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How Much Time Do You Really Need to Dedicate to Your Relationship?

Research on the "magic" number of hours it takes to connect.

Just Life/Shutterstock
Source: Just Life/Shutterstock

How much time do we need to spend investing in our relationship? Psychologists may have found a way to quantify this amount of time. In Julie and John Gottman's research, they found that a minimum of six hours—or “the magic six hours a week”—helps foster and maintain connection in our relationships.

I wonder: Does that sound like a lot of time to you? Or does it sound like barely any? As a couples therapist, I get both reactions pretty equally. Luckily, we don’t have to do six hours straight—and luckily, six hours is just a minimum.

The Gottmans break the six hours down into several daily and several weekly interactions. Two important daily ones are partings and reunions. These are great rituals of connection to develop in your relationship as well.

Partings—when we say goodbye in the morning or before work—should take at least two minutes per day. Just a quick send-off and check-in about what your partner has in store that day. Reunions—when we come back together at the end of the day—should take about 20 minutes per working day. A hug and a six-second kiss as well as a stress-reducing conversation about your workdays should be included.

Another daily interaction should be admiration and appreciation. The Gottmans recommend about five minutes per day every single day. In this time, we should make intentional verbalizations of things we appreciate about our partner. Try to give an example and not just the adjective. Say “I really appreciate you making dinner tonight; your cooking is always delicious” instead of “Thanks for cooking.”

The last daily interaction is physical affection. Again, the Gottmans only recommend about five minutes per day here. This can be all at once or small moments throughout the day. That hug and kiss at reunions, holding hands on the couch, and cuddling at bedtime. Physical affection is important for building connection and love between us and our partners.

Weekly dates are an important investment to make. It should be about two hours once a week, just the two of you. You don’t have to go out or do anything fancy but it needs to be time you can relax, talk, and enjoy some romance. Some good ideas are taking a walk together, having a drink on the porch, going out to dinner, a game night, or trying something new together. A lot of parents skip their weekly date nights because of busy schedules but doing something at home once the kids are in bed is a great way to connect and very important.

Another important connection to have is an hour-long weekly “State of the Union Meeting” or relationship check-in. This is time to talk about your relationship, what has been going well, give each other appreciation, talk through a conflict you’ve had, and ask what you can do to make your partner feel loved next week. I like to say this is like a modified couples therapy session. If you’ve been to therapy, use the skills and interventions you’ve learned in session and practice them on your own.

This all totals up to about six intentional hours each week. The other time we spend together like eating dinner, time as a family, relaxing on the couch, and sleeping together is important, too. Investing in our relationship is the extra stuff where we focus only on each other and really engage in quality time. Research has shown that couples who spend this time together weekly rate having more connection and satisfaction in the relationship. For a six-hour investment, it certainly seems worth it.

Facebook image: Just Life/Shutterstock

More from Kari Rusnak, MA, LPC,CMHC
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