Eight Dates(2)

By: John Gottman

These dates are a template, and yes, we want you to go on all eight dates, but we also want you to make dating each other something that never ends. We want you to be 95 years old and still going on a date—even if it’s just to the living room. We don’t want you to ever stop exploring your partner and your relationship, your beliefs and your fears, and your hopes and dreams for the future.

We don’t want you to ever stop talking with each other, and learning, and growing.

Decades of research show that the great relationships—the masters—are built on respect, empathy, and a profound understanding of each other. Relationships don’t last without talk, even for the strong and silent type. This book will help you create your own love story by giving you the framework for the eight conversations you and your partner should have before you commit to each other, or once you’ve committed to each other, as well as throughout the years, whenever it is time to recommit. That might happen when you have a baby, when one of you loses a job, during a health crisis, or when the relationship has begun to feel stale. Because this is for sure: Happily ever after doesn’t mean there are no challenges or conflict. You can’t be in a relationship and not have conflict. Not if you’re doing it right. Life always shows up with all its stresses and strains and crises, and how you manage these together can ultimately make or break you (which we’ll explore more in the conflict date). Happily ever after simply means that both partners are known, valued, accepted for who they are and who they are becoming. The goal is to be able to love your partner more deeply each and every year you’re together.

Never Too Early or Too Late

We wrote this book because very few couples receive guidance on how to create a lasting and loving relationship. We met and became friends as part of a relationship education think tank—a consortium of experts in the fields of science, psychology, and sexuality. It’s clear that most couples don’t get any training in relationships, and often they don’t learn how to communicate with each other until they go to therapy, and that’s often too late. We initially thought the book would be for couples who were just setting out on the path of committed relationship, but when we asked for volunteers—couples who would be willing to test these eight dates and conversations—we were surprised that couples at every stage of their relationship wanted to go on the eight dates. Couples deciding whether to commit, couples who had just moved in together, recently engaged couples, and newlywed couples all loved the dates, but so did couples who had been married for years and who wanted to deepen an already great relationship or refresh a relationship that had lost some of its shine. Life takes its toll on all relationships as careers, children, and crises can pull us away from each other. The ideas behind these eight dates and the commitment to deep listening help us come back together.

If your relationship is new, and you’re wondering if this person you’re dating is “the one,” we encourage you to take the time now to talk about the subjects that’ll ultimately determine your happiness (or misery) later. And if they help you decide that you’re not right for each other, you’ll save yourselves years of heartache. Or these dates may help you understand your differences and prevent conflict down the road over “perpetual problems” and unchangeable differences. And if you’re in a long-term relationship, these dates will help you have the conversations that’ll strengthen your relationship and reduce conflict. They may even help you get to know each other all over again, and return to those times when you would stay up all night talking and couldn’t wait to learn more about each other.

When it comes to romantic attraction, a recent study again revealed that there is nothing we can measure about two separate individuals that can predict if they’ll like one another, or be romantically attracted to one another. This recent study, conducted by psychologist Samantha Joel of the University of Utah, measured over 100 variables such as self-esteem, goals, values, loneliness, what they wanted in a partner, and so on. Nothing predicted how they would feel after a short date.