How the “6 Magic Hours” Can Transform Your Relationship

Renowned researcher and couples counselor, Dr. John Gottman, recently updated the 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, one of his best-selling books, coauthored with Nan Silver in 1999.

Lots of technical advances have been made since the book first went to print over 16 years ago. Most importantly, the explosion of social media has had a huge impact on how we live. The popularity and frequent use of digital devices has actually had a big effect on relationships. Gottman’s revised publication addresses those changes along with revealing some important new research findings.

Due to the prevalence of social media, it is becoming necessary for couples to define the terms of “tech etiquette” in their relationship. Gottman recommends that couples establish “rules” between them on what is the acceptable level of device use, if they haven’t already done so. In addition to determining technology-free time periods, he recommends that couples discuss and come to an agreement on how much time, and what situations, are appropriate to use their devices.

Gottman also points out the importance in relationships of having a clear understanding of what is okay to post on social media: what kind of content is allowed, and how much detail each partner can post that involves their partner or their relationship. Knowing each other’s personal boundaries in this area can help avoid potentially upsetting, or embarrassing, scenarios down the road.

Another interesting topic in the updated book is the result of recent research, referred to as the “six magic hours.” Gottman discovered that the biggest difference in couples whose marriage improved over time and those that didn’t, was six more hours of togetherness per week. Finding an extra six hours may seem daunting at first. However, when broken down into categories, these steps become quite manageable. Here are Gottman’s suggestions, summarized below:

1. When you say good-bye in the morning and greet each other at the end of the day, spend a minimum of six seconds hugging and kissing. Also be sure to ask, and be aware of, at least one special event expected to happen in your partner’s day. Over a five-day work week, this step should take around 20 minutes.

2. At the end of the day, schedule a stress-reducing conversation. This likely means being fully present and supporting each other as you talk about your respective day’s activities which includes following up on those “special events.” Allow at least 20 minutes each for these daily catch-up visits.

3. Take five minutes every day to show a new appreciation for something about your partner. Remember, the little things really do matter!

4. Demonstrate physical affection for your partner daily, and specifically with an embrace before sleep, which helps to end the day on an upbeat note. As with #3, do this step five minutes a day, for a total of 35 minutes per week.

5. Have a weekly date night (minimum of 2 hours) for one-on-one connection time. Ask open-ended questions, such as: “Where would you like to go on vacation?” Or “what color should we paint the bedroom?”

6. Schedule a regular “State of the Union” talk, lasting at least one hour each week, to discuss how you’re doing. What’s going right? Are there changes that should be made? Ask your partner, “What do you need from me to feel more loved this week?“

Although these steps have been proven to positively affect a couple’s relationship, don’t feel you have to implement all of them at once! Make strides in this direction, though, by starting with one or more that you feel can be most easily and comfortably incorporated in your schedule, and go from there.

Devoting six extra hours per week to “magically” transform your relationship is an investment that is sure to pay dividends. In addition, it is prudent to reach a “tech etiquette” agreement with your partner on the use of digital devices. If you run into problems in either of these areas, don’t hesitate to get professional support.

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