map left a lot to be desired.

It’s important to be aware of your love map because it contains your own and your partner’s aspirations and life philosophies. But it can change. Having a baby can radically alter a woman’s life purpose or direction, and thus change her love map.

Take Maggie and Ken, who had been together only a little while before they chose to marry and start a family. They were aware of each others’ beliefs, hopes and fears; Ken understood that Maggie was dedicated to her career as a computer scientist. However, when Maggie gave birth to her daughter, she put her career aside in order to stay home and look after the baby. Ken saw that his wife had changed.

This is not unusual; becoming a parent changes your values and identity. Maggie’s love map had changed to fit her new priorities, and Ken had to realign his own love map accordingly.

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