"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton
This is where I chronicle my reading life. I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.
Everyone who is married or who is planning to get married should read John Gottman. I have so much respect for his body of work -- unlike a lot of marriage "self-help" books that give flimsy advice that is not backed by solid research, Gottman's advice is based on hundreds of hours working with and observing married couples over time.
When I was engaged, I read his The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert, and I half expected this to be a rehash of that. I've learned that if you follow a certain expert's work, you'll just end up reading the same thing said in different ways. Not so with this book. In an early chapter Gottman refers readers to Seven Principles for more info, and then does not rehash it. Instead, he focuses on additional research he has undertaken SINCE the publication of that book, and what he has learned from it.
Gottman's central thesis in this book is that all troubled marriages get that way because of infidelity -- but not necessarily adultery. Instead, one of the members of the couple could have disregarded or broken the marriage vows in other ways, and he gives non-adultery examples (valuing your parents' opinions over your spouse's, consistently putting plans with your friends or work before what your spouse wants from you, etc.) The book also includes assessments that Gottman uses in his lab that you can use to take the temperature of your own relationship and open discussion with your partner.
The book does spend a fair amount of time exploring traditional infidelity, and since I was listening to this on a long drive, it was kind of excruciating to get all that trauma at once. But since infidelity happens at a 20-30% rate, it's a big enough risk that the book would have been remiss not to address it.
Despite all the praise, the book only got four stars because there were places where it got a little dry and I found my mind wandering. Hopefully I didn't miss anything crucial to the longevity of my marriage!