Spread the love

It’s hard to believe we’re already more than halfway through our exploration of the Eight Dates! Over the last few months, we’ve talked about Trust & Commitment, Addressing Conflict, Sex & Intimacy, and Work & Money. Date #5 — in Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by John Gottman, Julie Schwartz Gottman, Doug Abrams, and Rachel Carlton Abrams — is all about family.

There are so many seasons to “family” as a couple. There’s talking about and planning to have kids — or not. And if you decide to have kids, then come the years of raising small humans (no small feat) into well-adjusted adults (or at least that’s the plan!). 

And in the midst of all of that, there’s friends who are family, extended family, aging parents, nieces and nephews, and so many more who make up what we call our “family” today. 

As we get older, many of us will also make the transition to empty-nesters, a milestone that is tricky at best for a lot of couples.

There’s so much to unpack here.

For me and Eric, as we look back on the early days of our relationship, we knew that we wanted children. The number of children we wanted to have was up for debate, but we kept an open mind and ended up having three kids which was the perfect number for us, and we are so thankful that we have three kids, even though that may not have been the plan at the outset!

This chapter of Eight Dates also talks about keeping the romance alive. Eric and I discussed how we both feel we did a good job of keeping the romance and connection alive throughout most of our relationship. 

There were a few times when Eric remembers being too busy. I didn’t get the quality time I needed, and that hurt our relationship because we were in that stage that required taking care of kids and working a lot and having limited bandwidth to care for each other. 

Other times, I remember the romance sort of falling off my radar, which also made Eric feel neglected and like the kids took too much time. 

But the thing that made all the difference was our commitment to repair and always turn back toward each other. 

During our date for this chapter, Eric and I also reminisced about how when the kids were growing up, we committed to date nights and quarterly weekends away. We would take our friends’ kids in exchange for them returning the favor, or we’d have a grandparent come stay with our kids. Those weekends were so essential to maintaining our closeness during those busy years!

Most of our lives, we have felt like we were stretched pretty thin. But on this date, as we reflected together about family, we agreed that we wouldn’t have changed a thing. 

After all, from the outset of our relationship, Eric and I were clear that family and caring for others was the meaning behind our commitment. (It was a spoken and active thing we agreed on.) 

It’s no surprise, then, that we’ve lost count of how many people have lived with us over the years (it’s somewhere north of 75 people). Suffice to say we have a very fluid sense of “family” — and we’re proud of that!

And now, Eric and I find ourselves in a new phase of life. For the first time, we are experiencing the empty nest. Up until a few months ago, we were part of the sandwich generation, caring for elderly parents while also helping out our kids, trying to be the most supportive grandparents possible all while holding down full-time careers. It was a lot.

Now we wonder what is next. 

Eric and I are bouncing around the idea of inviting traveling professionals to live with us. We’re dreaming of how we can be close to and actively living with — or very nearby — our kids here in Oregon and out of state. But what we know for sure is that our family will continue to be close — with arms wide open, of course! — and that we will maintain our closeness with each other amidst the chaos that comes with big families. We wouldn’t have it any other way. 

As you and your partner talk about what family means to you — what you want and don’t want, the dreams you have for one another — we hope you’ll find the same degree of deep joy and fulfillment we’ve had in surrounding ourselves with those we love. There’s simply nothing better!