Forming Lasting Relationships with Love Maps

Forming Lasting Relationships with Love Maps

February is often the month we celebrate relationships. The focus is typically on romantic and intimate relationships, but in this article, we’re going to discuss a simple concept that can help you build and maintain lasting relationships of any kind. It’s one of the seven principles that relationship researcher, John Gottman, details in his book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” entitled “Love Maps”.

What is a Love Map and why are they important?

Dr. Gottman defines a love map as “that part of your brain where you store all the relevant information about your partner’s life.”

During the dating period, we are so enthralled with our new partners that we are naturally curious about them. We ask questions, check-in multiple times per day, and plan elaborate experiences that we just know our partner will love. As we do this, we’re forming a map of our partner’s inner world: what they like and don’t like, how they experience stress, how they enjoy spending their free time, all the way down to where they were born and how they got along with their parents growing up. 

While many aspects of your partner’s love map will remain the same, certain aspects of it will need some updating from time to time. We do this by forming rituals of connection that allow your partner to express what’s going on in their world and how they are navigating through it. In other relationships, this concept is applied differently. The following are a few examples of ways to incorporate love maps into not only romantic relationships but also in your family relationships and friendships.

How to Use a Love Map in Your Romantic Relationship

In some ways, romantic relationships are easier to build than others due to the amount of time spent together. However, maintaining vulnerability needs to be intentional. Start by setting aside regular time to check in with one another.

You can set aside a regular time to check in with one another during the evening hours or right after coming home from work. If finding things to discuss is difficult, you can ask the same questions to start your conversation:

  • What was the best part of your day? 
  • What was the worst part of your day? 
  • What made you proud today? 
  • What are you looking forward to?

These questions give you an idea of what is stressing out your partner and what is making them happy. They can even provide you with ways to support your partner during difficult times and may even bring about additional topics of conversation.

How to Use a Love Map in Your Family Relationships

Creating a love map of family relationships can be fun, but it can also bring up some painful memories as well. In a romantic relationship, we ask questions about their family traditions and dynamics. When creating love maps with family members you may find that you have very different memories of the same experience. 

To better create a love map with your family members, work on creating new memories instead of focusing on past memories. Try hosting a game night and play games like “Hot Seat” or “The Confessions Game”. Both have great questions for expanding your love maps and the competitive nature of the game will help keep things light.

How to Use a Love Map in Your Friendships

Your friends are in your life to support you when you need it, but friendships need to be maintained as well. After all, how can you know when your friends most need your support if you don’t know what’s currently going on in their lives? 

Marco Polo is a great way to stay connected and know what is going on in your friends’ lives. Be sure to ask questions involving their current stressors and successes, but also take a look down memory lane and ask about their lives before you became friends. Be sure to plan regular “friend dates” because the only way to build on your love maps is to communicate.

Love maps are essential to helping you navigate through your relationships. They can guide you in the direction of creating lasting and meaningful relationships with others. We are social beings and we actually need human connection and understanding to survive in this world. Even in this busy world, we need to take the time to form these connections with our loved ones, no matter what those relationships look like.

Want to Form a Love Map, but Struggle with Mental Health?

Forming love maps with your loved ones truly enhances your life. If your mental health is preventing you from forming meaningful relationships, but you’re unable to find the help you need due to finances, find out how we can help you now. The Overt Foundation exists to subsidize mental health treatment so that you can live your best life, free of the mental health challenges you face now.

For more information about love maps and examples of questions and ways to incorporate this principle into your relationships visit the blog on the Gottman Institute Website.

Increase Motivation with Goal Setting

This time of year, everyone is getting excited to start a new year fresh with new ideas and inspirations. There is research stating we are more motivated to start working on goals at a clear milestone, such as Monday, the first day of the month, our birthday and especially the new year. Many people suffering from depression or anxiety notices a lack of motivation or excitement regarding previously enjoyed activities, what therapists call anhedonia. Goal setting is one of the ways we can treat a lack of motivation. ls give us something to work towards and when done properly they give us hope and pride that has been lacking in us for so long. Here are a few easy steps you can take to help create easy to follow goals and increase your motivation.

Start small
When depression and anxiety are at its worst looking at big daunting goals might just push us further into the dark hole. Although creating small goals can seem insignificant, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits reminds us that a 1% increase is still an increase and builds a lot of momentum over time. On the other hand, trying to increase by 15%, failing and moving back to 0% can do more damage to our sense of confidence than it does good. Instead, think of a very small action item, one that doesn’t require much thought or effect, so small that it would feel really silly if you didn’t do it.

Let’s say I have a goal to make sure my living room is picked up before I went to bed at night. A small action item could be to make a habit of picking up all the trash that I can easily see in my room before getting into bed that night. If that seems like too much for, go even smaller by committing to putting one thing away each night. Is your room going to be clean every night before you go to bed? No! But are you forming habits that you’ll be able to sustain in the long term? Yes! And your room looks slightly better than it did when you started.

Recognize the motivation
Let’s say after a week of taking care of all the trash you can visibly see in your room you feel more energized and want to do a little more. Great! Do it! Be sure to really take a second to appreciate the motivation while it’s here. Stop when you’ve felt you have had enough and allow yourself to go back to the simple goal the next day. Don’t feel any pressure to do more every day just because you felt
motivated to do more yesterday.

Get yourself some accountability
Find yourself a friend or family member that is willing to check in with you and see how your goals are moving along. If you’re seeing a therapist regularly, checking in with them is a great way to then process what might be keeping you from achieving your goal. If you don’t have an actual person or would prefer to keep all of this to yourself, be your own accountability buddy by writing a journal entry once per week stating what went right, what went wrong, and brainstorm possible solutions.

This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Accept that it is going to take some time before you feel more energized and willing to jump up and get things done. One way to keep the momentum going to measure your goals in some way. Create a scale of 1-10 that ranks your level of motivation for the day and keep track of those numbers. After a while you will start to see a small increase, and another small increase, and another until eventually you’ve reached your goal and can continue adding more if you choose to.

Don’t give up
Failure is often looked at as a negative in our country and it can be so easy to say, “Well, I didn’t follow through with that task the last two days in a row, so I’m going to give up this week and start again on Monday.” Shift your thinking to recognize that every time you practice it helps change neuro pathways in your brain helping you create long standing habits that increase motivation. Don’t wait for Monday to start again. Start right now, today.

These five steps will help you manage your goals to increase motivation and help you on your mental health journey. If you’re struggling with motivation to the point that it interferes with your daily life, don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist. If you aren’t sure what goals would help you the most look for our next post on using your values to set meaningful goals.