The 4 hour relationship | psychology today

Have you ever felt like it was hard to find time in your life for the most important things, like your romantic partner? In fact, because your partner loves you, it may seem safer to neglect your relationship while you prioritize other things like your career.

Meet Marc Randolph. He’s the co-founder of Netflix and he’s super busy. But he still takes time for his relationship. Like him featured on the Tim Ferriss Podcast, “…every Tuesday without fail at 5 p.m. I would leave the office and my wife and I would have a date night.” He created this tradition because “I wasn’t going to be one of those entrepreneurs who was on his sixth startup and his sixth wife.”

He didn’t have to put it aside this time. I suspect his partner would understand that he had work to do. But that’s the point: he’s committed to dedicating some time each week to his relationship. Obviously, there’s nothing special about Tuesday at 5 p.m. On the contrary, the key lesson is that he intentionally devotes time to his relationship because it is a priority.

Speaking of Ferriss, he’s famous for writing books like The 4 hour work week, the 4 hour body and the 4 hour boss. Each examines how the effective use of their time in key life contexts yields great benefits. Although he never wrote The 4 Hour Relationship, learning to invest time in your relationship can be more important than your work week or what you eat.

Take time

The principle is simple: there are 168 hours in a week and your relationship deserves at least 4 of them – non-negotiable, dedicated, committed time to you and your partner. You can spend these 4 hours on anything that benefits your relationship or strengthens your connection with your partner. You can even spend some of your time doing something for yourself that benefits your relationship (like going to therapy).

You are also free to divide your 4 hours in any way that works best for you and allows you to stick to it. Want to do 1 hour on four different days? Great. If it’s easier to do a day where you log all 4 hours at a time, that’s fantastic too. Remember, however you divide it, 240 minutes isn’t a lot of time. Your actions reveal your priorities. We spend time on what matters.

What should we do?

The easiest way to spend your 4 hours is with a date night. Sure, it’s obvious, but it’s also effective. The best dates will be a bit subjective and will vary depending on the couple and their situation.

However, the science of relationships offers some general guidelines to set you up for success. This is important because the time you have to spend alone with your partner, without worrying about work, children or household chores is limited. You will want to make the most of it.

1. NICE activities

There are an endless number of possible activities, and choosing the right one isn’t just about doing something fun. Research shows that the key is to do activities that are new, interesting, challenging, and exciting (NICE) because they promote better relationship quality (i.e., more satisfaction, engagement, and ‘love).1

In particular, NICE activities help us avoid falling into a rut by encouraging us to grow and improve as people. They help us push our limits and get out of our comfort zone. Above all, what counts as a NICE activity for you may not be for others. The key is to do something that allows you to build and expand your self-image.

Fortunately, researchers have identified specific activities that are most helpful for self-expansion.2 The Top 5 most self-expanding were:

  1. Sex
  2. Showing affection (for example, giving hugs)
  3. Laugh together (for example, watch something funny)
  4. Thinking about the future (for example, planning a vacation together)
  5. Going out (for example, going to dinner, going to the movies, etc.).

If you’re looking for something even more specific, research on ballroom dancing shows that couples who go dancing together report happier relationships.3 When you do activities that facilitate personal growth, not only does your relationship well-being increase, but your sexual well-being increases as well.4

2. Board games and art classes

In one study, researchers asked married couples to either play games (e.g., Battleship, Boggle, Connect 4, Jenga, Monopoly, Risk, Scrabble, Sorry, UNO, and Yahtzee) or take a art together.5 Good news: Couples in both groups experienced increased levels of oxytocin, the so-called “cuddle hormone.” So, it seems either activity benefits your relationship because more oxytocin helps the partners bond.

However, the couples who took the art class had larger increases in oxytocin and touched each other more, possibly because the activity was newer and further out of their comfort zone. This increased novelty can also encourage partners to rely on each other for reassurance and support.

3. Netflix and Spill

Prefer to stay home and do something a little more low-key? Take a seat on the sofa and have a couple’s movie night. Over the course of a month, the researchers asked selected couples to watch romantic movies (for example, “The Notebook” or “When Harry Met Sally”) and then discuss how the movies’ themes relate to their own relationship. .6 Another group did a workshop on intense relationships.

Fast forward three years, and moviegoers were about as likely to have stuck together as everyone else (without having to do the hardcore workshop). It’s probably not about taking just any movie. On the contrary, watching a romantic story (eg, “The Big Sick,” “Marriage Story”) gives couples a less threatening way to discuss relationship issues and helps them see their own relationship from a new perspective. It’s also nice to sit down and watch something together that isn’t the news.

4. Bring others with you

When we think of dating, we often imagine ourselves and our partner spending time alone. However, research shows that bringing in another couple has its benefits too.

When the couples did a “Getting to know you” activity, asking questions such as “What is the greatest achievement in your life? with another couple, they felt more passionate love for each other than when answering questions alone.seven The presence of another couple helps fuel the discussion and provides additional opportunities for new and interesting topics, which can make the conversation and your relationship more exciting. More the merrier, the merrier!

5. Talk about it

There’s also a benefit to spending a good chunk of your 4-hour relationship week just talking with your partner. When you do, it’s best to go beyond talking about your daily routines. Instead, step into deeper, more personal, and meaningful realms. The more couples reveal and share, the closer they get. As you get closer, it is easier to reveal yourself and the cycle continues.

Don’t know what to talk about? Dive in and have “the conversation” where you discuss where this relationship is headed and what your future looks like together. Talk about your strengths as a couple. It’s also good to set aside time to talk about the relationship so that you can address whatever is bothering you in a calm and neutral way. This way you avoid impulsively filing your complaints in a way that triggers a bigger fight. Being ready to address areas of friction also helps the relationship, as you can limit small issues.

Bring back home

Too often we take our relationship for granted and let it ride on autopilot or get stuck in a rut. Feeling bored can threaten your relationship: Research shows that those who reported more boredom in their marriage reported less marital satisfaction 9 years later.8 But you don’t need to accept this obsolescence as your norm.

Spending time on it, even just 4 hours a week, helps maintain strength. Just a little effort goes a long way.


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