What are the secrets to lasting relationship success?

The secret is 6 hours a week. Happy couples consciously devote 6 hours per week to looking after their relationship. It’s like an insurance package for your happiness as a couple. This is how you look after your exciting, new romance. Or set up a support strategy for your relationship when it needs repair.

Couples split up these 6 hours in different ways, depending on their relationship and family demands, but there are some clear patterns. Let’s add up the time involved in a winning investment in your relationship.

1. Goodbye and Hello – 4 minutes x 5 work days (20 minutes)

Don’t let the morning routine become so rushed that you behave like flat mates rather than lovers. Don’t leave until you have focused your attention for 2 minutes with each other. Take time to touch, hug and kiss. Connect physically so you can sense your partner’s wellbeing and mood. Make sure you connect about your day ahead. Ask questions so that you know at least one thing that is happening in their world today. Before saying goodbye, check in with what’s on in your partner’s day.

Make your home coming worth it. Another 2 minutes to make your first priority to come close again and reunite after a day apart. Share a hug and make that kiss lasts at least 6 seconds, long enough to get some ‘pair-bonding’ chemicals, Oxytocin and Dopamine, firing in your brain. Put down your bag, put aside that chore. Grab the baby, hoist up the toddler, whatever. Let each other know, whatever has happened in your day, you are there for each other.

2. Debrief your Day – 20 minutes x 5 work days (1 hour, 40 minutes)

Find time every night to listen to each other’s experiences, stresses, or triumphs of the day. Turn off the TV and put down your phone. This is listening and empathy time. You’re creating a calm space to learn and understand your partner’s stresses and the problems of the day. Encourage the conversation, even if it’s about the pressures of home-life, or office politics. Note: it is NOT the time to give advice, which is the No1 mistake made here! Listen to learn and care.

3. The 3A’s: Appreciation, Admiration and Affection – 30 minutes every day = 210 minutes

Say it out loud! Let your words be like music to your partner’s ears. “Thank you babe” “You’re so beautiful” “You’re so thoughtful” “I admire your …” “You’re so good at…” (you fill in the blanks).

Happy couples look out for opportunities to share their appreciation for the small, everyday things. Lunch made, socks picked up off the floor, kids in bed on time, help with a chore. The chances of you finding the positive are everywhere. Imagine finding ways to bring forgiveness and tenderness into each day.

We all need encouragement to feel good about ourselves. Your words of admiration are simple moments when you build trust and connect your hearts. Your goal is to make your partner feel valued and important, to build their confidence, to show them they are the most important person for you.

Remember to find numerous, daily opportunities to express affection in non-sexual ways. A touch on the cheek, special smile, a wink for no reason. Sitting close, holding hands, a long, slow caress across the shoulders. Cuddle before falling asleep.

Here is an example: “Thanks for helping out with the kid’s home work last night and letting me go finish that project for work. You’re such a thoughtful and generous woman.” You hug her and smile.

The 3A’s are essential habits to learn. This will make, or break your relationship. Let’s face it, we can all find reasons to be irritated by someone we live with! It takes conscious effort to say out loud what you value and admire to your partner. Practice makes perfect!

4. Date Time – 2 hours once a week

Keep romance alive. Set aside each week for quality “we time”. Plan ahead, make it special. Whether it’s a lunch, or dinner date, cuddling up with a movie, a board or video game. Put the phones down and turn your attention onto each other. Perhaps even turn each other on with what you pay attention to! The kids have exhausted you? Try an early night in bed together, eating ice-cream.

Think about your conversation. Ask questions that keep the conversation curious and especially, make it fun! Yes, you may have to work on it sometimes, but laughter will strengthen your connection. Think of questions to ask your partner, such as about their interests, or about their dreams. “Are you still thinking about the garden design?” or “If you had all the time in the world, where would you love to take a holiday?” or “What’s the funniest thing that’s happened this week?”

One important tip, don’t make sex an expectation. None of the “I’ve done all this, so we should ….” Make affection the expectation. Don’t forget those 3As!

5. How are We Tracking This Week? Meeting 1 hour a week

One really important insurance policy for your relationship is, to put time aside to resolve conflicts. The couples who do this regularly, especially weekly, safeguard their relationship and protect their love.

Dr John Gottman’s research revealed that spending just one hour per week discussing areas of concern within your relationship transforms difficult conflicts into manageable disagreements. You can guard against resentment and talk about fears and frustrations in a way that makes you feel heard. Loved instead of neglected.

In my counselling practice, I recommend couples learn how to make time for tracking the ups and downs in their relationship. This means learning how to listen well and reflect back what your partner is saying. Sometimes couples need relationship coaching to learn the essential skill of taking turns to be both listener and speaker, with equal time and equal respect.

It’s important to have this dedicated time to discuss what’s working well in your relationship each week. Share appreciations and things you’re grateful for that happened during the week, or even from a while back. Be as descriptive and specific as you can.

Next, discuss any issues, annoyances, or frustrations that have come up during the week. You may have even mentioned this beforehand and parked the conversation until this time so that you can discuss it properly. Be gentle and considerate, this is not a time to use blame, or tit-for-tat discussions. You really want to help your partner understand your point of view and understand theirs as well. You are not trying to recreate an argument here. You want to deepen your trust so that you can rely on this time to reduce conflict and find creative solutions to the inevitable ongoing tensions that happen in every relationship.

Dr Gottman recommends this becomes a weekly ritual in your relationship, that happens at the same time each week. It’s sacred time because it’s transformative.

Here’s how to do it: Start by talking about what has gone well in your relationship since the last meeting. Next, give each other five appreciations you haven’t yet expressed. Try to be specific and include examples. Now, discuss any issues that may have arisen in the relationship. To make the conversation effective, take turns being the speaker and the listener.

Just 6 hours!

As you can see, small things done regularly really do add up! Just a little focus on the right things to keep your attention on the positive reasons you feel in love in the first place, and the many new reasons you’ve deepened your love as you’ve learnt more about each other.

Six hours a week is not a lot to insure the love of your life remains your love for life!

For more information contact Elizabeth Williamson Solutions