Dr. John B. Rowe
Guest Clergy

 

Time, for most of us, is a precious commodity. While couples tend to make time for each other with relative ease during the romantic phase of a relationship, time for love often becomes more elusive once a solid commitment is made. It might be work, kids, sports or hobbies, or even church – any of these can cut into the time it takes to nurture a lasting love.

John Gottman, in his book, "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work," reports that when couples work to improve their relationships, it actually takes only an additional five hours per week to achieve this goal. Here’s what his research found.

 

Partings. Take the time in the morning to find out one thing going on in your partner’s life during the day. It might be a meeting with his or her boss, a call expected from an old friend or a doctor’s appointment.

2 minutes a day x 5 days = 10 minutes.

 

Reunions. Take time at the end of your day to engage in “stress-reducing” conversations. In other words, give each other a chance to debrief about their day. What went well? What went not so well? What were the frustrations? And listen with interest, acceptance, and without offering advice.

20 minutes a day x 5 days = 1 hour and 40 minutes.

 

Admiration and appreciation. Find some way to express to your partner how much you appreciate them, and communicate your genuine affection. This might be as simple as a few gentle, heart-felt words. Or it could be note left secretly in his or her briefcase.

5 minutes a day x 7 days = 35 minutes.

 

Affection. Kiss, hold and touch each other during the time you have together. These forms of affection don’t necessarily have to lead to intense love-making. They are like brief “love notes” to each other. Also, kiss each other good night in a way that releases whatever minor irritations that may have built up during the day, in a way that blends tenderness and forgiveness for your partner.

5 minutes a day x 7 days = 35 minutes.

 

A weekly date: Spend some quality time with each other. This should be a relaxing, low-key way to connect with each other over a meal, at your favorite coffee shop, or on a hike at a nearby park. See this as an opportunity to enhance your awareness of what is on your partner’s mind: How is he feeling about those new job responsibilities? What are her ideas about an upcoming vacation? Where would each like to live if he or she could choose anywhere in the country?

Time: 2 hours once a week.

Grand total: Five hours!

 

So, working on your relationship or marriage is key, and even brief interactions that say “I love and cherish you” are things that all of us can do when we put our minds and hearts into it.

 

John Rowe is the director of The Counseling Center at DUMC. He is an ordained minister, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a licensed professional counselor.