Your Marriage needs Five Hours of Magic

This week is the the conclusion of my series on “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work“. We’ve covered each of the seven principles, and this weeks chapter offers a great idea for keeping the seven principles at work in your marriage.

While researching couples, Gottman’s team also researched how and why couples stayed together – and what traits helped marriages continue to thrive, after being observed by his team.

Gottman suggests that after applying the seven principles, the maintenance should only take about five hours of your week. That might seem like a lot, but in the big scheme of things – it’s not.

The Five Hours of Magic your Marriage Needs

Parting – Before you leave each others presence you should “Learn about something important that is going on in your spouses life that day”. It could be a meeting or a doctor visit. This should take no more than 2 minutes of your day. (2 min. x 5 days= 10 minutes)

Reunion – When you reconnect after the work day is over, spend time in a “stress reducing conversation for 20 minutes. (20 min. x 5 days = 1 hour 40 minutes)

Admiration and Appreciation – Everyday communicate some sort of admiration and appreciation for your spouse. (5 min. x 7 days = 35 minutes a week)

Affection – Show some sort of physical affection toward your spouse when you are together. (not sexual in nature, necessarily). An example he gives is a kiss before bed. (5 min x 7 days = 35 minutes)

Weekly Date –  Gottman suggests a two hour date every week to “update your love maps and turn toward each other” (principle 1 and principle 3).  (2 hours 1x a week)

These five things, done consistently every week, only take five hours of time. And it is a great investment in your relationship.

The Marital Poop Detector

Have high expectations of your marriage. Gottman suggests that there are those counselors and others who preach that if you have low expectations of your relationships, things can just slide by. Yet, it seems that the research doesn’t work that way. Another doctor who Gottman spoke of, Donald Baucom, Ph.D, studied this out and found

..that people with the highest expectations for their marriage usually wind up with the highest quality marriages. This suggests that by holding your relationship to high standards, you are far more likely to achieve the kind of marriage you want than you are by looking the other way and letting things slide.

But how do you do that? You actually talk about issues before they become big. Someone has to be the “Marital poop detector”. (A Great name!) When something doesn’t “smell right”, you need to chat about it, remembering the seven principles, and work through it.

Thanksgiving and Praise

To end the book, Gottman returned once again to criticism and complaints. Criticism is a marriage time bomb. If you find yourself or your spouse being overly critical, there can be one of two things going on.

  1. An emotionally unresponsive partner. This isn’t good for both parties. The critical one must learn to be more specific with complaints and not nag, while the unresponsive partner needs to step up and turn towards your spouse who is being critical.
  2. Criticism that comes from within. If you feel like you are ‘less than’ as a person, its easy to turn toward criticizing your spouse. Gottman puts it like this:

If you consider yourself inadequate, you are always on the lookout for what is not there in yourself and your partner. And, lets face it: Anyone you marry will be lacking in certain desirable qualities. The problem is that we tend to focus on what’s missing in our mate and overlook the fine qualities that are there — we take those for granted.

His solution is thanksgiving and praise. Look for the good in yourself and your spouse. Forgive yourself for not getting everything right, and forgive your spouse too. Also, look for things to be thankful for in your life, and in your spouse. Praise those good things you see in them and accept them for what they are – blessings in your life.

The more you can imbue your relationship with the spirit of thanksgiving and the graceful presence of praise, the more meaningful and fulfilling your lives together will be.