What if I told you the book I think every Catholic single should read isn’t even written by a Catholic, but a Jewish marriage therapist?
Some of you may think I was crazy. Meanwhile, some of you may be intrigued to understand my reasons.
I’m single now, but I was previously married. As I healed and learned a lot about myself from that relationship, I’ve read a lot of books on the topic of healthy relationships.
Among all the titles I have come across, there is one I keep returning to again and again.
The work of Dr. John Gottman has changed my attitude and perspective on relationships, especially marriage.
His book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” is the book we all need to be reading before we get married.
What makes this book stand out from all the other relationship books?
Dr. Gottman is known around the country as one of the top leading relationship experts and marriage counselors. He can actually predict (with a 91% accuracy!) if a couple is headed for divorce court or they have a relationship that will thrive over the years together.
Dr. Gottman has spent many years observing couples interactions in his created “Love Labs.” The labs are isolated spaced where couples are observed for a period of time to see the workings of their relationship and see their relational skills with each other.
From his many years working with couples, Dr. Gottman has meticulously developed a model that tangibly helps couples understand a question we all want to know: what actually makes a marriage work?
As couples are observed in the Love Labs, Dr. Gottman and other therapists trained in his model are looking for four key signs that speak to the health or unhealthiness of a couple.
Known as The Four Horsemen, Dr. Gottman has proven that these traits (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling) are predictors of an unhealthy relationship or divorce if they go unresolved.
Reading this book and understanding the concept of the four horseman was mind blowing to me. It helped me take responsibility for my own contribution in a relationship, while also being more aware of what potential red flags to look out for.
These principles have impacted me for the healthy, life-giving marriage I someday want to be in.
Here are some of most helpful takeaways I found from the book.
A good, healthy marriage will take work
You and I will not just wake up one day having arrived at a good marriage. Holy, healthy, happy marriages are life-time commitment to working hard together and on an individual level.
We never just arrive at the destination. It takes effort, communication, and many other skills to build a healthy relationship.
This book and other Gottman resources have shown me the unhealthy habits that make up bad relationships and the healthy habits that good relationships can learn.
My mom often reminded me of something when I began dating again after my annulment: “Sweetie, you want to be with a man who is a whole and healed as you are.”
You know something?
She was 100% right!
I’m not expecting perfection or the saintliness of Padre Pio. However, I want to end up with a man who has done his own healing work apart from me.
This book offers lots of relevant, practical advice with plenty of online (and free!) resources for you to take your relationship or marriage to the next level.
Hold fast to your standards and principles
In a world where hookup culture is considered a normal part of the dating experience, it can feel scary and overwhelming to stay true to your personal standards when it comes to dating and relationships.
I have found the research and thoughtful insight of Dr. Gottman (while not coming from our faith tradition) firmly supports men and women owning and holding true to their personal principles.
I think sometimes women (and men!) are pressured into believing that their standards are too high or unrealistic to find a great partner. We’re expected to simply settle.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds a bit crazy to me.
In all reality, we have a right to have standards and expectations in a relationship. Don’t fall for the false bill of goods that you should settle because the clock is ticking.
In my own dating experiences and learning how to navigate that in a healthy way, I have come up with different questions to make myself answer to hold fast to my standards.
Here are a few:
- What are the five most important things to you in a significant relationship?
- What are the five things you cannot stand?
- How do I want to feel in the relationship?
Knowing answers ahead of time will make it more clear whom to let go or who you should continue to get to know.
I have found this book to be incredibly helpful in my season as a single woman.
Whether you are single, seriously dating, or engaged to be married, this is the one book we all should be reading.
After all, who does not want an amazing, healthy relationship? Let’s spend time learning from people who will give us the real tools to make a good relationship great.