This article is the fourth 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.’
You might think this sounds deeply philosophical, but it’s actually the most tangible of the topics in this book – work and money and the impact of those on a relationship. Starting with case studies, it reveals how our family of origin, like everything, deeply informs our ideas of money, scarcity and abundance, and the role of work in our lives. If we don’t know how our partner feels about money and work, and what the story is they tell themselves about the two, we may find it becomes a deeply divisive topic.
“Research shows that … financial arguments were the single best predictor of divorce. … The conflict falls into three distinct categories: different perceptions of financial inequality, different perceptions of what ‘financial wellbeing’ means, and different perceptions about the nature of how they argue about money.” However, it is not the conflict itself that becomes the ‘make or break’ issue – what matters is how a couple talks about their financial disagreements.
The subheadings are telling: Working hard for the Money, which talks of work as the ‘third party’ in a relationship; Sharing the Load, discussing the tricky topic of unpaid housework; Time is Money, which is about priorities; Managing Time, a comparison of realities and desires; The Real Value of Money, about separate money histories merging; and How much is enough?, exploring the notions of scarcity and abundance.
There are quizzes on your family’s history with money and what ‘enough’ means to you – both of which provide fascinating insights into our money ‘stories’. 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 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.
Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash
Gottman, J., & Gottman, Julie Schwartz. (2019). Eight Dates – To keep your relationship happy, thriving and lasting. Penguin Life, New York.