Your Love Map
It's the part of your brain where you store everything you know about your partner's life. Created by marriage researcher John Gottman1, the principle behind love maps is that knowing the big – and the little – things about your partner's life is part of building a foundation of connection between the two of you. Couples with rich love maps know about one another's moments of great challenge, distress, and victory, moments of blushed embarrassment and times when things went really well. These couples keep updating their love maps as lives shift and change, as new people, jobs, and challenges come into the picture.
We build our love maps by being always a kind of Sherlock, asking questions and listening closely to understand what's going on in a partner's life. He could tell you how she's feeling about the difficult sister who recently moved in just a mile away. She knows how afraid he is of growing cranky like his father, or retiring too early and finding himself bored. He knows what his partner thinks about their son's demanding piano teacher. She knows what her partner usually orders at their favorite restaurants. Both can describe one another's worries, disappointments, and dreams for the future. All of this is part of the love map.
We tend to be curious about one another in our earliest days of dating and courtship. We ask questions, we talk about life plans and goals, we meet one another's friends. Yet there's much we still don't know by the time we make a commitment. Is there something about wearing a wedding ring that we take one another for granted and our curiosity ebbs, familiarity promoting the illusion that we know all there is to know? There's still so much to uncover and learn, whether together two years or twenty.
Gottman asserts that couples who enjoy deep knowledge of one another are better prepared to cope with the inevitable challenges of married life, and are less unsettled by the upheavals large and small that come their way. So stay curious and probe. Pull out school yearbooks or photo albums and exchange stories from your pasts. Agree to build your love maps not only by asking How was your day? but also How's your life lately? And finish sentences that begin with, Something I never told you about me is...
- Gottman, John M. The seven principles for making marriage work. (Crown Publishing, New York), 1999.