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Dating Tips from the Experts

Renowned relationship experts John and Julie Gottman on building the foundation of a relationship

By Seattle magazine staff August 10, 2015


This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Seattle magazine.

Take it to the Next Level
Internationally acclaimed relationship therapists Drs. John and Julie Gottman are like modern day architects for matters of the heart. The straightforward Seattle-based couple (who have been married for 28 years) founded the Gottman Institution with an overarching ideology that asks, “How do couples build a “Sound Relationship House.” And if a lasting partnership should feel like a home, it begs the question, how do you start construction? Here are a few key suggestions from the Gottmans about what to consider when laying down the emotional foundation of a first date. Need ideas on where to go for a first date? Read this.

Date Tip from the Pros: You may need to go on as many as 60 dates with as many different people before you find someone compatible, so be prepared to try and try again. That’s according the local pros John and Julie Gottman of the Seattle-based relationship champion Gottman Institute. They suggest treating dating like a job search. Don’t expect that the next person you date is going to be magical. It is a process, and you will know when you encounter that outlier.

Know the Science: The first stage of a relationship involves limerence, which is the “spark” and largely based on biochemicals. Dating, at first, glides on that energy, so don’t be fooled by the chemistry.

Run the Numbers: Most research estimates that you need to go on 40 to 60 dates before you find someone compatible, so be prepared to try and try again. It’s like looking for a job, where you know what your parameters are and have a sense of when it is working and not working. Don’t think that the next person you are going to meet is going to be magical. It is a process and you will know when you encounter that outliner. (John fondly mentions that Julie was number 61 for him.) 

Bring an inquisitiveness: You want to asks open-ended questions that allows you to speak fully about who you are. “Do you like music, yes or no?” vs. “What kind of music do you like?” 

Are they into you? If you say something you think is funny and it falls to the floor with a thud; it might not be a great match. If a person makes you feel attractive, but is not overly flattering; that is a great sign. It is also important if someone makes a lot of eye contact and is responsive to your responses, rather than just moving on to the next subject.

Start Packing: If your date is only talking about himself or herself and not asking you questions, then that is pretty bad. The biggest red flag is if someone gives you a litany of his or her ex’s flaws.

Know How to Make a Graceful Exit: The Gottmans suggest you be direct: “There just isn’t chemistry. No one really knows what it is about chemistry; maybe it is pheromones? Somehow I am just not feeling that spark and I wish you well.” If that fails, John suggests: “Waiter, check please.”

This Might be Going Somewhere: Conversation and time feels like it slows down. It feels like you have come home to a place that is really welcoming. There is a sense of ease, comfort and excitement with a person—like something wonderful is about to happen. When you have those feelings, you know a relationship has possibility. 

Heed the Old Adage: John’s mother used to say, “Every pot has a lid. Just make sure that the lid fits.”  


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