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Five Magic Hours

By Pastor Tom Anderson

Whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” (Proverbs 13:11)

Research done by Dr. John Gottman of the University of Washington conclusively shows what distinguishes couples whose marriages continuously improve from those who do not. Surprisingly the difference is not to be found in the size or scope of conflicts, differences and disagreements. All couples face fundamental differences in finances, intimacy, parenting, household responsibilities, family relationships and work-related stress.The difference was not even to be found in the style of communication each couple has. The difference came down to time spent together. Improving couples spent on average 5 hours more together each week. Gottman calls this “the magic five hours.” Five hours? Where is that going to come from in our busy lives?

Gottman found it didn’t all come in one chunk. In fact he discovered that it’s about the minutes of each day--not a five hour block. Here’s how it breaks down:

Partings. Make sure that before you say good-bye in the morning you’ve learned at least one thing that will be happening in your spouse’s life that day--a dentist appointment, lunch with an old friend, an important phone call. This builds an awareness of each other. It takes 2 minutes. Multiply by 5 work days and you’ve committed to 10 minutes “extra” each week.

Reunions. Have a stress-reducing conversation. Ask your spouse “How was your day?” The cardinal rule is that you talk about whatever is on your mind outside of your marriage. Take turns and just listen to each other. No need to give advice--just show your interest and give understanding. It takes 20 minutes. Multiply by 5 work days to get 1 hour and 40 minutes “extra” each week. (We’ve already added almost 2 magic hours to the week!)

Show appreciation. Find some way every day to communicate genuine affection and appreciation toward your spouse. Some small, kind words of thanks or praise is all it takes. Take 5 minutes a day for this. Multiply by 5 work days and it’s 35 minutes.

Affection: Hug, kiss, hold hands, put your arms around your spouse’s shoulder during the time you are together. Make sure to kiss at partinings, reunions and before going to sleep. It’s a way of releasing minor irritations and pronouncing forgiveness and gentleness between you. Take 5 minutes each day for this. Multiply by 5 work days and it’s 35 minutes. Our running total is now 3 hours!

Weekly date. Find a time to hang out together for dinner, a walk or just sitting to chat. Think of relaxing questions to connect with like “Where should we spend our next vacation?” or something like it. You could also discuss important decisions or issues that confront you as a couple. Take 2 hours a week. Grand total is 5 hours.

Successful couples whose marriages are improving are probably already doing this and don’t even know it. But if this list has convinced you that you are not--this would be a simple and easy way to begin making an investment in your relationship. In fact it would only take one of you to kick this off in your home. It’s not the big dramatic things that make a difference but the small changes you make over time that change the course of your life together. Everyone has these five magic hours, you just have to take them.


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