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.