This article is the first 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 One – Trust and Commitment
As you can tell from the prime position it is given, this topic is seen by the Gottmans as a fundamental base to a long-term, healthy relationship. Trust and commitment are viewed as a daily practice, a daily choice, and are built on consistent little acts, not grand gestures.
There is a fantastic visual metaphor which is used – windows and walls. In a trusting and committed relationship, a wall is built around the two of you, with an open window in between. The wall separates the two of you from others in terms of your deepest emotional and physical connections (this book is based in the construct of monogamy – consensual polyamory is not dealt with). There can’t be walls between you, and creating windows – which is when we secretly confide in, complain to, or seek comfort from others about our relationship – weakens the walls. It’s a little like the ‘Couple Bubble‘ idea by Stan Tatkin (2012).
Case studies about couples make the information interesting and digestible, and there is also a very clear ‘Alice in Wonderland’ analogy. There are quizzes and exercises, culminating in the instructions for the first date – that’s right, the Gottman’s 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 trust and commitment mean to them and how they can strengthen and deepen these bonds. 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.
The model of rupture and repair is considered from gay, lesbian and straight perspectives, making the books rich and valuable learning accessible and meaningful for all types of couples. Please get in touch if this article resonates with you in light of your own situation.
Gottman, J., & Gottman, Julie Schwartz. (2019). Eight Dates – To keep your relationship happy, thriving and lasting. Penguin Life, New York.
Tatkin, S. (2012). Wired for love: How understanding your partner’s brain can help you defuse conflicts and spark intimacy. NY: New Harbinger.
Photo by Shelby Cohron on Unsplash