How to improve your relationship in three minutes a day!

A bold claim you might say. Well it is and it isn’t. If we remember that relationships are fundamentally about connection, then taking the time to bond is the key idea of how to maintain a healthy relationship. All of us will have memories of times when we have not started well in our interaction. If we engage in a harsh start-up to an interaction, then tension and distancing is likely to increase. Primacy indicates that the first few minutes of any interaction sets the tone not just for that time, but for the next two to three hours.

 

Some years ago in a stopping violence programme we developed with a group of men a simple behavioural strategy to soften the re-entry into the relationship which had been stressed through abusive behaviour. We developed the Three Minute Rule as one of their responses to the challenge to be supportive and behave respectfully in their families. The men were asked to make a special effort for the first 3 minutes each time they came together with their partners and children whether it was in the morning, lunch, evening or whenever. They made it a time to listen, support and be available. At first they found it hard to put their own stuff aside, but by finding other ways and times to air and consider their tension, they were able to ensure they were a “quality person” offering “quality time” to their household and relationship which was often already coping with a considerable level of stress, excitement, tiredness or hunger. After the initial scepticism and surprise of other family members subsided, the men all reported a big change in how they felt about coming home. And, a positive change in how they were regarded by others.

Since that time we have also been teaching men about the magic five hours that can improve a relationship considerably (Gottman & Silver, 1999). We encourage you to try an experiment for two weeks and see where this takes you in your relationship. 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 holiday?” or “How are you feeling about your boss these days?”).
Time: 2 hours once a week
Total: 2 hours

Grand Total: Five hours!

Source: Gottman, J. and Silver, N. (1999) The seven principles for making marriage work, Weidenfield & Nicholson: London.

Published on Thursday, September 2nd, 2010, under Learning & development

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