770 of 795 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 1999
After watching marriage-advice books catalyze the destruction of my first marriage, I did not think I would find myself reading any more of these books soon. But I heard an interview with Dr Gottman on National Public Radio and I was so impressed that I ran out, bought the book and read it. The thing that makes the book so good is that it is based on rigorous, scientific research (you know, set up an experiment, collect data, look for patterns in the data without inserting your own preconceptions and report it). Although I found that most of Dr. Gottman's findings were not particularly surprising, I still found the book to be extremely useful because out of the many possible things a person could do to improve their marriage, this book tells you which ones really matter. The book also gave me a good sense of the problems that are encountered in happy marriages. For example, about 60% of the conflicts that happily married couples have are unresolvable (perpetual). This fact alone would have helped my first marriage a lot considering all the good will that we burned up trying to solve problems that were not solvable. Dr Gottman found that happy couples accept that these problems are unresolvable and can learn to live with them without damaging their relationship. As an analogy he points out that people with bad elbows can live very rich and rewarding lives as long as they don't make playing tennis a central part of their lives. In summary this is a great book that people who don't like marriage advice books can enjoy (as well as those who do).
1,926 of 2,032 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2003
I practiced psychotherapy in New York City for fourteen years. Though I had training as a marriage counselor in addition to my main training as a psychotherapist, I turned away more couples than I accepted. Most years, I didn't take on more than one or two couples, if that.
There were many reasons for this, but fundamentally it was that marriage counseling rarely works. (About thirty-five to forty percent of the time, and half of those relapse, according to the best research.) I had made a vow when I went into training that I would never take on patients that I did not honestly believe I could help. (I can't say that I kept that vow sterling, being human--but I tried.) Most couples, I believed, could not be helped, so I didn't want to take their money or waste their time.
In hard, cold truth, most of what most marriage counselors teach is just made up. Concocted. Without any sound research base. That's just a fact. When I was in training, I was utterly shocked at this. I was appalled at the simple-minded dogmatism of marriage-counseling orthodoxy.
Most mental health care has a flimsier basis in research than its proponents admit (or even know, often), but in marriage counseling, the paucity of good research was almost total. (This evaluation of the low scientific basis of mental health care is not some private crackpot theory of mine; I wrote it up in my book "Cultures of Healing," which was published by the book-publishing arm of Scientific American in 1995 and will be republished, under a different title--"Health and Suffering in America: The Context and Content of Mental Health Care"--next year by Transaction Publishers/Rutgers. My point here is not to plug my book so much as to tell you that I know whereof I speak, and to encourage you to take my recommendation here seriously.)
If I had known John Gottman's work back then, I would have had an entirely different approach to treating couples, and I would have taken more of them on. (No one in my three years of training ever mentioned Gottman, and I went to a pretty respectable institute. Gottman is just so at odds with conventional wisdom in the field that he wasn't even taken seriously.)
Gottman's opinions--though he denies that they are opinions--are based on admirable, extensive, carefully analyzed research. While there is much to criticize methodologically about this research, and it certainly is nowhere near as conclusive as he says, at least he has done real work--not sat around making stuff up and pawning it off on students and patients. His is the best research of which I (now, many years later) know. Even if it isn't knock-down-drag-out conclusive, it is much better to have opinions based on extensive research and attempts to understand it rigorously than on no research, wild speculation, wishful thinking, and wooly feelings. Gotttman's opinions are very good, for the most part.
This book does a nice job of conveying the gist of his work, in clear, practical form.
In my experience, most marriage counselors do more harm than good and teach more made-up nonsense that practical wisdom. So unless you can find someone who trained with Gottman, I'd say DON'T go to a marriage counselor--buy this book.
If you ARE seeing a marriage counselor, read this book and discuss with your counselor where his or her views differ. Ask for the basis for what your counselor does differently. Maybe it will make sense. But if your counselor is not open to the possibility of modifying his or her approach based on what you find valuable here, at least for your therapy, fire him. Or her. Whatever. Just run.
Why only four stars? Two reasons: (1) Gottman does not allow that for some significant minority, the difficluties in marriage are much more complex and intractable. E.g., while he is right that ordinary neuroses themselves do not kill marriage--so long as you marry someone whose neuroses match up with yours, or who can tolerate yours--it is certainly the case that some mental illnesses, such as paranoia and borderline personality, make marriage extremely hard. (2) A little humility on Gottman's part would make this book much easier to read and leave more room for the intelligent, wise reader to disagree, modify, and make it his or her own. Gottman is much too taken with himself, and while his research is more extensive and careful than most anything else done in the field, marriage counseling ain't physics (or biology or even sociology), and it certainly should not be granted the authority Gottman claims for it.
This isn't the final word on marriage, but it is about the best of the overly-many words that have heretofore been uttered.
553 of 610 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2000
A very reasonable as well as scientific approach to marriage. Many marriage-oriented books offer logical short-term band-aids (e.g., focusing on perceived Mars/Venus gender differences, communicating better, smoothing over conflicts) that make for a provocative read and/or admirable goals, but by and large fail in the long-run to resuscitate shaky marriages. Gottman creates a path for marital success via theories and exercises with an established track record for success. Many people wouldn't think that a fit marriage has to be exercised regularly, no less than one's body through regular workouts. Gottman's book serves as the ultimate guide to marital fitness, yet is a valuable read even if you are unmarried or have already experienced a failed marriage.
Good marriages don't necessarily have less conflicts than bad ones. Gottman gets under the surface and digs into such deeper issues as the maintaining of HONOR and RESPECT for your partner in the heat of all-too-common battles. Along the way he punches holes in a lot of marriage-counseling paradigms. In short, this book can improve a good marriage (or any similiar commitment between two people), heal a salvagable one, or explain why a bad one got to or beyond the point of no return. Or even serve as a form of CRUCIAL pre-marital counseling.
My question, why isn't there a mandatory course in marriage at the high school level that incorporates Gottman's research? Wouldn't the knowledge gained be of as much or more importance than any other accumulated as teenagers head into adulthood? I consider topics such as those raised by Gottman to be of enormous value for my daughters to read (and discuss!) when they reach their mid-teens...better too early than too late!
89 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2003
As a relationship and romance author, speaker, and coach I read a lot of books about dating, marriage, and romance. "Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" is one of my top 10 favorites. The seven principles identified through Gottman's research are powerful and when coupled with the exercises that are included you get practical tools to strengthen your marriage.
The first two chapters give you an insight into where the book is coming from. The information gleened from the Seattle Love Lab gives you hope for a successful marriage and identifies key warning signs for trouble in your relationship.
The next seven chapters cover the principles in depth with skill building exercises to enhance your proficiency in each area. First is building a foundation with "Love Maps." Next is developing a compassion and caring with "Fondness and Admiration." Chapter 5 focuses on creating an intimate relationship by looking to your partner for help, support, and answers. Giving a higher value and priority to your partner follows allowing you to be influenced by them. The next three chapters cover problems in the marriage and how to handle them. Work, money, in-laws, [physical attraction], housework, and a new baby are the big six areas of conflict. Some problems are solvable and some not. How you handle the conflict is key. Next the book covers"Overcoming Gridlock" or creating a dialogue and point of acceptance for unsolvable problems. The final chapter is really about creating a shared vision for the marriage and the future of it.
The benefits of marriage are well documented; longer life, more money, healthier children, and better [physical activity]. "Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" gives you a practical guide for achieving those benefits, and more!
97 of 107 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2000
In my work as a psychologist for the last 14 years, marital problems are a most common presenting problem. They are usually most painful for clients, and most difficult for the mental health professional to treat. Yet, as one reviewer noted, most therapists really don't seem to know what to do! I agree, as I always ask my clients if they've previously seen a professional about marital problems, and whether it was helpful. Most give lukewarm responses at best. This is usually not because of the therapist's incompetence, but because of lack of proper training/continuing education. Unfortunately, many people then mistakenly assume that their relationship is doomed to fail. Not necessarily true! Any couple who has been dissatisfied with therapy might want to try either reading Dr. Gottman's book on their own, finding a psychologist or therapist who uses Dr. Gottman's work, or finding a therapist who is willing to learn it with them! In my experience, his work is simply the best, and it is based on a huge database of clinical experience with real people. Couples need an explanation of what is wrong, and specific, usable guidance about what to do. Dr. Gottman's work fits the bill perfectly. And, of course, even if you've never been in therapy or even considered it, the book is still quite useful. For those who are really into it, his students Dr.Howard Markman and Dr. Clifford Notarius have written some very useful books along the same lines. All three men have been on national television discussing these ideas. of course, their book are not aimed at people with such problems as continuing abuse or drug/alcohol problems. But for an ailing marriage or relationship, nothing beats his work or that of his students. I'm sure the books of Drs. Markman and Notarius available on Amazon.com. Good luck!
61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2004
Actually, I'm not sure *what* I expected. I guess I figured I'd hear more of the same ~ that a failing marriage is all about communication. I feared the advice in this book would be vague at best, but I gave it a shot (thanks Amazon reviewers), and now I'm grateful to have found it.
His first two chapters explain his findings after studying real life couples and how they interact. I found reading about other couples' arguments eye opening, as I sometimes saw myself in them. Being the objective observer in these cases allowed me to consider my own approach to arguments with my husband and instantly see how I unintentionally made things worse. The chapter "How I Predict Divorce" is especially helpfull. Our approach to an argument makes all the difference in the world, and it's so much more than "I understand what you're saying, but..." Gottman points out specific mistakes we all make that, over time, will chip away at the foundation of the relationship.
Gottman reminds us, though, that learning how to fight isn't going to single handedly save the marriage. The rest of the book is dedicated to how couples behave when they aren't fighting. Are you really, truly friends? Do you honestly know what's important to one another? Do you influence each other in a positive way? Questions like these force us to examine our relationship in depth. He includes exercises in each chapter (I haven't done these personally...right now, I'm the only one who's reading up on marriage and conflict) to hammer home the point. Honestly, I liked this book so much, I'd be interested in doing some of the exercises, but I'm not so sure my husband would. Let me put it this way...we aren't in the same place yet.
I highly recommend this book. I love the fact that Gottman can take his findings and share them with the reader in plain English. His approach is just right: informative and to the point.
74 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2005
As an intern in a neighborhood mental health clinic I used the Seven Principles book as a guide for many couples whose relationship was in distress. It was so effective that it became the basis for my Graduate Paper.
There is one big warning. Chapter Two lists the signs of divorce. This list is dangerous to the relationship if one or both read it and get discouraged or scared. I recommend that any couselor who uses this book, take the time to discuss this chapter in depth and emphasize hope. LOTS of HOPE.
Gottman is correct when he says that most couples come into counseling with one foot out the door already. Chapter Two can give them the final 'reason' to bolt out of the relationship.
With that said, I highly recommend the use of this book as a guide to couples' therapy.
Good Luck and Peace in our time, Gregg Max Psy.D.
76 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2001
Many people have asked me where to turn for advice when relationship problems begin. Many cannot afford the cost of counselling fees, and free services do not always have professional or qualified advisors. The question usually arises, "Are there any self-help books you would recommend?" This one will definitely be added to the list. "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" is based on some basic common sense values, yet they are not always practised in everyday life. Communication, honesty, trust and treating your partner with respect still top the list. With so many different types of families today, blended families, some legally married, some not, I would have prefered the authors make an effort to recognize all meaningful relationships with a commitment by titling the book, "the Seven Principles for Making Meaningful Relationships Work," and for this reason I gave the book four starts rather than five.
Schools teach us some very important elements, but two areas where they fall short is failing to teach money management, and failing to teach relationship values and communication. Unless you have zero money or an endless supply of it, everyone needs to manage money and most of us will, at some point in time, develop an intimate relationship with another individual. Schools teach us how to read, write and all that good stuff, but they do not teach us how to survive in the REAL WORLD! With the high divorce rate and relationship failures, there is clear evidence many couples can certainly use some help and advice in both these areas.
"The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" focuses on developing strong, positive meaningful relationships and how to keep that nurturing love and respect for each other. Regardless of whether your relationship is in deep trouble or you simply want to enhance the wonderful relationship you have, I highly recommend this excellent self-help book. It is one of the best books on this topic in the marketplace - sincere best wishes for your future happiness.
154 of 175 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 1999
The book is based upon scientific research, not oppinion. A VERY positive book. It gave us real hope. Not just another 'feel good' pop-psych book. It takes you inside the conflicts of real couples, and reveals the four marriage-killers, and the seven, very do-able skills to aquire to make a marriage work. I've read a lot of books trying to save my marriage. Some of them had some good things that truely helped. But it wasn't enough help. It never got to the root of the problem, and it left us both feeling like 'we have to completely change ourselves if we want to stay married'. Following the principles outlined in this book is FAR easier and FAR more effective than most other books I've read.
54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2010
When I got this book I thought my marriage was doomed. After reading half of it, in a weeks time our relationhip/friendship has never been better! My husband is not much for participating, but I have found ways to "compliment" him in areas he's not so great at. I put a question in his lunch box with my answer for him to read. He comes home now and kisses me and tells me thank you for the note. Affection was an area of concern for me, and it's working. I've also realized how much of the issue was mine not his. I know a lot of ladies will roll their eyes at that comment but I believe taking responsibility where it's due. NOt saying our issues stemed just from me, but I was creating the issues I had with my husband. I would "flood" him with, "why dont' you talk to me?", "Why aren't you more open to sharing with me?" Why this why that and I would keep doing it until we had a HUGE blow out and he would start "Stonewalling" and then I would think he didn't care, then it continued on and I would keep it going by yelling at him, telling him he was an insensitive jerk.... The other day he came home from MI, and instead of "flooding" him with questions, I showed him how excited I was to see him, and didn't ask him anything. I decided to wait for him to open up because I know he's not much of a talker, another way I "comlimented" him and before I knew it he just opened up and told me so much more than me trying to DRAG it out of him. I have also realized just how "normal" of a couple we are. I thought we didn't spend enough time together. In fact, we have a better relationship than most couples now I believe. When I was taking the questionairs, we were passing with flying colors and I was confused at first and thought this wasn't right. But we are doing very well I've been realizing. I would freak out because our marriage wasn't like the movies, and didn't realize.... we have a great friendship! We "turn towards eachother" more than I thought.... and my husband does a lot of the turning..... My purception of what I thought a "normal" marriage was, was so dystorted and this book helped me to realize just how GREAT and LOVING, and just how WONDERFUL of a friend my husband is. I love him even more and appreciate all the effort he puts into our marriage now. My eyes have been opened. We've been through so much with not much of a dating life (pregnant after 6 months of knowing eachother), striving to get our credit together to buy a house, bought a house, not even a year later my husband was laid off, we lost the house in a short sale (I feel very lucky for that), moving from MI where all of our family is to AL, to being robbed 4 times in less than a year, and getting back into a house.... I'm PROUD to say we've been through this and we've gotten through it and are still getting through it and we still haven't lost eachother. I've realized what a great friend he's been to me through all of this. I love you sweetie. And thank you to Mr Gottman, this book is amazing, and I also loved how he wasn't sexist. He points out throught the book that a husband and wife both should do this, not "what a wife should do to save their marriage" Which frustrates me to no end. He was very clear about both sexes working together, but that its also not a competition. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS BOOK I highly recommend it. You're eyes will be opened.