The Magic Five Hours for a Successful Marriage

The Magic Five Hours for a Successful Marriage

the magic 5 hours for a successful marriage

One of my five big-picture goals for 2014 is to cultivate a thriving marriage. As I reflect on how to do that this year, I keep coming back to Gottman’s magic five hours–which makes this post from September 2011 feel incredibly timely. Thanks for reading! 

What separates successful marriages from failing ones?  Surprisingly, the answer is five hours a week.

Marriage researcher John Gottman found that couples in positive relationships invest an extra five hours each week in their marriages, in very specific ways.  Says Gottman, “The approach works so phenomenally well that I’ve come to call it the Magic Five Hours.”

Here’s how to work the magic 5 hours into your own relationship:

1.  Partings: Give warm farewells.  Gottman estimates this takes a mere 2 minutes, for 5 workdays per week:  a total of 10 minutes per week.

2.  Greetings: Have a debriefing conversation together at the end of each workday.  Gottman allows for a 20 minute chat, for 5 workdays:  a total of 1 hour 40 minutes per week.

3.  Admiration and appreciation: Find a way to compliment your spouse every day and to show them you appreciate them–a 5 minute task, 7 days a week:  a total of 35 minutes.

4.  Affection: Show physical affection for your spouse.  Hug, pat, kiss, touch.  Gottman specifically advises goodnight kisses!  5 minutes a day, 7 days a week:  a total of 35 minutes.

5.  Weekly date: This is the big one, time-wise.  Gottman allows for 2 hours, once per week, to connect, chat, dream, plan, and enjoy each other’s company.

Take a look at the time you spend on your own relationship.  Do you make time for these little–but significant–things in your own life?

This content is adapted from John Gottman’s excellent book The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.

What‘s a little–but significant–thing you would recommend to others for investing in their own relationships?

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Do you ever feel like everyone you know recommends you read the same book, all at once? For me right now, that book is The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan. It’s already on my nightstand, but you can pick up the ebook for $2.99 right now over at Amazon.

Also on my nightstand: Code Name Verity, Wonder, Renovation of the Heart, and Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.

This post contains my affiliate links. Thanks for supporting MMD!

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  1. This sounds like wisdom for sure. 🙂 I want to be more intentional to speak words of gratitude to and about my husband this year.
    I was just realizing the other day how I can go on and on about being grateful for the homes we have (I’m writing an eBook about it, I guess that’s where I’m going on and on :)) and not fixate on what we don’t have, compare our homes to others’, etc. But the same principles apply for a happy marriage.

  2. Ana says:

    These are great, I have that goal for 2014, too, and a lot of these are part of it. I think its important to remember that a “date” doesn’t necessarily require a babysitter or spending $. You can have your date sitting at your kitchen table with a glass of wine or mug of tea after the kids are asleep. All that’s required is that you are together and focused on each others’ company (i.e. watching TV together, at least to me, does NOT count as a date). The common narrative out there seems to be that “date night” requires getting a sitter and going out, and when logistics and finances make that impossible, we feel that we are “failing”. I do love dressing up and going out as much as the next person, but doing that every week doesn’t work with our financial or parenting styles!

  3. Leanne says:

    I like the list a lot, but I kind of think the little time blocks are funny… does it really take 5 minutes to give a compliment? It’s like he played with the numbers to get that exact 5 hours, but the time itself shouldn’t be the point. To have a great marriage, it takes effort, thought, and of course love, which can translate to a lot of time or a little, depending on the day.

  4. Kim says:

    Great suggestions, Anne!
    To answer your question: Ask him what it is you do that shows him you love him. The answer may surprise you!
    I believe his answer is related to his love language, so learning that is key to doing things that really hit home for him as well.

  5. I love these suggestions. The date one will have to wait for us, though, because while I love having a large family, it’s not really conducive to date nights. We only get out alone once or twice a year when our church does free babysitting. One thing I can add to the list is to let your spouse pour their heart out to you about something they’re passionate about but you’re not interested in. My husband goes on and on about skateboarding and hunting, and, while I have no clue what he’s talking about, I love to see him get so excited about something.

  6. Kim says:

    We do everything above, except for the weekly date. We do spend every Sunday together. Church, lunch and the remainder of the day it is our time.

    I would also recommend listening when your spouse is speaking. I mean really listening. Not listening AND doing the dishes, picking up the kitchen, flipping through the mail, etc. Just listen.

    It isn’t always possible, especially if you have small children at home. But I have seen a difference in each of us when we know the other person is truly paying attention to what we are saying.

    • Tina B says:

      Kim, This is so true, not only in the relationship with your spouse or significant other, but in all of our relationships. Knowing that someone is truly listening makes such a difference!

  7. Tina B says:

    These thoughts and comments are all so good and so helpful. I’m not married, but in a relationship that may be leading that way. I want to strengthen our relationship and the things you’ve shared are all so helpful. Thank you!

  8. Kim says:

    Love this and pinning to read again with my husband later. Thanks! Also, my boss and I were just talking about good books for social media. I’m bookmarking Jab Jab for later.

  9. Katie says:

    My fiance and I have ups and downs. We are supposed to be getting married in April. We are already “practically” married. I brought 3 kids (now teens) to the table and we together have 2 lil ones. I have been reading through all of the comments on this page… they are awesome. When I look on our life, I generally attempt all of this…all of it. However, my fiance is quite the selfish type. His friends are more a priority. When I try to talk, he walks away, throwing a comment out, and quickly heads outside to “help” them. I get pushed to the back burner more than not. I am not a needy person, and I don’t give him a hard time about it. However after a few weeks, I start asking for some time together… and still get pushed off. Then I get upset, then we fight, then he fights dirty, then I shut down, then he “tries” harder (yet doesn’t apologize), and things get back to normal. I know he loves me with all he has…but how to I get him to see that I need to know that I am wanted? He seems to think just saying “I love you” once a day is all I should require. I have asked nicely, I have tried to get him to realize where I am coming from… any suggestions?

  10. Chanda Crowder says:

    Let your spouse “catch” you praising them to others. Never speak negatively about them to others. Live in an attitude and an atmosphere of grace. This reminds our spouses of how much they are loved.

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