What would you do if I told you that in only 6 hours you can take your relationship to the next level?
For some of you, 6 hours might seem like A LOT of time to put into an already packed schedule. I know that considering adding another 6 hours of obligation into my own schedule would feel overwhelming.
However, these 6 hours are brokem up into such tiny parts that it is realistic for your relationship (and mine too)!
The Gottman Institute has found that committing to use 6 hours a week to invest into your relationship will significantly improve it. When “master” couples were researched they were found to do the things listed below to keep their marriage in check.
[See related:On Connection]
I’d like to offer these 6 hours as a challenge to you! To make this a success, introduce only one of the tasks at a time until you eventually build up to doing the 6 full hours consistently. Please let me know how it goes in the comments or by email at Earnshawmft@gmail.com. For more information on the 6 hours challenge you can also visit my instagram @phillycouplestherapist.
The Magic 6 Hours
Using a moment to connect with each other before separating for the day will help keep your relationship on the right track. Did you know there is research that shows that men who are hugged in the morning report lower levels of stress during the workday? Kissing is also known to reduce stress due to the release of oxytocin, a happy chemical! And, better yet, the hormone Oxytocin is related to social bonding. Therefore, finding ways to have it released will help you better bond and connect with you partner.
Before you leave each day find out what is going on with your partner’s day. Ask something simple like “What is on your agenda today?” and then follow up with a 6 second kiss. Yes, 6 seconds or more! We know that a longer kiss is a better kiss when it comes to connecting.
2 minutes a day x 5 work days = 10 minutes total
“There is no place like home” should be the motto of your relationship.
Having end of day rituals that make everyone WANT to come home is a necessity for building a fulfilling relationship.
Having the 6 second kiss will help start the night off right. Once you are settled in, try to take 20 minutes to recap an vent about your day. This gives you both an opportunity to destress and also to take a role of “stress reducer” in each other’s lives.
In order to be successful at reducing your partners stress try to remember these words:
“DO NOT PROBLEM SOLVE”.
Problem solving increases frustration and stress. If you’re partner needs help they will ask. Or, you can offer at the end of conversation by saying “Can I give some suggestions?”. If they say yes, go for it. If they say no, then respect their wishes.
Other important components of a “stress reducing conversation” are empathy, eye contact, validation, listening, and curiosity.
20 minute a day x 5 work days = 1 hour and 40 minutes
Admiration and Appreciation
Finding the time to express genuine fondness and gratitude as often as possible is important! This does 2 things for your relationship- it creates a positive sentiment towards each other which reinforces you to think of positive aspects of the relationship. It also makes your partner feel good about themselves and their contributions and helps them to see that their good deeds do not go unnoticed. People thrive off of positive reinforcement and are more likely to continue the things you vocally appreciate.
Some ideas for showing appreciation are:
Leave sticky notes around the house
Keep a weekly appreciation journal that you share with each other
Send texts saying “thank you” during the day
Your appreciation will be most successful if it is descriptive, for example:
“When you took out the trash this morning it totally made my day! I had more time to hang in the kitchen with the baby. Thank you!”
5 minutes a day x 7 days a week = 35 minutes
Physical affection in a relationship creates feelings of closeness and safety. It also helps to reduce physical and emotional stress. Take time each day hand holding, kissing, touching the small of each other’s back, etc. These things make your relationship THRIVE. And, the best part? There is a science behind how important affection is to human beings.
As mentioned above, hugs at the beginning of the work day actually REDUCE stress.
To make affection a habit, try cuddling at the end of each day before bed. Cuddling releases the chemical oxytocin which reduces blood pressure and can help you bond with your partner.
5 minutes x 7 days a week = 35 minutes
How do you “date” your partner? Continuing to date your partner throughout your relationship keeps things special. You don’t want to feel like your roommates, do you? Finding 2 hours a week to have a date night might seem challenging, but there are creative ways to make it work. You just HAVE to do it. It gives you an opportunity to express affection, gratitude, and get to know about each other’s lives in curious and interested ways. It also gives an opportunity to tap into the romantic sides of each other.
Dates do not always have to be big events outside of the home (although those are special in their own way!).
Game nights, wine nights, special dinners, and sitting outside on the porch are just as valuable as going to comedy shows, bars, restaurants, and plays.
To make your date effective, put your cell phones down and really talk to each other. Ask open ended questions that lead to interesting and deeper conversation. Interested in my list of date night questions? Click here to join our mailing list and I will send them over to you! Stay away from stressful conversations where there are problems to be solved (that is where The State of The Union) comes into play.
2 hours a week
State of the Union
Pick 1 hour each week to commit to having a conversation with your partner about the state of your relationship. This conversation is reserved for “taking the temperature” of the relationship. Check in with each other about what is going well and what has been challenging. Spend time listening to each other. For solvable issues find some compromises, for bigger and more perpetual issues schedule a time to come back and try to build understanding. Most couples choose Sunday to have this conversation, but choose what works best for your schedule.
1 hour a week
And, there you have it. The 6 hours that will improve your relationship broken down into smaller, realistic chunks. Keep me updated on how you do with implementing these into your relationship.
If you struggle to implement them it might indicate there is too much stress on the relationship. Feel free to reach out to me for resources or to schedule an appointment. I would love to hear from you!
Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT is a Marriage Therapist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth works with individuals and couples to help them overcome challenging relationship issues. Elizabeth also specializes in grief, trauma, and anxiety.