Gottman: Date 4

Written by Katie Mitchell, M.A.

Certified Sex Therapist

If you are just tuning into this new blog series, I highly suggest going back to read/complete the first date topic, trust and commitment; the second date topic, conflict; and the third date topic, sex.  As a recap, Eight Dates is a date guide about 8 different beneficial conversations that help couples to connect and gain a better understanding of one another.  Over the next couple of months, I will be completing overviews of each date conversation.  If you finding this resonating with you, I highly suggest purchasing the book here and completing each of the date conversations with your significant other.  The worksheets have been pulled from this book for your convenience to utilize at home; you can find them for free here.

This week we are on to date number four: work and money.  Research has shown that financial arguments are the single best predictor of divorce and are one of the top five reasons couples fight.  With this information in mind, figuring out the meaning of money and work is incredibly important for the success of your relationship.  It is extremely common to have entirely different opinions and perspectives of finances and work; discuss them openly with one another so that you both can gain a better understanding of your own views and your partner’s.  This chapter provides two different exercises to complete prior to this date: My Family History with Money and What Enough Money Means to Me.  You can access these exercises from the link above (page 129 – 130; page 133-136).  The first exercise, My Family History with Money, will help both of you gain more understanding of your connection to money and what it means for you based on your experience with your own family growing up.  The second exercise, What Enough Money Means to Me, will help you both discover motivations for making “enough” money and what exactly “enough” means for each of you, as this often means different things for men and women.  It is absolutely okay for both of you to have differing views of money; it is not okay to belittle or put one another down for having different perspectives on money and work.  These two exercises will help to eliminate the lack of understanding that may exist within your relationship.

This chapter normalizes that everyone has a different story and relationship to money and work!  I can also really appreciate that the Gottmans’ and Abrams’ take the time to discuss the importance of managing time.  They recommend that couples take the time to create a pie chart of what their actual day looks like (how much time is spent apart from each other, family, at work, spent alone, spent together, etc.) and what their ideal day would look like.  They also debunk the idea that someone has to choose between having successful work or having a successful marriage.  The Gottmans’ and Abrams’ acknowledge that, “if you or your partner is starting a business, for example, it’ll take time and commitment and long hours, but as long as you are transparent about the commitment you’re making to your work and financial future, and you discuss it and make agreements with your partner ahead of time, it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.”  If you have found yourself working long hours or are frustrated by the long hours that your partner is working, it is a great idea to discuss how the two of you will compromise and carve out sacred time for your relationship.  On page 127, great open-ended questions are provided for partner’s who work long hours and for partner’s who might be frustrated by the long hours that their partners.  The Gottmans’ and Abrams’ also discuss how important it is for couples talk about how they share their load at home.  “A 2007 study found that are faithfulness and a good sex life (date topics already covered), sharing household chores was listed as the most important element of a successful marriage.”  Sharing the load is not going to look the same for each relationship; however, it is important that you are your partner are on the same page about how you both want and do share the load.  “There is no right and wrong way to divide the labor – it’s whatever works for the two of you.”

As a reminder, this book gives lots of amazing recommendations for those who have the ability to go somewhere for a date, but also for those who need to complete this date at home!  If going out for this date, try spending as little as possible; go sit in the lobby of a 5-star hotel to discuss or go to a restaurant that is not pricey.  It doesn’t matter if you both have the ability to spend the money for this date; the goal of the date is to not spend much to begin with!  You both are to be talking about money, not spending much of it!  If needing to do this date at home, the Gottmans’ and Abrams’ recommend that you still be thoughtful about dressing for a date, but discuss over inexpensive take-out if possible. 

As always, if you and your partner struggle to communicate in an open manner, the first few chapters of Eight Dates also include helpful information on putting your feelings into words; asking open-ended questions; making exploratory statements; and expressing tolerance, empathy, and understanding.  I highly recommend reading through this material as a refresher for even those who consider themselves the best communicators!

I hope reading this motivates you and your partner to carve out a date night to discuss work and money in a productive manner!  Enjoy dreaming about what you hope to achieve with one another in regards to work and money!  However, if either of these prove to be a struggle for you and your partner, reach out to our office today and we will get you set up with a counselor who can help the two of you have this conversation more productively.