The Gottman Framework: 6 Hours to a Better Relationship
When we’re feeling overwhelmed and not sure how to go about improving our relationships, learning what distinguishes happy couples from unhappy ones is a great place to start. Kyle Benson from the Gottman Institute, reports that there was a “noticeable difference between couples whose marriages continued to improve over time compared to those whose marriages did not” and the difference was that these couples were devoting an extra six hours per week to their relationship. In Dr. John Gottman’s book, "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work", he references how these magical hours, six hours a week to be exact, can dramatically improve your relationship. Generally, their six hours were split into how they dealt with partings, reunions, appreciation/admiration, affection, date night, and a state of union meeting.
Before parting ways with your partner, making an effort to learn one thing that is happening during their day can help ensure that you continue to feel connected. Especially if you’re spending the whole day, or even a few days, apart. “The goal is to ask questions and learn about the exciting and not so exciting things about your partner’s day” (Benson). This could be anything from an important meeting, presentation, job interview, to simply just doing laundry, reading a new book, or doing absolutely nothing and relaxing for the day. No matter what it is, sharing your aspirations for the day with your partner can bring a sense of ease and understanding when you are apart.
The next time you see your partner again, whether it be at the end of the day or in a few days, sharing a hug or a kiss that lasts at least six seconds has proven to reduce cortisol (the “stress” hormone) and boost oxytocin (the “love” hormone), while also creating appreciation and admiration for each other. Though it may seem dramatic, you never know when you might see your partner again, so taking the time for gratitude when you do get to hug and kiss them, while creating a ritual for connection, is definitely worth implementing.
Perhaps after the six-second kiss, taking the time to debrief about your day can provide space “for empathy and non-sexual intimacy, as well as encourages you to understand the stresses and problems outside of your relationship that you’re both facing” (Benson).
Appreciation and Admiration
No one likes being taken for granted, and within our busy lives we may often forget to show appreciation towards our partner. Therefore, it’s important to find ways to genuinely communicate affection and appreciation as it not only makes your partner feel valued, but it also primes your mind to focus on the positive traits of your partner, instead of focusing on the negative.
Whether you’re a touchy person or not, expressing physical affection when you’re together allows you to feel more connected to each other. It can be as simple as an arm around the shoulder or a hand on the thigh. Additionally, cuddling before falling asleep or sharing a goodnight kiss can serve as a way to release all the tension and stress that may have accumulated throughout the day.
I think it goes without saying that intentionally setting aside time to spend with your partner in a relaxing and romantic way helps to stay connected to one another. Trying new things together during your date, asking open-ended questions and giving your attention to your partner can all help deepen your connection.
State of Union Meeting
“Dr. Gottman’s research revealed that spending just one hour per week discussing areas of concern within the relationship has shown to transform the way partners manage conflict” (Benson). Having the space and practice to regularly communicate feelings within the relationship increases understanding and helps couples feel heard and appreciated. Checking in with one another on a weekly basis prevents unwanted feelings or issues from being neglected. For more information check out our other blog post on how to start a State of Union Meeting.
Similar to putting hours in the gym for physical health, or hours spent journaling for mental health, these intentional six hours can help sustain your relationship and deepen connection.
Blog post written by Yasmine Ross, Certified Relationship Coach and Content Writer at An Elegant Mind Counselling in Vancouver