Becoming a master in my marriage

John Gottman, author of the best selling book, “Seven principles of a great marriage”  released a dvd a few years ago called “Making marriage work”. On the dvd he talks about the “masters’ and “disasters” of marriage.

He studied numerous couples over many years, and discovered that there are 4 things that are characteristic of divorce.


Not merely complaining, but suggesting in your complaint that there is something defective in your partner. In other words the ‘disaster’ couples were not able to convey their feelings or take responsibility for any issues in their marriage. They pointed the finger at the other person – and that person was always at fault.


It seems that 2 responses are common when someone is defensive; the first is righteous indignation, in other words meeting a complaint with a counter complaint, or becoming a victim and whining.

Disrespect and contempt

This is where one partner feels superior to the other, and can result in name calling.

And lastly, stone walling

Emotionally withdrawing from conflict. Couples maybe in the same room but they are emotionally separated.

When my husband Andy and I learnt this, we decided that when these appeared in our relationship we would actively deal with them. We weren’t going to be ‘a disaster’; we were committed to becoming ‘masters’ in our marriage.

Becoming a master

Gottman suggested there are 3 ingredients to becoming a master in marriage. The first is building your friendship by enhancing your love maps. That is understanding your partner by asking lots of questions, knowing their dreams, their fears, their pressures. Making sure your conversations are laced with lots of questions rather than statements.

The second is communicating fondness, respect and admiration; rather than merely thinking how wonderful your partner is, actually telling them. The “masters” say “thank you”, “I appreciate all you do” – they express their appreciation regularly. My husband has been so very good at this over the years, and so naturally I never feel taken for granted.

And lastly the “masters” build emotional connectedness by figuratively turning towards one another. The “disasters” often turn away by ignoring their partner’s comments, physically turning away, or just not engaging in conversation. A ‘master’ however, will endeavour to enter a conversation and engage with one another.

A ‘master’ will look for ways to turn towards the other rather than withdraw. I guess it ‘s called putting another’s needs before our own.

So the question for all of us this morning is, how can I take steps today to becoming more of a “master” in my marriage?

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