I recently came across a new strategy to help couples build up and expand on the positive in their relationships. I really want to share it with you because I have seen couples who use it be enormously successful at changing the tone of their relationship on a day to day basis. It is a great technique because when the tone shifts the foundation is set for couples to create a better, strong, more loving and passionate marriage. I really think it can be a part of what makes happier marriages and relationships. No, it won’t make all the unresolved issues go away, but it can make you feel more connected to each other, more loving, and more hopeful about your relationship. With all those good feelings and good will, often negotiating the tough issues becomes a lot easier and sometimes, some of the issues do dissolve.
Most people are very busy these days. There are multiple commitments and obligations, kids after school schedules, work, to do lists, the tedious tasks of day to day living. Most of us certainly want a better, stronger, healthier and more passionate marriage but we forget that we need to take purposeful action to have a relationship or a marriage like that. For many partners or spouses rarely have much couple time. What they have is often what is left over after most other things are taken care of. Just think about how much energy is being put into the relationship in a situation like that. It isn’t that most of us are bad or thoughtless people, it is just that we are pulled in so many directions and have to do more to stay or top of our lives than in any other time in history.
When we are so overworked and rundown it is like a car trying to run without gasoline. In that state it can be a little harder to see the good things around us. We might more easily focus on what is not working or what is wearing us down. So this exercise, like many of its type, helps couples develop the positive in relationships.
This strategy was created originally by Linda Duncan, PhD, Professor and Director of the Professional Counseling Program and Tarleton State University. She has developed what she calls the Four Critical Moments Activity. Don’t worry. “Critical” in this case does not be to criticize. It means “crucial” “important.” There are four critical moments during the day which can set the tone of your relationship for that day. These critical moments are:
- The first four minutes you and our partner are awake in the morning
- The last four minutes you and your partner spend together before leaving the house for the day
- The first four minutes when you both get back home in the evening
- The last four minutes before you go to sleep
First, do a little “interview” with your partner. Ask each other about what you would like most from each other during those critical moments. Think about what are the things that would make you feel loved, taken care of, nurtured. Maybe you really want to spend those four minutes before you get up just snuggling with your partner while you both are awake. Perhaps your partner making you a fresh cup of coffee or your favorite tea when you come downstairs makes you feel cared for. It could be a long warm embrace and a brief overview of your plan before you leave the house. Or, a gentle shoulder rub when you walk in the door. You can get as creative as you’d like as long as its something your partner can reasonably do in four minutes. This helps ensure you both get to feel successful and see the rewards almost immediately.
After you’ve “interviewed” each other and made your lists, put it into practice. There may be times you don’t feel like doing it and do it anyway. Part of what makes us feel cherished is sometimes knowing what we are receiving takes some effort. Besides that shows a lot of commitment to the tone of the relationship. Think for a moment how it feels when your partner goes out of their way to do something nice for you.
After a couple of weeks of this activity, notice how the tone of your days have changed. Notice if there has been a domino effect and other things have begun to shift in your relationship. Some couples tell me they notice a big difference right away and others say they need a little more to shift some of the more serious issues between them. Either way it is a great place to start creating a stronger, healthier, more loving and more passionate marriage.