The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. While I'm usually skeptical of "step-by-step" guides, this book is outstanding.
John Gottman is THE relationship expert in the USA. He can predict whether a couple will stay married or not with 91% accuracy - sometimes after just a few minutes with a couple. After decades of experience and research, Gottmann has published his findings in the book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. The good news is that this a book filled with helpful advice, written in regular language. There's no academic lingo or psychobabble. Just the facts, folks. Plus there are a lot of exercises and discussion starters for couples who want to dig deeper. Needless to say, it's practical stuff.
In the book Gottman argues that the most important aspect of a happy marriage is fostering a deep friendship (19-20). Basically this means the couple needs to respect, enjoy, and understand each other. Plus it's important to avoid criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling (27). Beyond these basic concepts, here are the seven core principles that Gottam has found that help prevent divorce and strengthen marriage:
1. Enhance Your Love Maps
"...emotionally intelligent people are intimately familiar with each other's world" (48).
2. Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration
"...fondness and admiration can be fragile unless you remain aware of how crucial they are to the friendship that is at the core of any good marriage" (65).
3. Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away
"...real-life romance...is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life" (80).
4. Let Your Partner Influence You
"...when a husband accepts his wife's influence, his open attitude also heightens the positive in his relationship by strengthening his friendship with his wife" (106).
5. Solve Your Solvable Problems
"...when a husband and wife respect each other and are open to each other's point of view, they have a good basis for resolving any difference that arise" (157).
6. Overcoming Gridlock
"They define the minimal core areas that they cannot yield on...They define their areas of flexibility...The devise a temporary compromise that honors both of their dreams" (236).
7. Shared Meaning Making
"The culture that they develop together incorporates both of their dreams. And it is flexible enough to change as husband and wife grow and develop" (244).