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Is there a secret to turning your long-term romantic relationship into an amazing love story? This is an intriguing question for young couples with their lives ahead of them. But it’s also an interesting question for a couple who may have been together for decades and are wondering where the spark went — and can it be reignited.
The answer just may lie in a book written by the husband-wife team of John Gottman, Ph.D. and Julie Gottman, Ph.D. — Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. In a fascinating interview, Eli Finkel, Ph.D. talks to the couple about the book and the research behind it. Finkel begins by pointing out that he is intrigued by the very first line of the book: “Every great love story is a never-ending conversation.”
Julie Gottman elaborates on that observation, explaining that people have a need to connect to one another. Part of connecting, especially in a lifetime love relationship, involves expressing how you are evolving, in short, talking deeply about how you are experiencing life. She goes on to say that the better you are able to talk and listen, the better your relationship will be.
She gives some advice about one of the skills of intimate conversation: Attunement. Being able to listen to your partner talk about their emotions helps you become attuned to how they are experiencing life. She asks how many people are comfortable sharing sadness, anger or fear. She says expressing those emotions is key to increasing intimacy. But the really interesting part is that this is important even if the expression is part of a complaint that involves the other person. The crucial caveat is how the emotion is expressed: “I’m afraid of what’s going to happen about these unpaid bills,” for example, is far different than saying, “I’m really angry that you haven’t paid these bills.” The latter is criticism, and she believes there’s no such thing as “constructive criticism.” The final follow-up is how a person wraps up the expression, which should be done with a positive statement that defines the need: “It would make me really happy if you paid the bills tonight.”
Eight Dates is divided into eight chapters, each focusing on an essential aspect of relationships crucial to long-term happiness. If you can apply the skills of intimate conversation to eight truly important subjects that need to be discussed, you may be tapping into the secret of an amazing love story. The eight topics that can be discussed on eight date nights are:
- Trust & Commitment
- Addressing Conflict
- Sex & Intimacy
- Work & Money
- Fun & Adventure
- Growth & Spirituality
For a deep dive into the essential conversations, enjoy the YouTube video of the Gottmans talking about the inspiration for the book or pick up a copy of the book itself.