Do you know the names of your partner’s friends? What about your their favorite tv show? If you had to order them ice cream, do you know what flavor they would like? All of these are examples of the first principle of Gottman’s Couples therapy called Building Love Maps. ‘Love Maps’ are the intimate details and information about your partner’s life. “Emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s world”. This means knowing the big events in your partner’s history, and consistently checking in with them to adjust information as life changes. To know your partner’s love map is to truly know your partner.
According to Gottman, couples are more prepared to cope with stressful events and conflict when they have detailed love maps of their partner’s world. By keeping up to date with what your partner is thinking and feeling, you are less likely to be thrown off when stress inevitably comes along in the relationship. No matter how long you have been in a relationship, learning about your partner is a continuous process. Here are a few ways to build your love map with your partner:
Play 20 questions with your partner
Ask open-ended questions to dig deeper into your partner’s inner world
Learn more about your own inner world
Check in weekly with your partner
Examples of 20 questions:
- What is my dream vacation spot?
- In my life currently, name one of my biggest worries.
- What is my favorite weekend activity to do with you?
Examples of open-ended questions:
- How are you feeling right now about being a parent?
- How would you like your life to be different in 3 years from now?
- What adventures would you like in your life right now?
Next week, I will be talking about Gottman’s second principle, Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration.
Resources: PhD, G. J., & Silver, N. (2015). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost
Alison Bellows Cearlock was a graduate student Intern with The Mindly Group, PLLC studying Clinical Counseling at NC State University.