Dr. John Gottman, a towering figure in couples counseling, achieved
this insight after more than thirty years in the research and study of
couples. In his bestselling book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, he discusses why most marriage therapy fails, concluding that resolving conflicts and improving communication is important but not, of itself, what keeps couples together. Rather, he finds that “friendship fuels the flames of romance.”
However intense or frequent their battles, the couples that last have
never lost their fondness and respect for one anther. After describing
the kinds of behavior that undermine mutual regard, Gottman describes
seven things that happy marriages
have in common, then he shows you how to introduce those seven
principles into your own relationship. If ever you feel that the ties
that bind are weakening, this would be a good place to start looking for
things you can do to rekindle affection. This material is also
available in audio or video format.
Other factors that contribute to relationship success include
learning to express your feelings, both positive and negative; learning
to disagree in ways that are not destructive; and learning to accept
things you can’t change.
Beyond information in books, tapes and videos, there are couple
workshops. Some might find it more effective to go directly to a good
couples counselor. If one of you is allergic to the idea of counseling or therapy, look for a couples coach, which might be more acceptable. Enter “couples coach” into Google and see what comes up, or ask a recommended therapist to serve as a coach. Many religious organizations have trained conciliators who work
with couples and many clergy are trained in couples counseling. In any
case, you should only work with someone who is trained, experienced and
certified to do the job.
The important thing is that you not sit on your hands if one of you
begins to feel that your mutual regard is fading. If you are committed
to your relationship, you need to make it a priority, meaning there will
be times when you have to put extra effort into it–get information, go
to a workshop, get help. Above all, try to discuss things you can do to
increase mutual regard and affection and decide together what steps to
The companion CD that’s included in my book Legal Essentials for California Couples has a fine article, How to Get the Most From Couples Therapy.
Appendix B in the book lists relationship resources that professionals
have told us they recommend to their clients. One we like is The Five Love Languages,
by Gary Chapman, who points out that people have different ways of
expressing and receiving love, so that one person might be expressing it
in a way that the other does not get, as where a man works hard to earn
material things for hisloved one and buys her gifts, but she craves
touching and nice words. It’s a matter of getting your signals straight.