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Eight Dates Challenge

Hi friends! 

Raise your hand if you’re ready to have some FUN with your partner?! Do you want to go out on actual dates with him/her (like — without your kids, and OUT of the house?!)? Do you want to improve your physical and emotional connection with each other? If you answered YES to any of these questions, then we have the perfect challenge for you.  

If you’ve read our past article about how to pandemic-proof your marriage/relationship, you know all about the eight dates that relationship experts Drs. John & Julie Gottman came up with to help couples build stronger, healthier, spicier and more meaningful relationships. Well get excited because we’re hosting an Eight Dates Challenge (#8DatesChallenge) to help you bring the sizzle and spice back into your love life. Though we wrote these posts in the midst of the pandemic, all of it is still very relevant. When becoming parents, couples often see a shift in their love life — the many stressors that come with caring for a baby can make it hard to connect. So get outta those sweats (we know it’s hard — do it anyway!), pop a bottle of bubbly, and get ready to reignite that romantic spark.

Photo via IG @gottmaninstitute

What is this challenge? 

Our challenge follows the weekly date and conversation themes laid out in the Gottmans’ book Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. They are based on the eight topics that, according to the Gottmans, matter most to the overall health of a relationship

Date/Conversation Themes

As mentioned, the date/convo themes are based on the topics that the Gottmans have found matter most to the overall health of a relationship. They include:  

  • Trust and commitmentIs your relationship built on trust? How do you make each other feel safe and loved? 
  • Conflict Not all conflict is bad. How do you manage differences and conflict in your relationship?
  • Sex Do you have different desires? Sexual needs? Do you know what turns the other on? 
  • Money Do you have a shared financial goal? How much money is “enough” for each of you?  
  • Family How many kids do you each want? What values do you want to instill in your children? What family experiences are important to you both? 
  • Fun and adventurePlayfulness keeps a relationship fun! Do you make time for play and adventures together? 
  • Growth and spirituality What are your values and beliefs? Are they similar or do they differ?  
  • Dreams Do you each support the other in achieving your goals? Do you honor each other’s dreams?  

Keep in mind that “8 dates” doesn’t have to be a one time deal; people and relationships evolve over time — you can (and should!) continue to have these types of conversations throughout the course of your relationship. This challenge is just a way to start to build the habit. 

Cheers to reconnecting with your love and having fun along the way! 

Week 1: Trust & Commitment

Hi, friends! We’re so glad you’ve chosen to join us on our #8DatesChallenge. We’re totally in this with you and committed to strengthening our relationships, too. Let’s get started, shall we? 

Date Conversation & Goals

This week’s conversation is all about strengthening the level of trust and commitment in your relationship.

Before you each come together to discuss, think about how you think about trust and commitment in your relationship, and how you make each other feel safe and loved. You can jot it down on a piece of paper, so that when you come together, you can easily remember your thoughts and see if you each feel the same way, or if your ideas are different. 

During this conversation you and your partner can ask each other any questions pertaining to trust and commitment, but the Gottmans recommend some of the following:

  • “How did your parents show their commitment to each other? How did they show a lack of commitment to each other? In your mind, what do these things in your family history mean for the two of us?”
  • “Can you describe a time when you didn’t feel you trusted me, and what I could have done to fix the situation?”
  • “What do you need from me to show that I am committed to this relationship?”
  • “How are we similar and how are we different when it comes to trust and commitment? How can we accept these differences?”

Remember during your discussion to really listen to each other’s answers without judgment and with curiosity, pay close attention to what your partner says, and ask each other open-ended, follow-up questions to keep the conversation flowing. The book recommends that one partner coordinates the date, while the other trusts him/her to set it all up. It’s also suggested that you hold the date somewhere meaningful to your relationship. For instance, if you met at the beach, it would be a great idea to have this first date of the challenge there. Like any of the dates, you can also choose to have this date at home. The book suggests blindfolding each other and guiding the other person around the house as a trust exercise ;-). Good luck! 

What does trust and commitment mean to you? Head over to Instagram to tell us, and use the hashtag #8DatesChallenge when you post pics or updates! You can also drop us a line at [email protected] to tell us how it went! 

Week 2: Addressing Conflict 

Hi everyone! Now that you’ve defined trust and commitment, let’s talk about…. dum, dum, dum… conflict. Everybody’s (or at least my) least favorite thing. That said, some conflict is unavoidable, necessary and even serves a healthy purpose: to better understand each other. 

Conversation & Goals

Before this conversation begins, remember that many conflicts are actually not resolvable — these are called “perpetual problems.” In essence, the key here may be simply deciding which issues you can learn to live with, and which you can’t. 

In their book Eight Dates, the Gottmans explain that “recognizing a perpetual problem for what it is leads to accepting and valuing how each of you is different… accepting your partner for who they are. When you accept what you can’t change, you accept each other” (pg. 74). This ultimately will help you reach a place of deeper connection and understanding. That’s the good stuff, guys!  

Photo via IG @gottmaninstitute

During this conversation, you’ll learn about what you and your partner have in common, how you differ from one another (i.e. my husband is a total extrovert while I much prefer quiet time at home… cue conflict!), and how you manage the conflicts that arise from your differences. The book suggests holding this date in a quiet, peaceful place where you can speak privately.

The following are some suggested topics of discussion for this date, laid forth by the Gottmans in Eight Dates:

  • “How are we the same and how are we different?”
  • “How can we accommodate and accept the differences between us?”
  • “Are there differences we cannot accept?” (i.e. differences in emotionality, wanting time together vs. apart or alone, optimal sexual frequency, how to approach household chores and childcare, ambition and value/importance of work, etc.).
    • Note that when it comes to these differences that are challenging to accept, the Gottmans encourage couples to “approach your differences with curiosity rather than correctness. Have a genuine desire to understand the stories that are underneath the issue” (pg. 85). 
  • “How was conflict handled in your family growing up?” 
  • “How do you feel about anger? How was it expressed in your family growing up?” 
  • “How do you like to make up after a disagreement?”

The hope here is to get a genuine understanding of where you are both coming from during your disagreements and help you pinpoint which of your conflicts are solvable, which are bound to stick around for the long haul, and how you can learn to tolerate some level of disagreement in your relationship.

What’s one source of constant or recurring conflict between you and your partner? Remember to use the hashtag #8DatesChallenge if you post about the challenge on IG! Also, drop us a note at [email protected] to tell us how it’s going.

Week 3: Sex & Intimacy 

Hi, friends… are you ready to get hot up in herrrre?! Yeah, me neither. But let’s do it anyway… HA!

Date Conversation & Goals

Let’s do it… or at least talk about doing it! Even if this is truly uncomfortable for you, the goal of this date is to talk about sex, and to do so in a manner that conveys what feels good for you and your partner. When things are already getting hot and heavy, no one wants to stop and say, “hey honey — I don’t really like that.” Instead, talk about what works (and what doesn’t) before you hit the sheets. 

It should also come as no surprise that sex can be an area of disagreement between partners. In Eight Dates, the Gottmans say that in general, “Men think about sex more than women, and… ideally men want sex four to five times a week, and women one to two times” (pg. 102, 103). Sheesh. Not to mention, women desire and enjoy sex more when they feel emotionally connected to their partner. The same doesn’t always hold true for men. (I don’t need research to tell me this — HA!)

So what happens when your partner turns you down for sex? Well, according to the Gottmans, “if your partner doesn’t want to have sex, the most important thing is not to take it personally. In happy couples, there is no anger or defensiveness if one partner isn’t in the mood” (pg. 104).

Okay — now that we know all that, the goal is to be as open as possible during this conversation. If talking about sex makes you anxious, the Gottmans suggest writing down your ideas so you can read them to your partner, rather than discussing them off the cuff when you’re face-to-face. In addition to your notes, bring along your sense of vulnerability, passion and open-mindedness. Ooh la la! 

The Gottmans offer up some of the following questions to ask your partner on this date — remember to listen without judgment, and ask open-ended follow-up questions to keep the convo flowing:

  • “Think about all the times we’ve had sex. What are some of your favorites? What about that time made it your favorite?”
  • “What turns you on?”
  • “What’s your favorite way for me to let you know I want to have sex?” 

Have fun with this one, couples! The book actually suggests having these talks naked! Yep, you read that right — totally In THA NUDE. If you feel comfortable with that — go for it! What better way to be vulnerable and deepen your level of intimacy than by baring it all?! 

Now, in the words of Marvin Gaye, “Let’s get it on….” 

Week 4: Work & Money

Welcome back, couples. Hope last week was a fun one for y’all! Now onto a not-as-fun (but super important) topic: work & money. 

The concepts of work and money can often cause stress and arguments in relationships — especially if your values around these concepts differ. When partners become parents, priorities around work and money tend to shift, which makes new parenthood a perfect time to revisit your shared goals, values, hopes and ideals around work and money. 

For instance, something many couples bicker about is when one person seems to “choose work” over the relationship or marriage. This is exacerbated if one partner is home with the child(ren), while the other is seemingly free to come and go as he/she pleases and live his/her life “normally.” 

In addition to this, as roles have shifted in families over the years, many couples now also argue about the “unpaid work load” — i.e. the division of household labor. This may also include child-rearing and, as mentioned above, may start to feel unfair when one partner seems to be doing more of the parenting work than the other. The pandemic seems to be amplifying this issue, in that many couples have been balancing working from home and parenting together all day every day for over a year. 

It’s crucial to a couple’s relational health to strike a good balance between work and home life, knowing that things will shift over time, and sometimes work (and household labor/child-rearing) will demand more of our attention, and other times less. 

According to the Gottmans in Eight Dates, “Often our identity, our purpose, and our self-worth can get tied into ‘what we do’ and this compels us to work long hours. But consistent long hours come at a price… you both may start to feel emotionally disconnected and this puts your relationship at risk” (pg. 127).  

In addition, it’s also important to explore each other’s personal history and ideology about money (spending, saving, how much is enough, etc.), power, wealth, philanthropy, etc. 

Conversation & Goals

During this conversation, you’re going to discuss your history with work and money, and what having “enough money” means to each of you. 

Photo via IG @gottmaninstitute

The end goal of this date is to begin to understand and respect each other’s values about money and work — even if they differ — and to create a shared financial goal that you can work toward together. The book suggests holding this date at a place that costs nothing or as little as possible (i.e a park, your backyard, etc.).

The following are some open-ended conversations the book Eight Dates suggests having around the concepts of work and money:

  • “Share three things you appreciate about your partner’s contribution to the wealth of the relationship (paid or unpaid work).” 
  • “What is your biggest fear around money?”
  • “What do you need to feel safe talking about how you spend money or how you make money?”
  • “What are your hopes and dreams about money?”

In the end, can you come up with a shared financial goal that meets both of your needs, or perhaps even little goals — milestones — you can work towards together to achieve your ultimate financial goal as a couple/family? 

Good luck, couples. You got this!

Week 5: Family 

Since you’re a Lucie’s List reader (hey, thanks for that, btw!), chances are you either already have children, or are trying to conceive. This conversation is about discussing how many children you want to have, as well as reflecting upon the roles each of you will play as parents and how you will maintain the ever-important romantic spark even as you’re consumed by new parenthood (i.e. diaper changes, late night feedings, sleep deprivation… you know, the fun stuff!).

One of the most important things you can do to protect (child-proof?!) your relationship after becoming parents is to continue to make each other a priority. I completely forgot this after my husband and I had our first child. I put our relationship on the back burner, even going so far as to say that getting a babysitter and going on dates was selfish because I assumed being a “good parent” meant spending every waking minute with our new child. The only thing that it did was cause major new parent burnout and a rift between me and my spouse. 

The Gottmans say that “there’s no doubt that children need, demand and deserve your love, time and attention, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of your primary relationship with each other” (Eight Dates, pg. 148). Remember that you and your partner are the base of your family… you need to remain solid so the rest of the “house” doesn’t come tumbling down.

Photo via IG @gottmaninstitute

Conversation and Goals

During this conversation, you’ll discuss what family means to each of you. If you haven’t yet had children, will you? How many kids do you want? How were the family dynamics when you grew up? 

Bring to this conversation ideas about what your ideal family looks like, and what roles you envision each of you playing as parents (now and in the future). Also, begin to think about how you’ll maintain closeness and intimacy — continuing to make each other a priority — even as you move through the various stages of parenthood.  

Here are some open-ended questions the Gottmans suggest asking each other: 

  • “What are the ways in which your parents did or did not appear to maintain their closeness, love, and romance after having children?”
  • “What do you think we will love about being parents together?”
  • What characteristics or qualities of mine would you like our child to have?”

All in all, don’t forget to make each other a priority even after you have children; your relationship matters and is really the base of your family — keep the base strong and steady! 

Week 6: Fun & Adventure 

“Why so serious?” Sure we have to-do lists to complete, but honestly — playing and having fun together should be at the top of the list! In fact, according to a study conducted by the Center for Marital and Family Studies, “The correlation between fun and marital happiness is high and significant. The more you invest in fun and friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will get over time” (pg. 157). 

The cool part about being playful is that you can do it anytime… you can be silly and laugh together while you’re doing the dishes, running errands, or just hanging out. It’s not something you necessarily have to schedule time for.

Photo via IG @gottmaninstitute

That said, you can (and should!) also plan some dates together that are fun and adventurous as well — without your children. If you and your partner don’t find the same things exciting or playful, that’s OK (my husband would likely go skydiving in a heartbeat, while my idea of adventure is a round of mini golf). The key is to understand what drives both of you — what you each enjoy and find exhilarating — compromise and do some of those things together. 

Why is this so important? Because “in relationships where there’s no shared adventure of any kind, there’s a kind of deadness and lack of vitality that sets in. The relationship becomes a series of tasks. It becomes mundane. There’s no surprise you lose the spark that play and adventure naturally bring to the relationship” (Pg. 170).

Conversation & Goals

During this conversation, you’ll discuss how each of you likes to have fun (individually and as a couple) and how you can infuse more play and adventure into your relationship together. 

The end-goal of this date is to come up with three tangible ways you can have fun together (or go on adventures) within the next two weeks. The book suggests holding this date somewhere you’ve never been before — make it spontaneous and adventurous!

Some questions to ask each other on this date:

  • “What does play/adventure mean to you?”
  • What’s the most fun you’ve had playing in the last few years?”
  • What’s a one-day adventure you could imagine us having together?”

Enjoy this one, guys! And most importantly, have fun on your upcoming adventures!

Week 7: Growth & Spirituality 

Hi, friends. Take a nice long deep, calming breath because this week we’re going to talk about growth and spirituality. 

This is where couples are able to create shared meaning and purpose in life. According to the Gottmans, “You create meaning when you meet each inevitable struggle in life together, and move and grow through its adversity. When you create meaning out of struggle, you stay together” (Eight Dates, pg. 187). 

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to share the same religious beliefs or anything like that — it’s more about finding shared meaning through life’s obstacles.

Conversations & Goals

During this conversation, you’ll discuss what spirituality means to you, as well as how you’ve evolved (mentally, emotionally and spiritually) throughout the course of your relationship. 

You’ll determine your sense of shared meaning as a couple — what do the two of you find important? What are your values and beliefs? Have you been able to overcome challenges together and learn and grow from them? 

Then, together, you’ll come up with three new shared rituals for connecting with one another (i.e. weekly game night, taking an exercise class together, cooking a meal together once a week, doing a crossword puzzle together, weekly date night, etc.), and begin to implement them. Hold this date somewhere that feels peaceful, beautiful and spiritual to you both.

Here are some meaningful questions to ask each other this week, as suggested in the book Eight Dates:

  • “What carries you through your most difficult times?”
  • In your childhood, how did your family honor the sacred, or did they not and how did that make you feel? Were they religious, and if so, how did they practice?”
  • “How have you changed in your spirituality or religious beliefs over the course of your life?”
  • “What spiritual beliefs do you want to pass on to our kids?”

No matter what your beliefs (even if they differ from your partner’s), it’s important that you each understand and respect each other’s values and belief systems. After all, they are a very important component of what makes each of you, you

What rituals would you like to implement with your partner?

Week 8: Dreams

Hi, friends! We made it — this is our LAST conversation (or “date”) of our Eight Dates Challenge! If you’ve stuck with us this far, BRAVO! We’re so happy you did (and I bet your relationship is, too!) and we want to hear from you all about how it went. 

But first, I encourage you to have this one final conversion. This one is all about really exploring each other’s inner worlds, goals, hopes and dreams.

This is perhaps one of the most important components to any healthy and successful relationship — continuing to be curious and asking about (and then wholeheartedly accepting) your partner’s dreams. 

This is so critical because “honoring your partner’s dreams is a potent way to express your care for someone because it shows a profound love… When each partner honors and supports the other’s dreams, everything else in the relationship gets easier because each person feels supported in being and becoming who they need and want to be” (Eight Dates, Pg. 202, 203). 

In essence, this is the process of supporting your partner in the journey to becoming his/her truest, most authentic self. What a beautiful gift you can each give each other. 

Conversation and Goals

On this date, you’ll probe each other about the dreams that are most important to you, and how you can best support one another in fulfilling those goals. It will be fascinating to see how many of your dreams match (as well as differ). Of course, the end-goal for this discussion is to come up with ways to help each other fulfill your greatest aspirations. Hold this date someplace that feels inspiring to each of you — a hilltop at sunset, the beach, on a walk around your favorite area, etc.

To get you started, here are some topics to discuss with each other, as laid out in the book Eight Dates:

  • “Did you have any dreams for yourself as a child?”
  • “Do you think your parents fulfilled their dreams?”
  • “What is the dream you must want to fulfill and why is it so important to you?”
  • “Is there an underlying purpose for fulfilling your dream?”

Thank you so much, couples, for following along and participating in this journey with us. We truly hope you’ve had FUN and that each week’s conversations have brought you closer to each other emotionally, mentally and physically. 

Remember to keep the conversations with each other flowing throughout the course of your relationship! 

As always, we’d love to hear how this conversation went for you — along with all the others! Please leave a comment below ~

Go ahead — don’t be shy! Fill out the blanks… you earned it. Photo via IG @gottmaninstitute

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