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Inspired Relationships

How to Make a Love Map

In our spring clean-up this week (more on that later), I unearthed a file of papers from when Den and I did our pre-marriage education weekend earlier this year. In Australia, these weekends are generally a prerequisite for marrying in any given church – though after being pleasantly surprised by the genuinely great information we were given during the course, I highly recommend some form of it to any couple getting married.

We went in expecting to be lectured at by a priest on the wrongs and rights of marriage (In fact, I was braced for a full, mandatory inflatable-pool Baptism into the Catholic religion, thinking these little weekends were merely a recruitment drive) but in fact, there was no religion mentioned even in passing and rather a lecture, we were encouraged to instead talk to each other, get to know each other a little more intimately and with intent and think about what issues may come up in the course of our future relationship.

Gottman’s Love Map Theory
One exercise was borne from Gottman’s Love Map theory. Your love map is the part of your brain where you store information about your partner’s dreams, goals, joys, fears, likes, dislikes, frustrations, and worries. Things like your husband’s favorite TV Show or your wife’s favourite leisure activities are significant “points” on the map.

Keep mental notes about your sweetie - a love map

Why are thorough love maps so important? Because they strengthen relationships. Couples with comprehensive love maps stay aware of their partner’s changing needs. They constantly seek updates on what the other person is doing, feeling, and thinking. Being understood in this way is a gift each partner gives the other, bringing great happiness and satisfaction. It also leaves couples better prepared to cope with stresses on their relationship.

For example, in one study Gottman interviewed couples around the time of the birth of their first child. For 67% of couples this stressful event was accompanied by a significant drop in marital satisfaction. But the other 33% did feel a drop in satisfaction; in fact many felt their marriages had gotten stronger. The difference was the completeness of the couples’ love maps. “The couples whose marriages thrived after the birth had detailed love maps from the get-go,” says Gottman. “These love maps protected their marriages in the wake of this dramatic upheaval.”

The point is also that couples goals, dreams and priorities change over time. If couples can make a continued effort to update their love maps of each other, they stand a much better chance of making it through the hard times together.

Getting to Know Your Partner

We were handed a lighthearted quiz to do at our couples weekend. Around 60 questions that could make up a love map, with different points weighted for each. We were to quiz each other and see how well we knew one another. Rather than getting angry that your sweetie was unaware of your favourite magazine, or social security number, it presents an opportunity for the two of you to bond further and get to know each other better.

Poor Den – I change my mind and my preferences at breakneck speed. My favourite colour, food, beverage and more could be completely different from one day to the next depending on my mood.

Luckily for me, he’s quite the creature of habit… like a slow-moving glacier. I’m pretty confident that what he likes now will not change by Friday. That said, I’m conscious that to keep our maps updated, we need to keep communicating on a deeper level than just “Can you hang out the washing?” and “Have you seen my socks anywhere?”

How to Play
This is a great activity for your next low-key date night. Over dinner, breakfast, coffee or baking, see how well you know each other and perhaps learn something new about your partner. Start by drafting 20 questions across the different love map categories that you can quiz each other on. Don’t get upset if your partner doesn’t know the answer… use it as an opportunity to get to know your partner’s current preferences. Here are the primary categories and some example questions you might like to ask:

Family – Who is my favourite relative? What was one of my best childhood experiences? My worst?

Friends – Name my two best friends. Name one of my major rivals/enemies. How did I meet my best friends? Who is my greatest source of support (besides you)?

Work – What is my dream job? What is one of my major career goals? What part of my job do I hate? Which of my colleagues do I like?

Hobbies – What is one of my favourite weekend activities? How do I let off steam? What’s my favourite sport?

– What are two of my aspirations, hopes, wishes? Do I have a secret ambition? What is it? What is my fondest unrealized dream? What do I fantasize about?

Favourites – What is my favourite book, movie, TV show, colour, flower, turn on? Which side of the bed do I prefer? What’s my favourite season? Where’s my favourite holiday destination?

– What medical problems do I worry about? What is one of my favourite ways to be soothed? What am I most sad about? What are some of the important events coming up in my life? How do I feel about them?

And so on.

Using the Information
As gather and store all these small details about your partner onto your love map, you can use the information to surprise and delight your sweetie in small ways.

For instance, awhile ago Den found out what one of my favourite comfort foods was from my childhood. He secretly contacted my mother for the recipe, went shopping for the ingredients and we made them together one night here at home.

You can buy your partner a bunch of their favourite flowers, pick up a copy of their favourite magazine or take them to their favourite restaurant for dinner… If your partner has always dreamed of writing a novel, or learning French, enroll them in a short course to help them realise their dreams.

The Kicker
All this will make you feel closer to your partner and your unexpected gifts will be a wonderful way to show you appreciate them, love them and that you’re thinking of them.

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Author |

Writer, dating columnist, wife, coffee addict, foodie, fashionista... Melburnian through and through. Muser, dancer, blogger, tweeter. Likes to get her head on telly now and again. Sleeper, dreamer, a sucker for romance. And of course... a cheap date.


6 comments for “How to Make a Love Map”

  1. Posted by Lori Lowe | September 28, 2009, 9:48 am

    Great suggestions! Gottman’s research is so useful. Thanks for sharing. I loved the part about making your favorite childhood recipe. So sweet. Best to you. I have some other Gottman tips at my marriage blog if you are interested.


  2. Posted by How Much Does Your Man Pay Attention? | $30 date night | Date Ideas, Marriage & Romance Blog | February 10, 2010, 5:57 pm

    [...] By Emma ⋅ February 10, 2010 ⋅ Post a comment I wrote late last year about creating Love Maps in your mind, to track the small details about your partner that are [...]

  3. Posted by Chase Chandler, The Alpha Male | June 24, 2010, 1:18 am

    Great article! Thanks for the useful advice!

    I never heard of Gottman’s Love Map before reading this post.

  4. Posted by Geturexback | July 27, 2010, 12:42 am

    That is new to me,I have never head of Gottman let alone the love map.but will agree on the point of helping couples better prepared to cope with stresses on their relationship.There are these little things that really matters in every relationship because if you know your partner well it will make communication between you two easy and with good communication come a beautiful relationship.

  5. Posted by Emma | August 4, 2010, 12:12 am

    Great insight – being proactive about these things definitely does help when it comes to dealing with relationship stressors. Too many people leave things like this too late, I think. We never would have seen these things if it wasn’t for our pre-marriage education classes. It’s one time in life that you really stop and think about your relationship… we should do it more often, come to think of it.

  6. Posted by Jason | June 1, 2011, 3:55 am

    Love you. I think we should do this quiz :)

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