This article is the third 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.’

Chapter Three – Sex and intimacy

“We all wonder about other couples. How much sex are they having? How does our sex life compare?  If we’re not having sex often, or if the sex drops off, does that mean our relationship is doomed?  And how much sex is ‘normal’ in a long-term relationship?”

The Gottmans have a very open, non-judgmental view of sex in relationships.  They state that ‘normal’ is whatever you are both comfortable with, and that ‘normal’ changes throughout a relationship.

Having a hard discussion about sex is decidedly unsexy, and like conflict, it’s best discussed at a time which is not directly before or after the act.  That’s why this chapter delves deep into the nitty-gritty of talking about sex, initiating sex, saying ‘yes’, accepting the ‘no’, and keeping it passionate.  Interestingly, there is one similarity in all the couples studied who believed they had a great sex life: ‘kissing passionately for no reason at all is one universal key to a great sex life’.  So get kissing!!

Sex is one of the primary ways we bond with our partners – and many people fall into the trap of thinking they know what their partner’s ‘story’ is about sex. The truth, as this chapter reveals, is that open communication and not imagining we know it all are vital for sexual re-awakening.  The 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.  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 sex and intimacy means 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 of this article resonates for you in light of your own situation.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash


Gottman, J., & Gottman, Julie Schwartz. (2019). Eight Dates – To keep your relationship happy, thriving and lasting. Penguin Life, New York.

Disclaimer: This article contains the views of the author and is not a replacement for therapeutic support. Please reach out to a registered therapist if you are experiencing distress and require assistance.