One of my friends keeps talking about leaving his wife. The two of them are great together when they're good. But they stink when they're bad.

In a recent article on the five stages of relationships, I wrote about getting to stage five, where "being together is based on shared purpose rather than need."

My friend spends a lot of time in stage three, which is about loss of freedom. Over the years, small annoyances became big issues as hidden agendas came out. Now he feels resentful and is often in a power struggle with his wife. And he knows exactly what she "can't tolerate," so he has a well-stocked black bag of emotional missiles to throw at her.

He could instead perceive his wife as a mirror, giving him a reflection of himself. What would that mean? Every time he sees her best -- she's kind, smart, creative, funny, a good mother and a devoted wife -- he could acknowledge that these great qualities are active in him and that's how he drew the best out of her.

And every time he sees her worst, he could acknowledge that it's also active in him and she's just mirroring it. But instead of remembering that his problems are with him and not with others, he wishes she would be different.

Wishing that she would change won't produce positive change. Focusing on what's working -- how they are great together when they're good -- could turn the situation around.

We tend to think that being to gether equates with knowing each other well, especially over a long period. But unless we make an effort to keep things fresh, it's easy to slip into the fourth stage , where there's a sense of loss and a tendency to give up and drift apart.

So how can we get to stage five, and how can we maintain it?

One way is through Marathon Talking. Two people take turns talking for 48 hours. One talks for 24 hours while the other listens. Then they switch places.

It sounds extreme. It is. And it works.

The speaking partner can share whatever he or she wants -- life stories, memories, turning points, fears, hopes, goals. The topic doesn't matter because, about five or six hours in, when it seems as if everything has been said, some kind of magic happens where both partners stop struggling to be accepted and understood.

It sounds like a lot of work and perhaps impossible to manage. Actually, it's a gift – to listen devotedly to a loved one for 24 hours -- and then to share lovingly and unreservedly for 24 hours.

48 hours of exclusive positive attention is an extraordinary, luxury, unheard of in this unrelenting world. A new kind of communication takes place, where people begin relating from their hearts instead of their heads. And it's a rare opportunity for both partners to understand who the other person truly is.