In this chapter (Principle 7), John Gottman emphasizes the importance of going deeper. Marriage is not just about kids, having jobs, and making love.
“The more shared meaning you can find, the deeper, richer, and more rewarding your relationship will be. Along the way, you’ll also be strengthening your marital friendship. This in turn will make it even easier to cope with any conflicts that crop up. That’s the beauty of the Seven Principles. They form a feedback loop that ensures that as you work on each principle, it becomes easier to work on the others.” P. 263
4 Critical Mainstays of Shared Meaning
He identifies four critical mainstays of shared meaning and offers readers questionnaires to see how well they are doing in each of the four areas and then concludes the chapter with an exercise: Using the four pillars to create meaning. These questionnaires are not exercises to be completed in a day or even a month but can be used as starting points for discussion well into the future. For one thing, as time marches on, things inevitably change and so continued dialogue will hopefully continue.
The Four Pillars of Shared Meaning
- Rituals of Connection: “A ritual is a structured event or routine that you each enjoy and depend on and that both reflects and reinforces your sense of togetherness.” P. 263 Rituals could be around celebrations – birthdays or holidays – or around everyday living, like having meals together.
- Support for Each Other’s Roles: “Having similar views about parenting – for example, the values you consider important to pass on to your children – also adds to a marriage’s meaning.” P. 267. To the extent that you feel similarly about this and other issues, your marriage will be strengthened.
- Shared Goals: “Not only will you increase the intimacy of your marriage by sharing your deepest objectives with your spouse, but to the extent that you work together to achieve shared goals, they can be a path toward making your union even richer.” P. 268
- Shared Values and Symbols: “Values and beliefs form the final pillar of shared meaning in a marriage. These are philosophical tenets that guide how you wish to conduct your lives. For some people, values are deeply rooted in religious conviction. But couples who are not religious may also have a belief system that determines their perspective on life and informs the choices they make.” P. 270
So there you have it, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman. A good read for anyone who is interested in creating a deeply satisfying relationship.