I follow the work of Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman of the Gottman Institute. Their research-based work focuses on relationships; they provide advice and support for couples, parents and people recovering from addiction, and also offer individual therapy. Their work keeps popping up in my life; as I read about Emotional Intelligence in Daniel Goleman’s book, talk to my friend about additional counseling certifications she wants to acquire and listen to some favorite podcasts where the Gottmans are referenced. So when their new book came out, I broke my rule and bought the book instead of reserving it at the library. I knew it would be worth purchasing.
Eight Dates outlines eight essential conversations couples should have; whether dating, engaged or married. The dates and conversations serve as a template for couples to learn more about each other and grow in their love. Before the dates are introduced, the Gottmans coach the reader on how to be an active listener, how to help name feelings, how to express empathy and how to reinforce trust and commitment. The actual dates consist of a topic to discuss, with guided help and pitfalls to avoid. At the end of each chapter, Eight Dates gives trouble-shooting tips and opened-ended questions to help wrap up the date. Finally, an “affirmation” to read together, which can easily be morphed into a prayer, inviting God into each date. Eight Dates does not disappoint.
Here is a peek into some of the dates:
DATE 2—Agree to Disagree, and Addressing Conflict. “Within these perpetual problems that you can’t ever seem to resolve lie the greatest opportunities for growth and intimacy” (72). This chapter explores our differences (in neatness, punctuality, getting things done, emotional differences, alone time, having fun, independence, etc.) and addresses the great question, “in what ways can we accommodate these differences, and what are differences we cannot accept?”
DATE 3—Let’s Get It On. Let’s be Christians who embrace conversations about the role of sex in our marriages. The chapter addresses sex after parenthood, romance and communicating about sex. It can be embarrassing and confusing to talk about sex, and this chapter gives couples the skills and questions to help.
DATE 4—The Cost of Love: Work and Money. Oh man, do I love a good budgeting conversation. This chapter addresses our work-life balance (and the problems caused absent one) and money. They ask couples to discuss their family history with money, and consequently, how each person views money. How much is enough? What did your parents teach you about money? What is your most painful money memory? Gulp.
DATE 8—A Lifetime of Love: Dreams. I’m skipping ahead, and leaving some quality chapters for you to discover on your own. Couples love to talk about dreams, and after all the hard work of discussing family, money, spirituality, work and trust, we get a great reward. You get to ask your partner about their dreams, and talk about how you can fulfill them together. “Honoring your partner’s dreams is a potent way to show your love for them” (211).
Eight Dates is a great way to dive deeper into your marriage. Consider scheduling these 8 dates for the summer months, and use this season to have some fun (and also meaningful) conversations. If you consider the cost of a babysitter and dinner out, it still beats the price of therapy…!