How-To Never Stop Dating Your Spouse
8 Dates We Tried and Loved from John & Julie Gottman
Most of you know by now that I’m a therapist. I love my job! And I love the mentors, and heroes of therapy I have come to know through reading research studies, psychology articles, and all my counseling curriculums. Rick and I had the chance to attend John and Julie Gottman’s Art and Science of Love workshop in Seattle earlier this year. We jumped out of bed to buy the tickets! John Gottman is an American emeritus professor, psychological researcher, and clinician, who is famous in the world of Psychology. From his research on married couples, he has been able to predict with over 90% accuracy which married couples he works with will either remain married or later divorce. Julie Gottman has spent countless years developing practical strategies based on her research. She does it to help those who want to course-correct and get off the path of divorce.
John and Julie have been working together for over 4 decades (!), showing they have love down to a science. And what have they discovered ? That meaningful conversations, well-had, can lead to a lifetime of love.
A Quick Bit About Us
One of the main reasons Ricky and I decided to venture out to Seattle to see the Gottmans (I mean, other than for me to put my fangirl pants on), was to learn from the experts. We wanted to learn how to date each other in a new, deep, and meaningful way. Rick and I have known each other since we 11 and 12 (with a 4 year break-up in college). But we knew early on in the marriage that the typical “dinner and a movie” left us wanting.
Do we have to spend tons of money on fancy, or fun dates to stay connected?
Should dates only focus on FUN?
What happens when we can’t seem to turn the FUN on because there are other things we need, or want, to focus on first? Those serious talks can’t seriously be considered a date, right?
We asked ourselves all these questions. And HONESTLY, we were frustrated AF. Friends gave us their tips and advice. But well-meaning as they might have been, we felt more like strangers to one another after the 1st year of our marriage instead of junior high/high school sweethearts. And since we paid cash for our 300-person wedding, spending $50 on a date suddenly felt like OMG, way too frivolous. Trying only to have “fun” on our dates left us feeling forced or like our connection was shallow.
At this point, we knew each other for more than half our lives. We had a teenage relationship that developed into several years of serious dating as young adults. This was 2-years of long-distance time together (which included our engagement) plus 6 months of marriage. But, suddenly, we felt like we had NO clue on how to DATE each other.
Believe me when I tell you, it was heartbreaking.
Ricky didn’t want to plan dates for fear of them being too structured. He liked the spontaneous nights at the bowling alley every now and again. On the other hand, my blood near boiled if I didn’t see a date night planned on our joint calendar by Thursday. If we tried to “go with the flow,” we hated that money suddenly flowed out of our bank account whenever we remembered we should take time to connect after a long day at work, or on the weekend. I’d end up mad. Ricky felt guilty. He’d get strict about money, and I would feel stifled about not being able to go rock-climbing last minute.
As the months of marriage turned into years, and we learned how to balance our full-time jobs with some part time school, plus regular life, and our dating schedule did improve. We grew our money-savvy skills (*click HERE to learn more about that), and had more of a regular routine. We balanced having “fun” dates with more intimate, late-night coffee shop dates. But we still felt like we were missing each other somehow.
Enter “Eight Dates.”
More than a book, “Eight Dates” was, and has been, our guide to learning about each other in a fresh way, and developing more meaningful conversations. The eight topics from the book focus on:
Trust & Commitment
Sex & Intimacy
Work & Money
Fun & Adventure
Growth & Spirituality
We took ourselves on 8 dates, focusing on 1 topic at a time. Who knew that crying on a date could actually be a fun thing? We learned more about each other’s views on parenting, sex, and how to live out our dreams than we had in the last 20 years of knowing one another.
What “Eight Dates” Taught Us & Why It Matters
The How-To is a Lot Simpler, but a Lot Harder than You Think
Without even realizing it, I got caught up in the busyness of life and adopted the media’s version of what a “date” meant. Dinner, candles, pasta all followed by two hearts gushing with love. (I must have watched Lady and the Tramp one too many times as a kid). If “Eight Dates” taught me anything, it’s that a “date” is simply a planned, intentional conversation. Also, these planned, intentional conversations must happen regularly. Like EVERY week.
Of course I knew zero money was required for going on dates with my husband before reading this book. But, I also unwisely bought into the notion that our dates had to last at least as long as our meal at a restaurant. Now, Rick and I focus more on what we want to talk about and which area of life we want to focus on (*see the 8 topics again). We do this instead of first focusing on what we are doing, or where we are going when planning a date. One of my favorite new dates has been grabbing a morning cup of coffee from Starbucks. We go at 6am on Friday mornings and read the newspaper together. We talk, we laugh, we ask better questions, we drink. That $10 on coffee and the paper feel so much happier than a lot of our previous dinner dates. This is because we’ve learned how to ask open-ended questions and reveal ourselves more vulnerable to one another. Even if it is sometimes for only 30 minutes.
Want to date your spouse for a lifetime?
Talk. Ask Questions. Listen and learn about them – who they are now, who they want to become.
“Eight Dates” has also taught Ricky and I how to show our support of one another more regularly. It helped create a newfound awareness of our own self, and the other. Now, we seek out one another for a date from a place of genuine curiosity. This is a place of wanting to learn about the other person in any way possible, instead of just wanting to hang out or experience something fun together (although, yes, this also has it’s place).
The 8 Categories Helped Us Develop a Deeper Connection
Sometimes you know you care about someone and care about their thoughts and ideas on a matter. But maybe you don’t quite know how to access the meaning that this person makes out of life on a deeper level. This book is a guide, and gives you exact questions you can ask your partner. It then goes in-depth about why asking these questions are important, and how you can more skillfully navigate the intentional time you spend together.
The Most Important Lessons on Love We Learned
We wanted to love each other more even before reading this book. Also, we wanted to have a sense of QUALITY in our love. Not just a QUANITITY of it for one another. The Gottmans have helped us gain just that. They did this by reminding us that yes, love is work. But also, we ought to work smarter in our love in order to make it last and make it grow.
Because we loved “Eight Dates” so much, we are sharing the love with a GIVEAWAY!
YOU can enter the giveaway to win, “Eight Dates” this week! Simply leave a comment down BELOW of WHO you would like to read this book with, OR click HERE to enter the giveaway.
If you like my articles like this, you might also enjoy THIS and THIS. Or, if you want to learn more about John and Julie and The Gottman Institute – a goldmine for everyday, practical resources, and a training center for mental health professionals, click HERE.
As always much love,