This article is the last 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 Eight – A Lifetime of Love
The Gottmans wrap up this treatise on relationships by looking at the future – the dreams that you and your partner have as individuals and as a couple.
The ongoing growth and happiness of the relationship you have is obviously a shared dream, but both of you also have other dreams which cannot be ignored as part of the future direction of your partnership. One of the things that comes up in couples coaching is a partner feeling constrained by the relationship – often this is because they feel they have to abandon their individual dreams in pursuit of the ‘relationship goals’. There needs to be open and frank conversations, negotiation, planning, and excitement for the other’s dreams.
And both parties have to work on being unafraid of each other’s dreams.
A sign of emotional maturity in a relationship is honouring your partner’s uniqueness, and ‘holding them lightly’ – prepared to give them the space and resources they need from you to fulfill their dreams. And this is the great give and take of a long-term partnership, one where two individuals flourish. When both partners know they can call on ‘the power of two’ to make things happen, it becomes symbiotic and mutually beneficial.
But here’s the thing – your partner won’t know how to help you achieve your dreams if you don’t communicate them. This is where the ‘Dream Levels’ exercise in the chapter comes in, for you both to work on what is important to you and how best to honour each other’s individual goals.
As I wrap up the writing of this series, I find myself reflecting deeply on the love and support I have received over the past twenty-two years from my devoted and patient partner. In turn, I have also tried to mirror this devotion and commitment, taking steps, taking turns to achieve our dreams and goals.
We don’t always know when we start a relationship how they’re going to turn out … We dream, hope, and imagine ourselves in our future relationship life – taking one timid step at a time – goals and dreams slowly revealing themselves as parts of self are also (in parallel) revealed.
Relationships are not always easy. Relationships sometimes 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 explore and imagine what dreams sit within the liminal spaces between what’s now and what might become.
This series of writing has explored 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. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if this article resonates for you in light of your situation or relationship.