The Magic Five Hours

I have wondered what distinguishes the couples whose marriages continue to improve from those whose marriages did not after engaging in Gottman’s couples therapy. Why had this successful group of people dramatically overhauled their lives? It turns out that they were actually only devoting an extra five hours a week to their marriage. Although each couple had their own style of spending these extra five hours, some clear patterns emerged. In general, what these couples were doing was giving their marriage a concentrated refresher course in the Seven Principles. The approach works so phenomenally well that Gottman came to call it the Magic Five Hours.

Here’s how you can do it, too:

Partings. Make sure that before you say good-bye in the morning you’ve learned about one thing that is happening in your spouse’s life that day–from lunch with the boss to a doctor’s appointment to a scheduled phone call with an old friend.

Time: 2 minutes a day x 5 working days

Total: 10 minutes

Reunions. Be sure to engage in a stress-reducing conversation at the end of each workday.

Time: 20 minutes a day x 5 days

Total: 1 hour 40 minutes

Admiration and appreciation. Find some way every day to communicate genuine affection and appreciation toward your spouse.

Time: 5 minutes a day x 7 days

Total: 35 minutes

Affection. Kiss, hold, grab, and touch each other during the time you’re together. Make sure to kiss each other before going to sleep. Think of that kiss as a way to let go of any minor irritations that have built up over the day In other words, lace your kiss with forgiveness and tenderness for your partner.

Time: 5 minutes a day x 7 days

Total: 35 minutes

Weekly date. This can be a relaxing, low-pressure way to stay connected. Ask each other questions that let you update your love maps and turn toward each other. (Of course, you can also use these dates to talk out a marital issue or work through an argument you had that week, if necessary.) Think of questions to ask your spouse (like “Are you still thinking about redecorating the bedroom?” “Where should we take our next vacation?” or “How are you feeling about your boss these days?”).

Time: 2 hours once a week

Total: 2 hours

Grand Total: Five hours!

As you can see, the amount of time involved in incorporating these changes into your relationship is quite minimal. Yet these five hours will help enormously in keeping your marriage on track. Remember, working briefly on your marriage every day will do more for your health and longevity than working out at a health club.