I was able to go to a “Utah Date Night” event with special guest speakers John and Julie Gottman. If you’re not aware of who they are, they are celebrities in the relationships research world! Their credibility is one no one can top, in my opinion. Their resume is extensive including 40 years of research studying couples and creating interventions, exercises, and theories to help distressed couples succeed. I’ve talked about John Gottman’s theories in several articles, “The 5 to 1 ratio,” and “The Four Horsemen.”
There were over 3,000 people in attendance, most of them couples ready to have fun with the entertainment they provided, but also to learn something that will help their marriage for the future. It impressed me so much! A few people who were not able to come asked me to share some things I liked and learned from the event, so here we go!
The host, Nate Bagley with Growth Marriage pointed out that there was a lot of hope in the auditorium. That at least one couple, if not all of us, came with the hope that they would get an answer or inspiration to a problem they are dealing with. I just loved this positive thought so much, especially as I looked around at how many people were there! It fills my heart with joy to know so many couples are not only wanting to better their relationship, but are acting on it too, by being there.
A lot of the night was promoting the book, “Eight Dates” that I’ve been talking about since February, which is the Gottmans’ newest book. Each of us actually received a copy of it, which was way cool!
Laura heck, a therapist and also is a master trainer in one of the Gottman’s workshops for couples, spoke about her favorite date in the book, which is play with me, fun and adventure. I loved the story she told about a couple who put so much joy in their children for many years, that when their children left the nest, they experienced a lack of joy and friendship in their marriage. But one day, the husband took a rubber ducky that represented joy they had with their children, and he wrapped a handwritten note to his wife on it and put it somewhere in the house where she would notice it and read it. A month passed by and nothing was said about the rubber ducky until he found it randomly in the garage on the watering hose with a new note from his wife wrapped around it. They passed a rubber ducky with notes back and forth like this for years as a way to bring joy and friendship into their relationship again.
I loved this story, and I loved it even more when Laura actually hid 100 rubber duckies under seats in the auditorium for couples to take as a sweet reminder to play in your marriage. And guess what? I happened to have one of the rubber duckies (mine looked more like a bunny haha) under my seat!
Imagination vs. Data
Many people write relationship help books. Are they credible though? John Gottman straight up said, “There’s a lot of people out there writing books using their imagination. But we use data.” YESSSS. I’m so glad he pointed this out to all of us couples because people forget how important the data is when it comes to solving a problem. A lot of work goes into researching a basic issue like, “Why are couples dating less when they get married?” Just for example, the “Eight Dates” book was field tested by 2400 people (I believe he said that many!) going on these dates. So they helped develop the eight dates, which actually started out as ten dates but because of the couples’ feedback that two were “duds,” they omitted them from being suggested in the book.
I do believe that we can get very inspired from reading relationship help books from all authors, so I don’t want to hate on non-experts or researchers giving marriage advice. Because what works for 2400 people in a relationship, may not work for YOU. However, I think it’s important to consider who we receive marital advice from. And John Gottman backs that up… soooo…. yeah!
Communicating our Changes
We change overtime. As individuals, our interests, spirituality, and views can shift throughout the years. And the Gottmans brought up the question: “Are we communicating those differences with our spouse?” They used the example of 20 years passing by and suddenly you don’t really know the person sitting next to you.
Make sure to have these conversations with each other while they are little changes over the years, instead of never having these discussions and suddenly you think your spouse is a totally different person and you begin to dislike them. So I advise that every so often, we ask ourselves their important question of communicating our individual changes.
The Importance of Trust
Nate asked the Gottmans on why trust is so important to a marriage. I loved the insight they offered from the research they and others have found. They pointed out that in the Love Lab research they did, all of the arguments among the couples they were studying resolved around trust somehow. So trust dips into several aspects of our relationships.
Julie pointed out something kind of beautiful about the romantic relationship of marriage: that we get a gift of healing and love from our partner that we may not have received from our family in childhood. So the opportunity for a fresh trusting relationship is so desired.
Their tip for trusting in our marriages: Build your emotional bank account up because that is building security, and security = trust.
Marriage Tips for Couples With Special Needs Children
For those who are in this situation, I feel for you. I imagine it is difficult to prioritize time together as a couple, and trying to be present emotionally for one another. Their big suggestion focuses around communication. BECAUSE…
The Gottmans encourage these couples to be open and continually be talking to each other about what they are feeling. And a way of doing this can be to have a stress-reducing and non-problem-solving conversation for 20 minutes each day, sharing the highs and lows. It can provide understanding and empathy which can be all we really need sometimes.
Though our children are not blessed with special needs, my husband and I actually did this the other night in discussing the stress this #twinlife can put on us most days. Often we do have to problem solve because as new parents, we are still figuring out what schedules and responsibilities work best for each of us. However, there are times where we are each doing our absolute best and there’s nothing else we can really do, which I think is often the case for parents whose children need them more than the average child. So in these situations, just venting and validating each other’s feelings is quite helpful.
Though I found a lot of what they said to be very helpful for couples, I found that last topic and suggestion to be the most applicable and helpful for my marriage at this time. I hope that you are able to find one of these points to be relevant to your marriage and that it be helpful for it too.