For all their awkward stereotypes, first dates can also be awesome. Presumably, you’ve never met the person before, or only chatted with them briefly — meaning everything is potential fodder for discussion.
Where’d you grow up? Do you like your job? How’s your relationship with your sister? And so on.
Then, suddenly, it’s 10 years later, and you’re married with a kid and a mortgage. At this point, you know your partner like a book and, aside from what time the babysitter’s coming and who wants which leftovers for dinner, there is nothing left to discuss.
This is where the 10-minute rule comes in.
The rule is a suggestion from sociology professor and relationship expert Terri Orbuch.
As Orbuch describes it in her book “5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great,” the rule is a “daily briefing in which you and your spouse make time to talk about anything under the sun — except kids, works, and household tasks or responsibilities.”
Orbuch developed the rule after learning that most of the happy couples she studied know their spouse “intimately” — outside the bedroom — and make time often to exchange intimate knowledge.
According to Orbuch, learning new information about your partner makes things feel fresh and new again, and “mimics the emotional and physical state you were in during the first few years of your marriage.”
Presumably, it can also replicate the less stilted parts of your first few dates, when every sentence out of your partner’s mouth was a revelation that led you down a romantic rabbit hole of curiosity.
In the book, Orbuch offers suggestions for what to talk about during your daily 10-minute briefing. Generally, you should touch on friends, stressors, life dreams, and values.
As for specific questions, you might want to ask:
- Do you think you are/were closer to your mum or dad? Why?
- What age do you feel like inside? Why?
- What do you think are the top-three worst songs of all time?
- What is the one thing you want to be remembered for?
Ultimately, the 10-minute rule is a daily reminder that you will
always be learning about your spouse. As Orbuch says, “People change. People develop. People forget.”
Some couples know this inherently — and their desire to keep abreast of all the ways their partner is growing can be inspiration for the rest of us.
In “The Real Thing,” a book by former Washington Post weddings reporter Ellen McCarthy (where we first learned about the 10-minute rule), McCarthy writes that a groom once told her, a week before his wedding, that he was still learning about his bride and probably always would be.
And in journalist Jonah Lehrer’s “A Book About Love,” Lehrer writes about a couple whose marriage was arranged; the wife said of her husband that she would always be getting to know him, as long as they were together. As Lehrer concludes, romantic attachments require “endless work.”
Bottom line: Sometimes life gets in the way of love. The bathroom renovation in progress can seem a whole lot more relevant than your partner’s hopes and dreams.
But there’s room for both — if you’ve got a spare 10 minutes and a willingness to put in that work.
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