Eight Dates(8)

By: John Gottman


One of John and Julie’s favorite dates is to go to a local café. They order the same thing every time. The waiters know them by name as well as their regular order of baked eggs, a baguette, and jam—actually a double order of their homemade jam. For Julie, the baguette is really a vehicle for delivering the jam. Within this familiar ritual, they have made the conscious agreement not to discuss their work. John says, “It’s our time to get personal, to ask open-ended questions, and to move away from our work-life. We hold hands across the table, we flirt, and we laugh.” It is this special time for communicating what’s in their hearts that makes going to this café a date.

“We save our work debates for after the café. And it can take practice, whether you work together or apart, to leave work behind and focus on the relationship during a date. But do it,” says Julie. “It makes all the difference in the world.”

Date Night Obstacles

Some readers might be thinking, this sounds great and in a perfect world date nights are doable, but who has the time, the money, or the childcare (if applicable), and so on. Regardless of the obstacles, date nights are always doable, even if it means getting a little creative in carving out your time together.

Time: Life can feel so incredibly busy that the thought of finding time for yet one more obligation feels overwhelming. But a date night is more than an obligation—it’s a commitment to your relationship and to your hopes for a happy marriage. It helps to carve out a specific and regular time each week and make this “appointment” a priority. Unless someone is in the emergency room, make date night a “no matter what” event. Set aside time like you would for a birthday, or church, or an anniversary, or any other special event you celebrate in your life together. Date nights should be sacred times to honor your relationship. Think of them as such, schedule them in your calendars for as much time as possible—even if it’s just for an hour, suit up and show up, no matter what.

Money: Dates don’t have to be expensive; in fact, they don’t have to cost anything at all. Pack a picnic, go for a walk, sit in a park. There are endless ways to spend time together without breaking the bank. In each of the eight dates, we make suggestions about where best to go on your date depending on the topic of conversation. These are only suggestions. John and Julie used to have a cheap date by getting dressed up and going to the beautiful Hotel Sorrento in Seattle, and pretending that they were hotel guests. They would sit in the beautiful lobby in front of a fire and nurse one drink all evening. They would answer each other’s open-ended questions for hours.

Childcare: Childcare is often the stickler for couples who want to go on date nights but have young children at home. Childcare does not have to be expensive or stressful. At times, both John and Julie, and Doug and Rachel, would trade childcare with other couples, so both couples could enjoy date nights. If that’s not possible, see if a trusted family member or close friend will help you in your quest to spend sacred time together. Look for inexpensive babysitters in your neighborhood, or ask your friends for recommendations. When their kids were young, Doug and Rachel routinely hired babysitters who could commit to multiple Saturday nights, so that they didn’t have to scramble at the last minute to find childcare each week. Some parents worry about leaving their children with other people, but if you find a safe and reliable person to watch your children, you’re helping them learn that other people, besides their parents, are trustworthy and reliable. Children are incredibly resilient, and by showing your commitment to your relationship with your partner, you’re nurturing your children by ensuring that they will be raised by parents in a healthy and stable relationship. Children feed off of the love in a marriage. Remember they are constantly modeling you, and you want them to see how you sustain a loving marriage.

See what makes the most sense in your life: Where there is a will there is always a way.

While we’ve given you location options for each date, we’ve also given you an option for having the date at home with some themed activities.

A Few Guidelines