Book Recommendation – ‘Eight Dates’ by John Gottman

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today I’d like to share a book with you that my husband and I finished reading through together a few weeks ago – Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by John and Julie Gottman.

I would HIGHLY recommend this book for anyone married or in a serious relationship – it doesn’t matter if you are newlyweds or have been married for a long time, you should check out this book! My husband and I have been married 11 years, and we found the book to be a great way to foster meaningful and intentional conversations about our relationship.

The book is organized into eight sections. The idea is that for each section you’ll read the chapter and answer some reflection questions on your own, then later go out on a date with your significant other to discuss your answers together. Your goal for the conversation is to listen to your partner, validate what they say, and ultimately “build respect, empathy, and a profound understanding of each other” (p. 5).

Ironically, since we read through this book in the middle of the pandemic, we did not “go out” for any of our dates. We had all of ours at home after we put our 4-year-old to bed. Even if you’re stuck at home, you can find ways to make the dates fun (cook a special meal or dessert, dress up in fancy clothes, sit outside in the backyard… be creative!)

The topics addressed in the eight sections include:

  • trust and commitment
  • conflict
  • sex
  • money
  • family
  • fun and adventure
  • spirituality
  • goals and dreams

There were so many things I loved about this book:

1. It’s written by the Gottmans
Have you heard of John Gottman? He’s kind of a marriage guru – he’s the author of the bestselling book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work and also the founder (along with his wife, Julie) of the Gottman Institute. Julie Schwartz Gottman is a clinical psychologist, and has authored/co-authored several books on marriage and relationships. Basically, they’re the bee’s knees and anything they do is worth looking at!

2. The structured format and reflection questions make it easy to talk about potentially difficult topics
The format of this book reminded me a lot of Re|Engage, which I loved! It requires a lot of self-reflection and assessment, and then vulnerability to share your thoughts and feelings with your partner. Each person takes turns answering the same questions, so there’s comfort in knowing that you’ll both be given an opportunity to share and listen. The third chapter of the book is the sex chapter, which is obviously a topic that has potential to be awkward or difficult to talk about. But because of the way the book is formatted, I found it a lot easier to have a real discussion about our sex life than I would have expected. (And I learned some valuable information too!)

3. The main goal is to be curious about your partner, not to change them
This one is so important – I love that the focus of the book is on learning about your partner, and loving and accepting them the way they are. It’s all about learning how to support and love each other in ways that work. It’s okay to have conflict, and it’s okay to disagree, but do it in a way that still shows love and affirmation to your partner.

4. The “Dreams” chapter
My very favorite chapter of the book was the final one, about the dreams you have for your life. On your own, you have to think about the dreams that matter the most to you, and rank them in order. (It’s possible you haven’t been given the freedom to think about your dreams in a while, so you may initially find it hard to dream big.) Then you share. You share with your partner what your dreams for your life are, no matter how silly or crazy they may seem to you. What my husband and I found when we shared with each other was that the dreams didn’t seem crazy at all. And once we knew how important these dreams were to each other, we wanted to help each other achieve those dreams if at all possible. It ended with us feeling very excited, motivated, and above all very loved by each other.

“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”

(p. 17)

I hope you’ll consider giving this book a read, and really use it as an opportunity to grow closer to your spouse. I recommend buying two copies, so you and your partner can each have your own copy to underline or write in as needed.

Have you read any other great relationship books? My husband and I are looking for our next read!

Thanks for reading.

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