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Here's an idea relevant to relationships that I think makes a lot of sense. It's called “the first five minutes” and is based on a book that was published many years ago. Its thesis was that the first five minutes occurring between people sets the tone for everything that is to follow.

For example, a public speaker is given very few moments to convince his audience that he really does have something worthwhile to say. If he's boring or stilted in the beginning, his listeners will turn him off like a light bulb and he'll never know why. And if he hopes to use humor during his speech, he'd better say something funny very quickly or they won't believe he can make them laugh. The opportunity of the moment is lost. Fortunately, whenever we begin a new interaction, we have a chance to reset the mood.

This simple principle relates to family members as well. The first five minutes of the morning also determine how a mother will interact with her children on that day. Snarls or complaints as the kids gather for breakfast will sour their relationship for hours. Greeting children after school with kind words and a tasty snack may be remembered for decades.

And at the end of the day when a man arrives home from work, the way he greets his wife, or doesn't greet his wife, will influence their interaction throughout the evening. A single criticism such as, "Not tuna casserole again!" will put their relationship on edge from then to bedtime. Men who complain that their wives are not affectionate at bedtime should think back to the first moments when they came together in the evening. He probably messed up some great possibilities with his first snippy comments.

It all starts with the first five minutes.

Dr. James Dobson is the author of Your Legacy: The Greatest Gift. Article reprinted, with permission from the James Dobson Family Institute, from Solid Answers with Dr. James Dobson.