Seven Principles for Saving Your Marriage

According to John Gottman in The Seven Principles for Making  Work, you can preserve your marriage if you do the following:

1. Enhance your love maps–Emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s worlds–that part of the brain where you store all the relevant information about your partner’s life. From knowledge springs forth not only love but the fortitude to weather marital storms–couples with detailed love maps of each other’s worlds are better prepared to cope with stressful events & conflict, particularly after the birth of the child. Even those who are busy make each other their priority, always making sure that they have time to catch up on each other’s day, go out once a week etc.

Questionnaires in the book include: Love maps questionnaire, Exercises: 1. love map 20 question game, 2. make your own love maps, 3. Who Am I?

2. Nurture your fondness & admiration-if a couple still has a functioning fondness & admiration system their marriage is salvageable. The individuals feel that the person they married despite their flaws is worthy of honor & respect. These two elements are also crucial in a rewarding & long lasting romance. You can learn from history, remember past good experiences to help with this. Another note– people who are happily married like each other. By reminding yourself of your spouse’s positive qualities, even as you grapple with each other’s flaws, you can prevent a happy marriage from deteriorating.

Questionnaire: Fondness & admiration questionnaire, Exercises: 1. “I appreciate. . .”2. The history & philosophy of your marriage, 3. Seven week course in fondness & admiration

3. Turn Towards each other instead of away-Engaging in lots of chit-chat–What’s happening in these exchanges is that the husband & wife are connecting–they are turning toward each other

-it is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life, e.g. leaving message on voice mail, chit-chat in the morning about dream, etc.

-it is bids for one’s partners attention, affection humor or support.

-turning toward each other is the basis of emotional connection, romance, passion, & a good sex life.

Couples who turn toward each other remain emotionally engaged, it is like putting money in the bank, they are building up emotional savings that can serve as a cushion when times get rough, when they’re faced with a major life stress or conflict.

Questionnaire–Is your marriage primed for romance? Exercises: 1. The Emotional Bank account, 2. the stress reducing conversation 3. What to do when your spouse doesn’t turn toward you.

4. Let your partner influence you— more of an issue for men. His data suggest that a vast majority of wives let their husbands influence them. Women are more oriented toward discussing and understanding feelings than men, they are more emotionally intelligent than their husbands, primarily because they have had an enormous head start in acquiring these skills. Girl’s play emphasizes social interactions and feelings, thereby socializing them toward relationships.

-it was found that in the first few months of marriage, men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages & are less likely to divorce than men who resist their wives’ influence. When a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81% chance that this marriage will self destruct.

-the most happiest, most stable marriages in the long run were those where the husband treated his wife with respect & did not resist power sharing & decision making with her. Emotionally intelligent husband learns how to honor his wife & convey his respect to her.

Questionnaire: Accepting influence; Exercises: 1. Yield to win, 2. The Gottman Island Survival game

5. Solve your solvable problems – two types of marital conflict– a. Solvable–those that can be solved, b. Perpetual–those that will be a part of your lives forever, in some form or another.

Perpetual–69% of marital problems fall into this category, e.g. one spouse wanting children the other not ready, don’t know if ever will be, one wants sex more than the other, one is lax about housework and rarely does their share, while the other nags them about it, differences in parenting styles.

Though there are differences some couples remain satisfied with their marriages because they have discovered a way to deal with their “unbudgeable” problem so it doesn’t overwhelm them.

-They’ve learned how to keep it in its place and to have a sense of humor about it, or simply relate good “naturedly” about what happens. (Someone being late all the time)

When choosing a long-term partner, you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next 10, 20 or 50 years. Marriages are successful to the degree that the problems you choose are the ones you can cope with.


Questionnaires 1. Assessing your marital conflicts, Exercises: 1. Telling the difference, 2. Your last argument

Key to all Conflict resolution–communicating basic acceptance of your partner’s personality. Human nature dictates that it is virtually impossible to accept advice from someone unless you feel that the person understands you. Must make him/her feel accepted and understood by you. They must not feel judged, misunderstood or rejected.

6. Overcome gridlock–stems from perpetual problems; signs as stated above. The goal is not to solve the problem but rather to move from gridlock to dialogue. The gridlock conflict will probably always be a perpetual issue in your marriage, but one day you will be able to talk about it w/o hurting each other. You will learn to live with the problem. Key is to understand it’s cause. Gridlock is a sign that you have dreams for your life that aren’t being addressed or respected by each other. By dreams it is meant the hopes, aspirations & wishes that are part of your identity & give purpose & meaning to your life. List, p. 218.

-If you’ve reached gridlock on any issue, big or small, the first step is to identify which dream or dreams are fueling the conflict.

-one good indicator is that you are wrestling with a hidden dream is that you see your spouse as being the sole source of the marital problem.

-If you find yourself saying for example that the problem is simply that he is a slob, or she is just irresponsible or overly demanding, that may be a sign of a hidden dream. It may indicate that you don’t see your part in creating the conflict because it has been hidden from view

-uncovering a hidden dream is a challenge; the dream is unlikely to emerge until you find a safe place to talk about it–be patient, acknowledging & advocating for your dreams in a marriage is not easy

(For Steps  on how to overcome gridlock see link for the book below)

7. Create shared meaning–if you are asking yourself “Is that all there is?” you may be missing a deeper sense of shared meaning. Marriage isn’t about just raising children, splitting chores & making love. It can also have a spiritual dimension that has to do with creating an inner life together–a culture rich with symbols & rituals & an appreciation for your roles & goals that link you. Doesn’t necessary mean couple sees eye to eye on every aspect of their life’s philosophy, instead there is a meshing. They find a way of honoring each other’s dream even if they don’t always share them. The culture they develop together incorporates both their dreams. And it is flexible enough to change as husband & wife grow & develop.

Questionnaire: Shared meaning questionnaire

1. Family rituals–dinner together, those recognized on holidays, or special events, things that come from family history. Can create what your own your family lacked. Exercise 1 Rituals

2. Your roles in life–Your marriage will feel deeper to the degree that your expectations of each other–what you feel your wife’s or husband’s place in the family ought to be–are similar–not simply whose responsible for washing dishes, but deeper feelings about what you expect of yourself & your spouse, e.g. protector, provider, nurturer, egalitarian where both husband & wife support each other emotionally & financially. Similar views about parenting, also adds meaning to marriage, the meaning you attach to your work, etc. The extent to which you feel similar about these issues your marriage will be strengthened. Exercise 2. Roles

3. Personal goals–practical like earning an income but also more spiritual goals, e.g., to find peace and healing after a tumultuous, abusive childhood, to raise children who are good hearted & generous. Not only will you increase the intimacy of your marriage by sharing your deepest goals, but to the extent that you work together to achieve these shared goals, they can be a path toward making your union even richer. Exercise 3. Goals

4. Shared symbols–often literally objects–that represent the values and beliefs you share, e.g. religious icons, things saved up for years to purchase, things built yourselves, children’s items, pictures, stories. Exercise 4 symbols

The book is filled with many questionnaires and much more information on how to make your marriage work.  A must read for married couples. Can also help those who are not married.

Source: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman


How is Your Relationship With Your Father Affecting Your Relationships With Men?

Although much has been written about the effect of fatherlessness on African American sons, far less has been written on its effect on daughters. Of recent, however, there are more studies and works written on the effect of fatherlessness on African American daughters. One critical work is that by Jonetta Rose Barras, Whatever Happened to Daddy’s Little Girl (2000), a must read for women whose fathers were not present in their lives. Barras provides an in-depth analysis of the pain that African American women experience because of lack of a relationship with their fathers, and the behaviors that result from this, which she classifies under what she calls the “Fatherless Woman Syndrome.” They are outlined below.

The unfactor – Women who fall under this category believe that they are unworthy and unlovable; they feel that no one will want or love them. They are plagued with the notion that the only way someone will love them is if they do something spectacular. This results in their doing things that, rather than make a man want to stay, ends up driving him away, thus fulfilling the self-fulfilled prophecy that no one wants them. According to Barras, these women are in constant search for their fathers. She states, “Fatherless daughters speak their fathers’ names, see their fathers’ faces, and desperately try to recapture their fathers’ love with every man they meet” (p. 68).

The Triple Fears Factor – Women who fall under this category fear rejection, abandonment, and commitment. These women are constantly plagued with questions of whether they will be rejected and abandoned. This makes it difficult for them to make commitments or emotional investments. They fear that they will be left, so rather than be rejected or abandoned, they will not allow themselves to become too emotionally involved and avoid making a commitment. They might even pick men who will duplicate the same experiences they had with their fathers. They fear abandonment, but engage in interactions that lead to the very thing they fear most. Barras states, “In many respects, the fatherless daughter becomes a dilettante, someone who passes through— floating but refusing to be touched deeply, because touch means involvement, and involvement means commitment” (p. 69).

The Sexual Healing Factor – The sexual behavior of the fatherless woman “can range from promiscuity to an aversion to intimacy…”(p. 69). These fatherless women may go from “bed to bed, calling sex ‘love’ and hoping to be healed by the physical closeness” (p. 70). Also, a symptom of the sexual healing factor is that some women become obsessed with having a baby in order to fill the void.

The Over Factor – In order to make sure no one knows how much they are hurting, how badly they have been wounded, these women overcompensate in relationships by doing too much and sculpting themselves into the perfect mate. They may also be overachievers or superwomen. It is their way of saying to the father who has abandoned them that “it is his loss.” Barras explains, “We are at the top of our class. We break the glass ceilings. We spend endless days and nights working. We are the most decorated, the most awarded, the most rewarded” (p. 71). Also, these fatherless women may take on a “masculine identity” as a “shield … to prevent anyone from getting close enough to see the despair”(p. 71). In addition, Barras points out that when things do not turn out the way they expect them to because of their overachievement and being the perfect mate, they oversaturate in other areas of their lives,  for example, whether it be with “food, drugs, alcohol, sex, or work” (p. 71).

The RAD Factor – Rage, anger, and depression manifests in various ways. Rage and anger can be expressed outwardly, and may burst to the surface at a moment’s notice, or they may manifest in addiction to food, drugs, sex, or alcohol. Rage and anger may also turn inward and manifest as depression. Depression may lead to addictive behavior in order to medicate the pain. Other manifestations of these may be criminal activity and child abuse.

All of these behaviors and manifestations contribute to fatherless African American women having emotionally unhealthy and unbalanced relationship with themselves. Also, because they may have not had a positive male figure to teach them how to interpret male behavior, they may not have the skills necessary to deal with males. They may have had no one to instruct them (since their mothers and other adult females who were present in their childhood may have also suffered from the fatherless woman’s syndrome) on what qualities are good to look for in a man or how to deal with them in a healthy and balanced way. The results may be that they assume unhealthy characteristics and engage in dysfunctional relationship patterns. Such may not only be characteristic of fatherless women, but also those from all backgrounds.

Question to Ponder:

What kind of relationship patterns are you engaging in?

How is your relationship with your father affecting your relationships with men?

From:  African American Relationships, Marriages and Families: An Introduction, Patricia Dixon, Ph.D.

Source: Whatever Happened to Daddy’s Little Girl? Jonetta Rose Barras


Growing In Love vs. Falling in Love?

The overarching approach to love in U.S. society is romantic love. One who takes a romantic approach to love might think of love in terms of physical attractiveness, passion, sex, and intense emotional feelings. They might believe in ideas like love at first sight or that love conquers all. Infact, in U.S society, feeling romantic is a prerequisite for choosing a marriage partner. However, this has not always been the case in the United States or throughout the world. Throughout history, marriages were generally arranged, which means that one’s family members played a significant role in who one chose to marry. In Africa, marriages were also arranged. What was important among African people was expanding their lineage (big families were highly valued),and the economic, social, and political relations that could be forged. Love was expected to develop after marriage through the couple sharing their lives together, not to precede it. Partners were chosen based on their values, health, and their family backgrounds.

Question to Ponder:

Could you marry someone without being in love first?
Could you choose someone based on values, health and family background and grow to love them vs. falling in love with them?
Should Romantic love be the primary basis of marriage?

Source: African American Relationships, Marriages and Families: An Introduction

African American Relationships, Marriages & Families: An Introduction
Dr. Patricia Dixon



The Love of Isis and Osiris

Love of Isis and Osiris

(Click the link above for a copy of the story)

The African story of Isis (Auset) and Osiris (Ausar), is probably the  earliest stories known. In this story Isis and Osiris, one of two couples, the other being Seth and Nephthys, who are at once human and divine, working together to bring civilization to not only their own kingdom, but also to the world. However, Seth, who is jealous brother of Osiris, murders him. The story goes on to detail the deep love, passion, and commitment that Isis, the beloved wife of Osiris, shows in finding and resurrecting her husband to life, and then after his second death, the effort to which she goes to give him immortality, as shown in the numerous memorials she had constructed throughout Kemet (Egypt) to keep his memory alive.

The story has survived over 4,000 years to contemporary times and is important for several reasons. First, if one wants to understand relationships and their complexity, one must begin with Africa. The story of Isis and Osiris is probably the oldest story, it is an African story, and it laid the foundation for not only understanding challenges that relationships and families face, but how they can overcome these challenges. Many of the themes, e.g. resurrection, immaculate conception, etc. laid the foundation for Christianity. Second, it shows the love, devotion, and commitment between Isis and Osiris who are brother and sister, husband and wife, and human and divine, and what can be achieved when two people work together in harmony. Third, many of the themes in the Isis and Osiris story can be applied to contemporary relationships. Finally, it shows the possibilities of what can be achieved if couples work together to overcome challenges to their relationships. (Click the link above for a copy of the story)

Source:  African American Male/Female Relationships: A Reader
Patricia Dixon, Ph.D.



Stages of Love-Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra describes the stages of love as:

1. Attraction-Traits in someone we like and want more of

2. Second awareness–When you see in another what others don’t. It comes from attention, affection, listening with the eyes of the mind, soul and flesh

3. Communion-When our soul connects with another based on equality, empathy, being non-judgmental, integrity and telling the truth

4. Intimacy-when you lose your ego and expose your vulnerability. It is timeless awareness.

What do yo think about this? LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS.


How to End an Unsatisfactory Relationship

First try to fix the Relationship–If there is a way to salvage the relationship try doing so. This may entail changing negative behavior to positive behavior, learning good communication skills and if necessary seeking counseling. If you still think it is best to end the relationship do the following:

1. Understand that ending a relationship will be difficult and painful.

2. Blame yourself–Tell the person that you want to end it because by giving reasons specific to yourself, e.g. you need more time for yourself right now, you want to go to school. If you blame your partner, you may give them the opportunity to try to make things better and subsequently make you feel obligated to give them another chance.

3. Cut off the relationship completely–Sometimes the person who wants to end the relationship may want the relationship to evolve to a friendship. However, if you are the “dropper”, it may be more difficult for the “droppee”. Continuing to have a relationships with him or her may give them false hope. Cutting it off completely may help the “droppee”  heal faster. On the other hand, some people do better turning relationships into friendships. It depends on you and your partner

4. Learn from the Relationship–It often easy for us to blame the other person. This is time for you to focus on what you did to contribute to the breakup. Look at things such as jealousy, being controlling, cheating, being fearful of commitment, etc.

5. Allow time to grieve and heal–Know that it is going to take time. Studies  show that it can take from 12-18 months. Know it is going to be painful and it is okay to cry. It helps with the healing process.

6. Clean up your social network pages, e.g. facebook, twitter, etc. Sometimes angry ex-partners use social networks to vent their anger about the breakup. You may have to purge and disconnect them from your social network sites

7. Start Dating again–One way to get over a relationship is to start dating again. But remember, you should also take time to heal, so that you do not bring the hurt and pain from the previous relationship into the new one.

Overall, look at this as a time to heal, reevaluate what is important to you, behaviors and habits that might need to be worked on changed, and ultimately as a new beginning to find the right person for you.


Choices in Relationships, Donald Knox & Caroline Schacht, Wadsworth, 2010.