Eight Dates(6)

By: John Gottman

What it boils down to is that an overall perceived negativity will quickly erode a relationship. And every successful marriage and relationship has, at its foundation, a deep and close friendship—partners who really know each other and are, at the heart of it, on the same side, part of the same team. This is why the conversations in this book matter. The words you choose matter. Your tone of voice matters. Even your facial expressions matter.

Of course we all get it wrong sometimes. We miscommunicate, and when we do we need to make repairs. Expecting no communication snafus in a relationship is like expecting a hole-in-one every time you hit a golf ball. Happy relationships aren’t relationships where there is no fighting. They are relationships where repairs are made after regrettable incidents happen—and where a couple connects with each other day to day. Happy couples are not so very different from unhappy couples; they are simply able to make repairs to their relationship easier and faster so they can get back to the joy of being together.

In the end, a big part of the success or failure of your relationship depends on the conversations you have with each other. We sent over three hundred couples on the dates in this book. They did the exercises, recorded their conversations, and shared their stories. New couples, celibate couples, same-sex couples, and long-term married couples all found that these conversations brought them closer and helped them see each other in new and exciting ways. They became better friends, and they fell in love all over again.

You can, too.

The Bigger Picture

The quality of our closest relationships, more than any other factor, determines our physical health, resistance to disease, and longevity. Satisfying close relationships also improve various dimensions of each partner’s mental health. Happy marriages or long-term relationships can significantly reduce depression, anxiety disorders, addictions, and antisocial behavior, and reduce incidents of suicide. In addition, many studies have shown that ongoing unhappy relationships can damage the cognitive and emotional well-being of children, while happy relationships can strengthen children’s school performance, peer relationships, and emotional intelligence. Clearly, your relationship matters in your own lives, in the lives of your children, and in your larger community.

John and Julie have conducted scientific and clinical research and have practiced couples therapy for decades. They have also done randomized clinical trials that show that the marital interaction patterns they’ve observed don’t just go hand in hand with relationship results later. They cause them. They are still conducting this research today. Rachel is a medical doctor who counsels couples in her practice and sees firsthand the direct health impact of a good or bad relationship. She sees, too, that it is substantial. Doug has had the privilege of working on a number of books with visionary authors, including several with Rachel, on sexuality. Together, we’re colleagues, friends, and four people deeply committed to the idea of creating love that lasts a lifetime. We want this in our own lives and yours.

It can be seen as an accomplishment to just make a relationship last. There are countless stories of couples white-knuckling their way through 30 or more years of marriage. But we ask, how do you make your relationship a true source of joy, growth, and love decade after decade? Together we bring almost a half-century of personal and professional knowledge, along with some hard-won wisdom about the conversations you must have to create a lifetime of love.

The work of being in a committed relationship is important. We all want to love and be loved. We all want to grow in our relationships. Experiencing all that our relationships have to offer means stepping outside our comfort zone. If you’re willing to be honest about who you really are, and open-minded about who your partner is, your relationship will grow stronger. Your understanding of each other will be deeper. Your life together will be happier.

Your Date Night

We know that it’s the small, positive things done often that make a true difference in relationships. Showing appreciation and affection for your partner regularly, talking together at the end of each day, giving each other a kiss hello and goodbye—these are all elements of a happy and healthy relationship. Your relationship is built out of these small and simple moments together each day; you should embrace them. But we also are asking you to set aside time once a week to have a planned date night—or date afternoon or morning.