The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work– A Review

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

Author: John M Gottman, PhD

Published 2020

Hardcover, 271 pages

Harmony Paperback

Listened: 10h 17m


Marriage is hard work.  While Disney presents it as “happily ever after”, marriage is a lot of learning to work as a team, to fight for a singular goal, and to unlearn all the brokenness in our pasts.  Add to that children and some differences of opinions, and happily ever after can be happy no more…. if thats what you’re expecting.  The heart of this book is to look at how married couples can learn to not only communicate better but to communicate helpfully and healthfully for the growth of the marriage relationship and friendship.  John Gottman discusses productive conversation and movements within the marriage by comparing actions and words using the terms of the Four Horsemen, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling in that progressive manner.  While the relationship might not be healthy, when a member can turn towards the other spouse and eliminate these four horseman, there is hope.


The basic premise of this book is based on decades of research at the Gottman Institute, supported by incredible data, and proven over 90% accurate.  While this book is not a sufficient replacement for marriage counseling or personal therapy, the topics in this book, the questions asked for each chapter, the anecdotal tales of marital success and failure–they all point to health and dis-health and are an accurate personal barometer for one’s position within their marriage. Even as I read the chapters and printed out and referenced the questions available, I found myself less critiquing my partner’s positions in our marriage and more viewing my position in action and speech as vital to how I view our marriage, respond to his weaknesses, ask for help from him and for him, as well as communicate with or without conflict.  I would find this book exceptional to read as a couple and to apply the exercises within a healthy season for the purpose of refining skills and positions towards each other.


This book is not written from a Christian perspective, so keep that in mind.  There is one section where a Bible verse is used, and John Gottman seems to hold Christianity and the Bible in high regard, but the book finds its “hope” in looking at communication skills, emotional positions towards a responding spouse, and checking one’s own heart against the Four Horsemen.  While these are wonderfully helpful,  in those situations when the other party is holding tight to the Four Horsemen or oneself is, the state of the marriage can feel hopeless for sure.  After all, with a 90+% accuracy, Gottman’s predictors have been proven true, and what is one to do who might fight themselves in a marriage where both or one party are embracing the horsemen?  There isn’t much discussed in this book for that couple but Jesus has saved countless marriages that statistics have called hopeless.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, while this book was not from a Christian perspective, the counsel was incredibly practical and way more on-point than many Christian books that only focus on “roles” and not on relationship health. I have read many a Christian and Bible-saturated book that doesn’t teach relational skills like this one, so while I would never use this book without solid counsel and focus on the Word and Truth of Jesus, this book would work hand-in-hand with any counseling to work on self-examination, good question-asking and applying the pillars of a healthy relationship.

Want to read it yourself? Find this book at Amazon using my
affiliate link below.

Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work

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