7 Tips to Keep Your Marriage on Track

                Why is marriage so tough at times? Why do some lifelong relationships click, while others just tick away like a time bomb? And how can we prevent a marriage from going bad or rescue one that already has? After 40 years of research, we can answer these questions. The most rewarding findings from our research are the seven principles that prevent a marriage or relationship from breaking up.

Enhance Your Love Maps: Emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s world. They have a richly detailed love map; they know the major events in each other’s history, and they keep updating their information as their partner’s world changes

Nurture Fondness & Admiration: Fondness and admiration are two of the most crucial elements in a long-lasting romance. Without the belief that your spouse is worthy of honor and respect, where is the basis for a rewarding relationship? By reminding yourself of your partner’s positive qualities, even as you live with each other’s flaws, you can prevent a happy relationship from deteriorating.

Turn Toward Each Other: In relationships people make “bids” for their partner’s attention, affection, humor, or support. People either turn toward one another in response to these bids or they turn away. Turning toward is the basis of emotional connection, romance, passion, and a good sex life.

Let Your PartnerInfluence You:  The happiest, most stable marriages are those in which the husband treats his wife with respect and does not resist sharing power and decision making with her. It’s just as important for wives to treat their husbands with honor and respect, but our data indicates that the vast majority of wives do that. Too often men do not return the favor.

Solve Your Solvable Problems: Start with good manners when tackling your solvable problems. Step 1. Use a softened startup.  Complain but don’t criticize or attack your spouse. State your feelings without blame, and express a positive need; what you want, not what you don’t want. Step 2. Learn to make and receive repair attempts. Share what you are feeling, apologize, or express appreciation to de-escalate the situation. Step 3. Soothe yourself and each other. Conflict conversation can lead to flooding. When the conversation becomes too overwhelming, take a break to soothe yourself and calm down. Don’t come back to the conversation for at least 20 minutes.  Step 4. Compromise. Decide together on a solvable problem to tackle. Then separately draw two circles, one smaller than the other. In the small circle, write down what you are unwilling to compromise on. In the large circle, write down some aspects of the situation that you are willing to compromise on.  Talk about your circles and look for common bases for agreement. 

Overcome Gridlock: Many perpetual conflicts that are gridlocked stem from unexpressed dreams, wishes, and goals for your life. In happy relationships, partners incorporate each other’s goals into the concept of what their marriage or relationship is about. The bottom line in getting past gridlock conflicts is to honor each other’s dreams.  

Create Shared Meaning: Marriage and relationships can have an intentional sense of shared purpose, meaning, family values, and cultural legacy that forms a shared inner life. When a relationship has this shared sense of meaning, conflict is less intense and perpetual problems are unlikely to lead to gridlock.


Adopted from Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, By Dr. John Gottman PhD. and Nan Silver, Three Rivers Press, 1999. For further information on practical, research-based relationship tools for couples, contact The Gottman Institute at