This article is the second of an eight-part series based on the book Eight Dates by John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman (2019). The book is a couples guide to the ‘conversations that matter’ – eight topics that couples may try to avoid, but inevitably face as their relationship deepens. Based on 40 years of research data, the goal of the book is to instigate conversations and create mutual knowledge ‘to be able to love your partner more deeply each and every year you’re together.’
“One of the great marriage myths is that if you never fight [or have arguments], then that means you have a ‘good’ relationship.” This myth is perpetuated by society’s movies and sit-coms, and our social media feeds filled with happy, smiling couples living their best lives. The Gottmans are quite clear that conflict is a necessary, unavoidable, and normal part of any relationship. The conflict is not the issue, in fact – the issue is how you manage and repair any rupture that comes from the conflict.
Obviously, the best time to discuss conflict is not when you’re in it – and discussing how conflict makes us feel and what it triggers in us is the best way to ensure that we understand our partners and what those emotions are that can bubble up in conflict. The aim is mutual understanding of core needs and flexibility, and how to balance the two.
A surprising fact from the data: The research shows that most relational conflict is not resolvable. This is because it is actually personal baggage, and until that is identified and managed, it will not go away. This feeds into the narrative of people breaking up with one partner only to experience the same issues with the next. We say, ‘She attracts that type of man,’ or ‘He has a type,’ but what is really happening is the individual’s drama is playing out in their relationships.
The chapter identifies 25 personality differences to consider and provides a series of revealing questions to discuss on date number two – that’s right, the Gottmans want you to show up, dress up, and go out! There are dates for any budget, and they can even be done at home if necessary. It’s not the location that matters, it’s the discussion and sharing that makes this worthwhile.
Relationships are not easy. Relationships take work. The Gottman research makes sense and clearly sets out a course of action for any couple at any stage of their relationship to investigate what conflict and conflict resolution mean to them and how they can strengthen and deepen their connection. This series of writing explores the chapters under the various topics: trust and commitment, conflict, sex and intimacy, work and money, family, fun and adventure, growth and spirituality, and dreams. Please get in touch if this article resonates with you in light of your own situation.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
Gottman, J., & Gottman, Julie Schwartz. (2019). Eight Dates – To keep your relationship happy, thriving and lasting. Penguin Life, New York.