­Gottman: Date 6

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; the third date topic, sex; the fourth date topic, work and sex; and the fifth date topic, children. 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 six: fun and adventure!  The Gottmans’ and Abrams’ discuss the vital importance play has in a relationship, stating that couples who play together, stay together.  And, play is not just for children – our sense of adventure and need for play, never goes away.  This date focuses on gaining a better understanding of what play means for your partner and what the two of you might enjoy doing together.  Questions to discuss on this date might be:  When was the last time you felt excited or curious while you were with your partner?  When was the last time you did something new together?  What does adventure/play mean to you?  Or, how did you each play when you were a child?  This chapter also provides an exercise to complete prior to the date (found at the link above).  This exercise provides a list of fun and adventurous things you and your partner could do together (and space to write in your own ideas).  Each of you will read through the list and decide on the top 3 that you would each do first!  This list can also be used as a weekly road map for fun, playful activities to take part in together.  Committing to prioritizing fun and adventure in your relationships will help to reactivate the feeling of newness and spark within a relationship for years to come!

In this chapter, the Gottmans’ and Abrams’ acknowledge that “the opposite of play is not work – it’s depression.”  This chapter does a great job of acknowledging that play is not just something to add to the end of the to-do list; instead it should be a priority for every person and relationship.  A recent study completed by Howard Markman found that the correlation between fun and marital happiness is high and significant – “the more you invest in fun and friendship and being there for you partner, the happier the relationship will get over time.”  This chapter also does a wonderful job in normalizing the differences that couples have with play!  “You don’t have to play in the same ways to be a happy couple or to keep the fun alive in your relationship.  But you both still have to play.  And share your solo play with each other in the form of pictures, stories, and discussing how it made you feel.  You can have opposite interests when it comes to play and adventure, and still have a relationship that grows and thrives.  But, find the places where your play and adventure intersect.”

As a reminder, this book gives lots of amazing recommendations for those who have the ability to go somewhere for a date, such as trying out a new activity together while discussing play and adventure.  If needing to do this date at home, the Gottmans’ and Abrams’ recommend to add a flare of fun and play, possibly creating an at-home scavenger hunt for one another.  The date summary at the end of this chapter provides more helpful information on troubleshooting this date and other open-ended questions to consider discussing!

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 how you each would like to spend time playing with one another.  This conversation can sometime be difficult, especially if you and your partner hold different views of what fun and adventure means.  Reach out to our office today, and we will get you set up with a counselor who can help the two of you process and explore this conversation in a different way!