How you start your day sets the tone for the day.
Of all the things I have learned about marriage, this research finding from Dr. John Gottman has been one of the most impactful:
Couples who connect for just two minutes in the morning feel closer, are more positive about their relationship, and connect more spontaneously — throughout the entire day.
I am not a morning person, but when I learned how valuable two minutes with my wife could be in the morning, I resolved to start getting up earlier.
The next morning, after finishing my coffee, I invited my wife to sit on my lap and I asked her what her day was going to be like. It was romantic and affectionate — and we had a short, simple, two-minute conversation about our day.
Dr. Gottman is right
I was surprised throughout that day to realize just how right Dr. Gottman was. I felt closer to my wife throughout the day. I felt more positive about our relationship. I found myself connecting with my wife more spontaneously.
For us, that first day was more than six thousand days ago. We have made it a point to begin every day of our married life since then with a positive connection.
Thanks to one simple daily habit in the morning we have felt closer and more positive every day of our marriage since then.
If you want a happy marriage, this is one of the most important bits of advice you can live by: start every day of your life together with a positive connection.
How you start your day sets the tone for the day.
A few key points…
A good-bye kiss is good — it’s not good enough. It’s too quick.
Over 90% of communication is non-verbal. If you want to be a connected couple, you need to slow down and look at each other — without distraction.
Dr. Gottman found all it takes is two minutes of non-distracted communication to pick up on the other’s subtle emotional signals.
Our morning ritual of connection has made the good days of our marriage better. Its biggest impact has been felt, though, when times have been difficult.
Staying connected when times are hard
Raising kids is a true test of marriage. 67% of couples report a decline in the overall quality of their marriage when rearing young children.
A major reason is exhaustion.
Most husbands are blissfully unaware of just how tired their wives are when they are caring for a baby.
Women are fifty times more likely than men to hear the cry of a baby in the middle of the night. Much to my wife’s chagrin, our baby’s crying never woke me up.
On the nights our baby kept my wife up, I would roll over in the morning and I would notice she hadn’t slept, but I noticed too quickly. My thoughts quickly turned to all the things I had to do that day.
But thanks to our ritual of my wife sitting on my lap before I left for the day, I would slow down — just long enough — to let the reality of her exhaustion sink in: “She’s tired!” I would say to myself, “Whatever you do, don’t ask her what’s for dinner tonight!”
Just two minutes in the morning
Taking just two minutes in the morning to notice how tired my wife was made me a better husband all day. I called her more frequently throughout the day to thank her for staying up with our baby — mothers with young children thrive when appreciated — and I came home that evening ready to be helpful.
Couples raising young children argue and bicker eight times more often than other couples. If couples feel disconnected, sleep deprivation and the overwhelming responsibilities of childcare can quickly breed resentment.
Thanks to our morning ritual of connection, my wife and I enjoyed our marriage when our kids were young. We were pushed to the limit, but we felt like we were a team, and it was largely thanks to me taking the time — just two minutes in the morning — to notice my wife needed more from me that day.
What if you can’t connect in the morning?
Many couples struggle with conflicting work schedules — or have to travel separately for work.
My wife & I have had stretches of our marriage where it was easy for us to connect in person, but there have also been stretches where one of us has had to get up way too early — or has had to travel for work.
Even on these days, we can still begin our days with a positive connection.
We have found it necessary to have Plan B — and Plan C — morning rituals of connection.
When we can’t connect in person
On the days we can’t connect in person, our Plan B connection is to connect for two minutes via FaceTime. It’s remarkably effective. We’re not physically together, but we can still see each other, and we’re able to pick up on all that non-verbal communication.
On many days we’ve had to be more creative. I might try to FaceTime with my wife, but she isn’t able to answer my call. On these days, we go with our Plan C morning ritual. I will record a “video kiss” — a video text message — and will share with my wife my plans for the day and wish her a good day. When she has a free moment, my “kiss” is waiting for her, and she can send me one in return.
On the days I work late, I will record a video kiss for my wife before I go to bed, knowing she will wake up much earlier the next day. It will help her get her day off to a good start even on those days I am sleeping in.
Video kisses are easy to send and have a big impact. They allow us to see each other even when we are apart. We can share our worlds. We can take notice of how the other’s day is going.
Marriage is more fun when couples are vividly connected.
We no longer have an excuse
We no longer have any excuses. Thanks to technology, even when we are miles apart, we can start every day of our marriages with a positive connection.
An important final note: technology has a dark side. It can help us connect when we’re apart — but it all too often separates us when we’re together.
The very first thing the great majority of us do in the morning is check our phones — often before we even get out of bed. This bad habit gets in the way of connecting with our spouses.
Make your bed a cell phone-free zone
My wife and I have declared our bed a cell-phone free zone. I no longer use my phone as an alarm. On the days we can connect in person, we made a commitment to not look at our phones until after our morning connection.
With our cell phones properly “put in their place,” we can be fully present to each other for that all-important two minutes of non-distracted communication in the morning.
Life comes at us fast, and cell phones are a tempting distraction, but couples who commit to a morning ritual of connection — two minutes is all it takes — will maintain their sense of teamwork and will feel more positive about their relationship all the days of their marriage.