As a single Catholic in her mid thirties, I have read a lot of books on dating, relationships, and the sacrament of marriage. At this point, I could probably write my own including the highs, lows, and everything in-between.
So much of what I learned about relationships in my early thirties, I desperately wish I knew in my twenties (and before I got married and divorced). Between reading and healing work in therapy, I now know more about myself and things like codependency, boundaries, trauma, and healthy sexuality. This knowledge has helped me become a more whole, healed version of myself. In many ways, I am the most healthy version of Patty I have ever been.
What I have most learned about healthy relationships has come to me in the form of the book I am going to share with you today, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman. I think this is the most helpful relationship book for all single Catholics.
Why this is the ONE book you need to read
Dr. John Gottman is known around the United States as one of the leading experts on marriage and relationships. In fact, he is able to predict divorce (with a 91% accuracy!) from spending years researching couples’ interactions in “Love Labs,” or spaces where couples were observed to see the inner workings of their relationship. Dr. Gottman made it his long-time mission to observe and study relationships. He illustrates his findings with science, proven research, and what we know to be true about relationships.
Over his many years of clinical work with couples, Dr. Gottman developed a strong model that helps couples understand themselves and their partner better. He also strives to help couples understand what actually makes a marriage work.
At the same time, he developed particular criteria that often indicate if a relationship or marriage is doomed even from the start. One of the most helpful concepts Dr. Gottman breaks open in his book is the principle of the four horsemen (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling). These are four ways people in relationships can hurt and severely damage their relationship. Each of these four elements can lead to emotional flooding, failed repair attempts, and bad memories. Through his research, Dr. Gottman has found that these traits are predictors of divorce, should they go unchanged or ignored.
“No two marriages are the same, but the more closely I looked at happy marriages the clearer it became that they were alike in seven telltale ways,” Gottman writes. “Happily married couples may not be aware that they follow these seven principles, but they all do. In mastering these seven principles. You can ensure that your own marriage will thrive.”
What are the principles?
What are those seven principles you may be wondering? They are as follows:
- Enhance your love maps
- Nurture your fondness and admiration
- Turn toward each other instead of away
- Let your partner influence you
- Solve your solvable problems
- Overcome gridlock
- Create shared meaning
This book has taught me a lot about myself, past relationships, and what I desire in a serious relationship, and someday marriage. However, there are two particular things that I want to share with you.
Stay true to my standards
First, Dr. Gottman’s research and words have helped me to see that a good marriage does not simply fall out of the sky or casually happen. There are specific and recognizable habits that characterize both healthy and unhealthy relationships.
I for one, want a healthy and whole marriage. This has reminded me of the importance to never lower my standards, even when I feel frustrated or lonely by dating or being single. Anyone can be in a relationship, but I want to be in a healthy-life-giving one.
I want to end up with someone who has done their own healing work
Almost a year after my annulment went through, I was sitting in a Sonic drive-through with my mom. We were having a heart-to-heart chat over chocolate shakes and burgers. I, frustrated with the idea of dating again and in new healthy ways, was sharing my heart with her on all of this.
“Mom, am I doing everything right? Am I going to find the right man to spend the rest of my life with?”
She nodded yes and then said, “Yes sweetie, you will. But I want to see you end up with a man who is as whole and healed as you are.”
That was almost six years ago, and it still rings so true in my heart. My mom was right. I want that too. Since my divorce and annulment, I worked to do my own healing work. I realize now the importance of ending up with someone who has also done that in their own life as well.
I’m not asking for perfection in a serious relationship with a man. That (of course!) doesn’t exist. However, I am asking that he has done his own soul work to help him become his best self. I know deep down that if I am healthy and secure while a single woman, I can carry that energy and mindset into a future relationship and someday marriage.
I have found Dr. Gottman’s book is a great resource for me personally as a single woman. I wholeheartedly believe it is the gem of a book all healthy dating relationships and marriages need.
Is there a book you might also add you think is helpful for other Catholic singles?
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