This article is the sixth of an eight-part series based on the book Eight Dates by John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman. 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.’
‘Our lives and relationships are better, brighter, and more fun when we remember to play, when we inject some adventure.’ So begins chapter six, an examination of the role of play and adventure in keeping couples engaged with each other. We all love to have fun with our friends – it’s one of the defining features of friendship – and the Gottmans show that it is even more important to have fun with your partner.
For a lot of couples, the administration and work of life and family can squeeze out any sense of fun – yet courtship and the initial phases of a relationship are (usually) full of so much adventure and newness. While there is a typical idea that couples need to have a lot in common, the chapter clearly shows that while it’s great if you do, it’s not at all necessary – what’s important is supporting and nourishing your partner’s sense of adventure as well as joining in where possible.
You’ll note the use of the word ‘adventure’ – the Gottmans equate adventure for adults as the equivalent of play for children. Adventure is when we feel most alive and can be as extreme as going mountain-climbing or as tame as trying a new restaurant together. The point is spontaneity, laughter, and enjoyment of newness. Through case studies, the chapter shows that couples that play together stay together – but so do couples who support each other’s separate adventures.
The dopamine rush that newness and adventure bring is intoxicating, and we tend to associate it with the people who share the experience. According to one study, ‘the joy that people had having new experiences rubbed off on their feelings about their partner.’ So if you’re having fun with your partner, your partner seems like a fun person – logical, really!
The open-ended date questions are personal and eye-opening – 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. And the suggestions for this ‘play’ date are pretty cool! 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 money and finances 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 don’t hesitate to get in touch if this article resonates for you in light of your situation or relationship.
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Gottman, J., & Gottman, Julie Schwartz. (2019). Eight Dates – To keep your relationship happy, thriving and lasting. Penguin Life, New York.