It’s Time to Build a Better Relationship
Many couples want to have a better relationship but they don’t know where to start. They want to feel love and mutual trust but are unsure about how to build it. The first step begins with making time for the relationship. This may sound too simplistic, but the majority of couples I see in my practice don’t make time for one another a priority, which means they’re not expressing appreciation or working on the friendship–and that spells problems. If couples are not consistently building their friendship it’s easy to let little things develop into bigger things until soon misunderstandings arise. At that point, if not repaired, there will be a breakdown in trust. It’s a cycle that can start to reinforce the false belief that your partner just doesn’t care. And once this thought enters the mind, the gate is wide open for more negative opinions.
Research by John Gottman shows happy marriages are based on deep friendships. Couples who know each other well—likes, dislikes, hopes, and dreams—and share time together, prevent the negative cycle from taking over and harming the relationship. According to Gottman studies, with just 6 hours a week couples can build a more secure and fulfilling marriage. Here’s how those 6 hours breakdown over the course of a week:
Partings: 10 minutes per week: 2 minutes a day x 5 working days
- Make it point every day to learn one thing about what is happening in your partner’s day before saying goodbye in the morning. It could be something exciting or mundane, but be interested and ask questions. The goal is to build more understanding about what matters to your partner.
Reunions: 1 hour and 40 minutes per week: 20 minutes a day x 5 working days
- After being apart during the day, embrace your partner when you see them again and share a 6-second kiss. Gottman says this is “a kiss with possibilities.” Nonverbally, it communicates that you missed your partner and that you’re so happy to see them again. Then take at least 20 minutes, 10 minutes each, to talk about what happened in each other’s day.
Appreciation and Admiration: 35 minutes per week: 5 minutes a day x 7
- Using a journal or notes app, record something small you notice and appreciate about your partner. Spend a few minutes reflecting on the traits you like in your partner. By actively looking for the good in each other you will see more of their best self and naturally help them feel valued.
Affection: 35 minutes per week: 5 minutes a day x 7
- Touch is a powerful way to reduce stress and invite feelings of security into the relationship. Make sure to embrace each other before falling asleep, cuddle, and/or give a goodnight kiss.
Date Night: 2 hours once a week
- Whatever you plan for your date, make time to ask open-ended questions and listen to one another. “We time” is an important way to relax and connect romantically.
State of the Union Meeting: 1 hour once a week
- Making time to talk lovingly about areas of concern in the relationship will help partners feel heard. Sharing vulnerable feelings in a calm space will build understanding and prevent partners from feeling neglected.
A few hours each week can dramatically enhance the quality of a marriage. Of course, if there are deeper rifts that need repaired or struggles that can’t be worked out, couples should seek the help of a professional to assist them in reestablishing trust. And the sooner couples address serious challenges the better. But no one should overlook the simple answers either. Dr. Don Cole said, “When we know that our partner cares about us and what we are going through, it becomes easier to show that caring in return. Focus on that part of you that cares for the other and give them the chance to care for you.” Time to care may be exactly what your relationship needs to allow both of you to be more supported.