From the time we are little, we hear fairy tales, watch movies and read stories of blessed couples with perfect relationships. However, real relationships always fall short of these ideals, and many couples are left wondering what the magic formula is for a successful relationship. Is it love at first sight? How about undeniable chemistry? Maybe the key to a successful relationship is really just dumb luck?

The key to making a marriage work has very little to do with luck and everything to do with work. Before you get discouraged, though, famed relationship researcher John Gottman identified that the difference between a thriving relationship and an unhappy one is only five hours a week. He's named this time differential the "Magic Five Hours," and you can use his techniques to immediately start seeing changes in your own marriage.

Here are Dr. Gottman's suggestions of how to spend five hours each week ensuring that your marriage will succeed.

1. Partings

According to Gottman, never let your spouse leave without a six second kiss and saying "I love you." Affirming your partner before he faces the world seems like such a small thing to do each day, and Gottman acknowledges that this should only take about two minutes each day, but this one simple habit has profound effects on your relationship. By taking time away from whatever you're doing, you are showing your spouse that you care and want him to return home to you.

2. Reunions

If it's a good idea to leave your loved one on good terms, it makes equally good sense to greet her enthusiastically. The next time your spouse walks in the door, refrain from rattling off a laundry list of to-dos and complaints. Instead, take 20 minutes to kiss and debrief each other on the day. This is your golden opportunity to offer emotional support to your spouse, so make yourself available. Twenty minutes each day only adds up to one hour and 40 minutes each week, and it is time well spent.

3. Admiration and Appreciation

Gottman continues by suggesting spending five minutes each day sincerely complimenting your spouse. Look for the things he's done right that day, and take the time to look him in the eye and verbally acknowledge your gratitude. So often we take our spouses for granted, but successful marriages thrive on affirmation and mutual respect. Five minutes each day is only 35 minutes each week, but it makes a world of difference to your spouse.

4. Affection

Get ready for some good, old-fashioned hand holding (and kissing and snuggling). Gottman's magic five hours includes five minutes each day of physical connectivity. Cuddling and physical closeness are important aspects of married life, and simply touching each day strengthens marriage.

5. Dating

Just because you said "I do" does not mean that you get to stop dating. The last, and most time intensive, of Gottman's tips is to plan a two-hour date each week with your spouse. It is hard to fit in two hours alone with a spouse each week, but consider having an at-home date after the kids are in bed or trading babysitting with another couple. If you want a happy marriage, it's imperative that you make a weekly date a priority.

Marriage is one area where small things really can add up to big benefits. Investing a little more of your time and energy into your marriage each week brings substantial dividends, and the work you put in doesn't have to feel like a burden. You don't need a fairytale romance, complete with knight in shining armor, to have a happy marriage. In fact, the only thing standing between you and wedded bliss may be a mere five hours a week.

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