Eight Dates: Questions to Strengthen Your Relationship

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Eight Dates" by John Gottman, Julie Schwartz Gottman, et al.. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are Eight Dates questions for getting to know your partner better? How will these questions make your relationship stronger?

In the book Eight Dates, the authors provide several questions you can use to start a conversation on a date with your partner. From strengthening trust to sharing your hopes and dreams, these questions cover every topic.

Keep reading for the essential Eight Dates questions you need to keep in the back of your mind.

The Eight Essential Conversations

The authors outline eight conversations that they say every couple must have; topics range from sex to finances to personal aspirations. These Eight Dates questions won’t only lay a strong foundation for your relationship—they’ll also allow you to address common sources of conflict.

(Shortform note: In their discussion of the eight dates, the authors focus on how conversations can strengthen relationships, but dates don’t necessarily have to revolve around conversation to have a positive impact on a relationship. Studies have shown that exploring new or exciting activities together can also promote closeness and personal growth.)

The authors structure these conversations as eight possible dates, outlining the purpose of the date and offering suggestions on where to go and questions to guide the conversation. In the following sections, we’ll explore the themes of the eight dates and questions that will keep the conversation going

Date One: Trust

Trust is foundational to a long-lasting relationship. The authors define trust as the conviction that your partner values you and will be there to support you. The goal of this date is to understand your partner’s beliefs about trust and discuss how you can deepen trust in your relationship.

Use the following questions to help guide your conversation:

  • What did you learn about trust growing up? How do you define trust now?
  • Where do we agree on issues of trust? Where do we disagree?
  • How can we strengthen trust in our relationship? What do you need from me?

Date Two: Disagreements

The next date is about disagreements. The authors emphasize that disagreements in a relationship are normal. In fact, when you know how to manage disagreements effectively, it can even strengthen your relationship. The goal of this date is to learn how your partner manages disagreements and how you can manage disagreements more effectively as a couple.

Use the following questions to help guide your conversation:

  • What did you learn about conflict or managing conflict growing up? How have you navigated conflict in the past?
  • What are your beliefs about anger? What do you need when you’re feeling angry?
  • How would you like to manage conflict differently in the future?

Date Three: Sex

The authors argue that a healthy sex life is important to the long-term health of your relationship. However, they emphasize that there isn’t one definition of a healthy sex life. It will look different for every couple, and it will look different at different points in your life. For example, you might have more sex when you first start dating or less sex if one partner is sick. In the end, a healthy sex life is whatever feels good for both you and your significant other. The goal of this date is to learn more about what turns your partner on and to discuss how to keep your relationship passionate.

The authors explain that a healthy sex life depends on honest conversation. Sex and intimacy are particularly sensitive topics for most people, which is why a lot of couples don’t talk regularly about their x life or sexual desires. However, research suggests that couples that talk regularly about sex have better sex more often. 

Use the following questions to help guide your conversation:

  • What do you like?
  • When and how do you like to initiate sex?
  • What can I do to improve our sex life?

Date Four: Finances

Money is another frequent source of conflict in any relationship. The authors explain that having explicit conversations about your individual and collective finances will help you get to know your partner better and more effectively anticipate and navigate areas of conflict related to money. The goal of this date is to better understand your and your partner’s relationship to money and discuss how to build a healthy financial future together.

Use the following questions to help guide your conversation:

  • What did you learn about money growing up?
  • What makes you anxious when it comes to money?
  • What do you hope for your (and our) financial future?

Date Five: Family

The authors argue that different visions and definitions of family can be a dealbreaker in a relationship. The goal of this date is to understand what family looks like for you and your partner. Every person defines family differently, so it’s important to make sure you and your partner are on the same page before entering into a long-term commitment. Specifically, if you don’t have children, talk about whether you want to be parents. 

Use the following prompt to guide your conversation:

  • Describe your dream family.

If you’re planning on having children, ask yourself:

  • What challenges can we anticipate when we bring kids into our family?
  • How do you imagine me as a parent? Where do you think I’ll thrive as a parent?
  • What qualities of ours do we hope to instill in our children?

If you aren’t planning on having kids, ask yourself:

  • What does being a family mean for you?
  • Who’s your community? How do you want to strengthen the relationships with those in your community?

Date Six: Play

The next date is about playfulness. The authors believe that having fun is key to a happy, thriving relationship. The goal of this date is to find out what you like to do for fun and what your partner likes to do for fun and to explore how you can have fun together.

Use the following questions to guide your conversation:

  • What’s the most fun you’ve ever had? Share a personal experience and an experience you’ve shared with your partner.
  • What’s on your bucket list?
  • What can we do to make our relationship more fun?

Date Seven: Change

According to the authors, people change over time. In a relationship, it’s important to support your partner’s evolution, even if it’s different than you expected. Conflict will often arise as you or your partner changes, but individual change can strengthen and deepen a relationship when both partners take it as an opportunity to better understand the other person. The purpose of this date is to acknowledge how you and your partner have changed in your relationship and to discuss shared traditions that will keep you connected as you continue to change in the future. 

Use the following questions to guide your conversations: 

  • Describe ways in which you’ve grown that you’re most proud of.
  • How do you prioritize your personal growth? How can I support you?
  • What traditions are important for us to establish even as our relationship continues to grow and change?

Date Eight: Aspirations

According to the authors, couples grow together, but each person also has personal aspirations. Couples who are able to affirm and support each other’s long-term goals are more likely to have a long-lasting relationship. This date is about sharing your greatest aspirations with your partner and learning about their aspirations so that you can better support each other as you pursue your dreams.

Use the following questions to guide your conversation:

  • Do you have any aspirations you’ve let go of that you regret?
  • Describe an aspiration that’s important to you. Why is it important? What would it feel like if you fulfilled this goal?
  • What do you need from me to pursue your greatest aspiration?
Eight Dates: Questions to Strengthen Your Relationship

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  • The secret to a strong, long-lasting relationship
  • Why you and your partner need to make time for weekly dates
  • The eight powerful dates and conversations to have at the start of a relationship

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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