As we know, it can be difficult for couples to find time to spend together—with the demands of children, work, and running a household, there never seems to be enough time for each other.  Sometimes just a few hours together in the midst of a crazy week seems like an impossible feat.  Before you know it, it’s been weeks or even months since you really connected.

In his bestselling book, Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman outlines a five hour weekly plan to help couples improve and maintain the quality of their marriages.  The “Magic Five Hours” as he puts it, consist of a few minutes each day being interested and appreciative of your partner, along with date night and demonstrating affection.  While five hours may be an easy prescription for some, I know from talking to friends and clients and living my own life that it just doesn’t always work out that way.  Sometimes you need to simplify even furtherSo I’ve reduced the five hours into five daily tasks that just about anyone can fit into their lives:

  1. What are you doing today? How often do you find yourself in a fight or annoyed with your partner’s bad mood at the end of the day only to later find out that they had a negative review at work or are still sore from the dentist visit at lunch?  Discussing the highlights of your spouse’s agenda each day is one way to avoid these issues.  When you know what’s on your partner’s to-do list, you have a road map to point out the potential landmines later on.  And most important of all, it sends your spouse off into the world knowing that you are genuinely interested.  Just knowing that you care is already a great start to their day.
  2. Ask about their day and then… Just listen. At least once a day offer your partner 10 minutes of quality listening.  Gottman would say 20, but I’ve found if you commit to 10 you’ll see a big difference in your relationship.  Everyone needs an opportunity to talk about whatever is on their mind without being offered solutions or opinions about what to do next.  Your spouse may not start out with much to say, but give it a chance.   One of my favorite examples of the evening check-in is from the movie The Story of Us with Michelle Pfieffer and Bruce Willis.  Each day they would play the “high/low” game with their kids—each person shares the high and low points of their day.
  3. Say thanks. Find at least one thing every day that you appreciate or admire about your partner and tell them about it.  We all need to be reminded of how much we value each other and it rarely takes much time to say so.  Just ask yourself either each morning or at the end of the day, what did my partner do right today?  There is always something, whether they did the dishes or got the kids ready for bed—find something to appreciate and tell them about it.  Your partner will feel good and so will you.
  4. Kiss your partner. Or hug them, or hold their hand at the grocery store, or rub their back while you watch Dancing with the Stars—just make a point to be affectionate. Sex is great, but both partners can also benefit from touch outside the bedroom.  Besides, who knows where all that hand holding might lead before the day is over.
  5. Fantasize about date night. Even if there is no way for you two get out alone together, take a few minutes to really think about what you would  It can be as simple as imagining visiting your favorite pizza shop or going to see a new movie, or as elaborate as a weekend getaway in the mountains—either way share your daydreaming with your spouse and get their opinion.  This opens the door for planning a date and also gives you both a chance to talk about what you enjoy most about your time together.  Of course, at some point we must go from thinking about date night to actually doing it, but until you get there, don’t give up on the fantasy.

Making time together can be tough.  Hopefully, putting these five tasks to work will help make the time you and your partner do have together more meaningful, and also put you on a path to a better connection.

“A little consideration, a little


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