Michael and Angela lead meaningful and very busy lives.
After 27 years of marriage, they have two grown children away at college, and a 15-year old daughter still at home.
Michael works full-time as a dentist, leads a den of cub scouts, and is super involved in a non-profit organization that helps children in developing countries.
Angela works part-time at a law firm, takes care of her aging mother on the weekends, and is the designated chauffeur for her can’t-turn-sixteen-soon-enough daugther.
It’s a busy life, but it’s good one.
As the days and months march on, Angela begins to feel more and more emotionally disconnected from Michael. Although happy with the relationship overall, she feels that even though Michael knows her schedule and her to-do list, he seems too busy to know her heart and how she is really doing.
On the flip side, Michael thinks that their relationship is great, but he too is lacking the connection he longs for from Angela, especially in the bedroom.
Have you ever felt like Michael and Angela? Living side-by-side, almost as roommates rather than soulmates? Have you longed for a deeper connection with the person you do life with?
If so, you may need to be more intentional about one simple ritual that will help you and your partner feel more connected. This one ritual helped Michael and Angela achieve a whole new level of connection in their marriage. It’s called the 20-Minute Conversation.
The 20-Minute Conversation
The 20-Minute Conversation is a time that is set aside from everything else in the day for the two of you to talk face-to-face. To laugh together, to complain about that guy at work, and to just catch up and take each other’s emotional temperatures. Dr. Gottman calls it the stress reducing conversation.
The only necessary rule for this ritual to work its magic is that you and your spouse talk face-to-face for twenty minutes a day. Yes, twenty minutes a day. It’s that simple.
Communication Builds Connection
The 20-Minute Conversation improves your communication. And communication builds connection.
Dr. John Gottman explains,“the sure thing is that if you don’t work at communication, the relationship will deteriorate over time, just like a car that’s not taken care of will fall apart.”
William J. Doherty Ph.D., author of The Intentional Family, explains what happens in most marriages:
“Most unmarried people are incredulous when they hear their married friends say they don’t have enough time to talk. What they don’t yet realize is that everyday family life absorbs attention like a giant octopus, pulling and sucking first here and then there and back again. Although most couples may talk to each other on a given evening or weekend, what they lack is focused, regular time to talk as a couple.”
Couples need “focused, regular time to talk as a couple.” This simple ritual is beneficial to couples because it helps them focus on the different levels of Dr. Gottman’s Sound Relationship House.
As couples are intentional about taking time to talk, to ask questions, and to really get to know one another, they are building what Dr. Gottman calls Love Maps. Couples who make time to connect each day and develop strong Love Maps will naturally start to strengthen their friendship, treat each other with more respect and appreciation, and deepen their fondness and admiration for each other. (Take this quiz to see how you are doing in the fondness and admiration department!)
Finally, in the simplest of ways, the 20-Minute Conversation builds trust, helps couples share their dreams, hopes, and goals with each other, and creates shared meaning. It’s a simple ritual that puts couples in charge of the future of their relationship and invites them to chase their dreams, together.
To Know You is to Love You
For Michael and Angela, the best time for the 20-Minute Conversation is right before bed. They are very intentional about making sure it happens every night. They even set alarms on their phones to remind them that at 9:45pm that it is time for them to talk.
Together, they decide what they want their conversation ritual to look like and what the rules are. They decide to have the conversation in bed and touch in an affectionate way, like holding hands, giving a back rub, or cuddling. They decide to take turns asking meaningful questions and to then really listen to each other, without interrupting. And they are both committed to making it happen.
At first, their conversations are simply about what went on during the day and Michael even times the conversations to make sure they aren’t longer than twenty minutes! But as they consistently talk night after night, their conversations deepen into discussions about past experiences, things that bring them joy, their hopes and dreams, and what is currently stressing them out. They become less concerned about the length of the ritual and more concerned about the quality of the connection they feel with one another.
After starting this ritual, it isn’t long before Angela finally feels that Michael cares about what is going on in her heart. She notices how he starts to do small things often like giving her a solid hug when he gets home from work, sending little texts of encouragement, or picking up dinner more often. She notices how he helps her out to express his love, because now he finally knows all she is dealing with as she helps her aging mother. As a result, Angela feels more in love with Michael than ever before, which naturally leads to more positive interactions between the two of them.
Michael had never recognized his own deep need to talk and share before, but as he got better at it he felt more loved, accepted, and connected to Angela than ever before. Plus, Michael felt that Angela was more passionate and loving than ever after their talk ritual, and he knew it was because he had taken the time to connect with her and meet her emotional needs.
Make it Happen
Decide together to make the 20-Minute Conversation happen.
For you, the 20-Minute Conversation may best happen in the morning, or after work as you and your spouse walk around the block. It doesn’t matter so much when it happens as long as it happens regularly.
Choose to make the 20-Minute Conversation a must-have in your day, today and every day. It will feel awkward at first, but if you are both committed to making it happen, you will have more and more to talk about as the days go on.
Plus, you both need this time together. Your marriage needs it. And your current or future kids need the benefit of parents with a healthy and happy marriage.
Twenty simple minutes may make the difference between a happy, meaningful, happily-ever-after kind of marriage, and a so-so, drifting, or even declining marriage.
So, choose to make it happen, and don’t let anything get in the way. Then, watch in awe as the connection you share grows as a result of intentionally creating time and space for your relationship amidst the busyness and chaos of everyday life.
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