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Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, founders of the Gottman Institute in Seattle. (Photo courtesy of the Gottman Institute)

Mystery, the year-old startup that facilitates surprise dates for couples, and the Gottman Institute, the decades-old, research-based love and therapy organization, are forging a partnership to help couples reignite relationships.

They are teaming on an “Eight Dates” series inside Mystery’s app, essentially creating a way for couples to spark more meaningful conversations as they participate in mystery dates at Seattle area restaurants, bars and other locations.

The partnership plays off a book of the same name released last year by Drs. John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman, which is centered around eight separate conversations that they believe are necessary to have in order to sustain a healthy relationship.

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The pairing melds a bit of technology with traditional therapy. The Gottman Institute brings a “data science approach to relationships,” while Mystery does the same for dates, said Mystery co-founder Shane Kovalsky, who started the company with Vince Coppola after previously working together at Seattle trucking startup Convoy.

The eight Gottman-series Mystery dates each have different themes, whether it’s around where couples end up eating or what activity they take part in. Kovalsky likes to imagine, for instance, that the “Agree to disagree” date could take place at a fencing class where the setting is a little more combative but is mixed with conversation as it goes.

Other dates in the series include “Lean on me,” to encourage talk of trust and commitment; “Let’s get it on,” for conversations about sex and passion; and “Cost of love,” a date that prompts discussions of work, money and financial values.

Mystery takes all of the legwork out of planning a date and surprises couples with activities and dinner locations. (Mystery screen grabs)

Mystery launched its app last September and raised $1.2 million in funding from the likes of Founders’ Co-op, Liquid 2 Ventures, Frontier Venture Capital and others. The startup, which is looking to expand beyond Seattle this year, plans and executes hundreds of mysteries per month. 

The company’s core product has been its multi-destination outing involving an activity, dinner, after-dinner drinks or dessert, and transportation. Prices range from $50 to $100 per person on up to $200 or more per person. The price takes everything into account depending on how many stops in an evening, and includes a $20 planning fee, ride-share estimates, dining and drink estimates, and activity costs.

Responding to customer feedback, Mystery is now offering one-stop options to give couples the chance to get out more frequently without having to plan. A one-stop meal or one-stop activity is an easy way to explore Seattle in a new way, Kovalsky said. These new options do not include the planning fee and pricing revolves around what a couple thinks it wants to spend on dinner or an activity, plus getting there.

And the notion of getting out on a date with your significant other, perhaps as much as once a week, plays right into what is advised by the Gottmans.

“‘Eight Dates’ is like having two of the world’s leading relationship scientists at your table coaching you on how to address the topics that make or break relationships,” a description for the book says on the Gottman website.

Mystery has been piloting the first of those dates — called “Play with me” — in its app and the company is intentional about activities that align with the title and dinner locations that are conducive to conversation. The Gottman Institute has also helped come up with topics and questions for couples that are fed to them through the app.

The “Eight Dates” blurb on the Mystery app, left, and the book written by the Gottmans. (Mystery, Gottman Images)

John Gottman opened the so-called Love Lab in 1986 at the University of Washington, considered at the time to be the world’s original couples laboratory. More than 30 years later, in teaming with a startup in Seattle for the first time, the Gottman Institute was attracted to the synergy between what it does and what Mystery has built.

“Our mission hasn’t changed since we were founded in 1996. Our mission is really to help people have better relationships. And those foundational principles also haven’t changed,” said Michael Fulwiler, chief marketing officer at Gottman. “The world has changed and technology has changed, but people still need the same things in relationships.”

Couples needing to talk through stuff are no different than Mystery customers who don’t have the time, energy or desire to plan a night out. And both the Gottman Institute and Mystery focus on rekindling the fun in relationships, since research indicates that 75 percent of couples who enter therapy report that they no longer have fun together.

“The cool thing about Mystery is that they are delivering these novel experiences and there’s research that shows that novel activities actually correlate with relationship happiness,” said Fulwiler. “Couples that try new things together that are exciting and new, it benefits their relationship.”

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