Is Your Relationship Suffering From Lack of Time

Peg Walsh APRN Depression, Therapy Blog

Is your relationship suffering from a lack of attention? A lack of time?

How about using the time you have differently?

Many people take their relationships for granted. Most couples are so busy with work and family responsibilities that they don’t feel they have any more time for their relationship. When they come together at the end of the day, they are exhausted. The commitment to do a weekly or even monthly date falls by the wayside. Many families are overly child focused and the parents turn away from each other towards their children, unintentionally weakening the parental bond that actually holds the family together. Children need their parents to nurture the marital bond so they live in a family that is secure. Outside stressors are a major force causing relationships to deteriorate.

What can a couple do, given this dilemmas? The answer MAKE THE SMALL THINGS COUNT. Pay attention to how you use the minutes.

The following recommendations are from the Gottman Institute and appear in his book, 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work. He calls them The Magic Five and one half Hours a week. This is part of his belief that small things, done often make a huge contribution to building and keep a relationship vibrant.

  1. Partings: Know what your partner is going to do today before you leave each other + Kiss for a minimum of 6 seconds. This takes about 2 minutes and if you do it 5 times a week (10 minutes)
  2. Reunions: Use the 6 second kiss and then ask about your partner’s day. Don’t give advice, just listen with heart. Try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Show up as a fan of your partner. Each person takes 10 minutes.(More guidelines can be found in the 7 Principles for the “Stress Reducing Conversation”) 10 minutes each person = 20 minutes x 5 days = 1 hour and 40 minutes
  3. Admiration and Appreciation: find a way to acknowledge your partner for something – who they are, how they look or what they have done. “ I love how happy you are in the morning”. “ I love it when you bring me my coffee exactly the way I like it”. “This meal is terrific – I love your cooking.” “Thank you for always taking the garbage out.” “I love that tie and shirt together, you look dynamite”. I appreciate the fact that you were kind to me when I over drafted the checking account.”
    You can also use the app Give Appreciation for additional ideas of how to acknowledge your partner. You can text one another during the day so your partner knows you are thinking of them with love and admiration. 5 minutes x 7 days = 35 minutes.
  4. Affection: touch whenever you can. Hug unexpectedly, be playful. Add a 6 second kiss before you go to sleep. Stroke your partner’s face and look in their eyes. See them, feel them, appreciate that they are there. Tomorrow is promised to no one. (5 minutes x 7 days = 35 minutes.)
  5. Love Maps: Have a 2 hour date once a week. During this time build your friendship by asking questions of your partner so your understanding and knowledge of them keeps pace with how they are changing. People change over time and tracking these changes is important for staying in touch with who your partner truly is. This is very important time to turn towardseach other. A great list of questions can be found on the Gottman App Open Qs. 2 hours
  6. Aftermath of a fight: Gottman recommends that a couple take small regrettable incidents or fights every week and talk about what they were feeling, triggers, what each person’s reality was, validate each other, take responsibility. They can talk about what each could have done differently so that the conflict was avoided or mitigated. This way they practice the major skills of conflict resolution often about small things so when they have a major conflict they have set up ways of communicating that are productive and keep the relationship from getting derailed. Productive conflict, where both people accept influence from each other, is a necessary skill in long term relationships. This exercise is in the 7 Principles. (30 minutes once a week)