Stay Happily Married by Following the “Magic Six Hours” Formula

By Jamie C. Williamson, PhD

Stay Happily Married - Six Magic HoursSix hours a week is all it takes to stay happily married.  If you follow this Magic Six-Hour formula, you can keep your marriage running smoothly and prevent a gradual growing apart or a dreaded relationship breakdown.

Relationship expert John Gottman and his colleagues have determined that for relationships to continue to grow, couples need to routinely invest time nourishing their bond. Gottman says “It’s all about priorities.”   And I agree.

Investing time in your marriage every day is the preventative maintenance couples need to stay on a positive trajectory.

Happy couples – and those determined to get happy and stay that way – understand this basic principle.  But when it comes to prioritizing their competing obligations and interests, they still sometimes struggle to find ways to put “couple time” first on the list.

Even for many couples who expressively want to stay happily married, there just doesn’t seem to be an additional six hours in the week.  For others, their normal routines are so habitual, that they have trouble seeing how they could change.

Finding those six hours a week does require developing some new routines.  But it isn’t as hard as it seems.   The ideas below constitute what Gottman calls the Magic Six Hours.

I’ll bet you could incorporate all of these ideas into your schedule.  It’s worth a try.

The Magic Six Hours

  1. Parting: Develop a ritual to make saying goodbye extra special, even if you’re just running errands or going to work at your home office. Always include a kiss and be sure to spend at least two minutes a day, 5 days a week, for a total of 10 minutes.
  2. Reunion: Have a stress-reducing conversation at the end of each workday.  In this conversation be sure to block out distractions so you can fully listen to and be understood by one another. This is the time to discuss what’s on your minds from outside your relationship and support each other emotionally.  Spend 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for a total of 1 hour and 40 minutes.
  3. Admiration & Appreciation: Find a reason to communicate sincere appreciation for your partner.  Say “I love you” like you mean it. Invest at least 5 minutes a day, 7 days per week, for a total of 35 minutes.
  4. Affection: Show physical affection throughout the day. Touch, hold, and kiss your partner (other than in bed).  Use your goodnight kiss (even if it is a short one) as the moment to let go of frustrations and show tenderness to each other. 5 minutes a day, 7 days a week, for a total of 35 minutes.
  5. Date Night: Schedule a weekly date night, either at home or out at a restaurant.  This is a purposeful time for the two of you to stay connected. Plan a romantic, relaxing evening together that lasts at least 2 hours, once per week. These are 2 of your 6 magic hours.
  6. State of the Union Meeting: Meet one hour a week to talk about your relationship.  Don’t let anything interfere with this time and focus only on what happened this week.  First, review what went well and what you appreciated about each other this week.  Then gently discuss any problems you experienced.  If there was a regrettable incident process it, recognizing that you both have valid perspectives that should be mutually understood. End by asking “What can I do to make you feel loved this coming week?”    This works best if it is a standing meeting on the same day each week.  Friday nights, Saturday mornings, Sunday nights…whatever works for you.  But make it a sacred ritual.  Invest 1 hour, once per week. 

The couples I work with who incorporate these six ideas into their relationship routines, maintain a positive momentum and stay on the happily married track.  So, if you have noticed a little drifting apart, use the handout at Gottman’s Magic Six Hours link, and talk to your partner about how to start incorporating these new routines into your daily life.

If you are experiencing a bigger chasm separating you and your partner, start with a State of the Union meeting, discuss how adding these magic moments back into your routine could improve your relationship, and “work it out”.   Let me know if I can help.

You’ll find me at Amity Mediation Workshop where we facilitate divorce, family, and civil mediation. We also use the Gottman Relationship Checkup as we conduct transformative, psycho-educational Marriage Refresher Courses for groups or individual couples who want to stay happily married, restore the joy in their relationship, and are willing to learn something new to make it happen. We call the class “Let’s Stay Together!”  Give it a try!