It’s time to dispel some myths. Relationships don’t always fall apart because of personality differences. Conversely, don’t believe that having similar hobbies is enough to keep you together. There are a lot of pop psychology, quick-fix methods out there. Thankfully, research from Dr. John Gottman gives insight into what really strengthens a relationship. Here at The Gottman Institute, we take it one step further by providing you with the skills and tools that are backed by science.
Love Map Building
This is the first level of the Sound Relationship House theory that details how solid relationships function. Essentially, Love Maps are how couples can stay curious about one another. Lovers in healthy relationships ask each other questions to explore each other’s inner world. As you both ask questions and take notice of the little things (e.g., how they like their coffee or how they relax), you start to build a mental map of who your partner is—their likes and dislikes, hurts and hopes, and everything that makes them who they are.
If you’ve never tried this before, practice now. Try the following “Love Map building” exercises with your partner. Listen intently to their answers and remember what your partner tells you. Working on Love Maps together helps you two stay connected and actively cements your emotional bond.
Love Map Activities
Here are some fun “Love Map building” exercises for you and your partner to try any time:
Talk about Your Communication Habits
Communication is more than just active listening skills. Especially when attempting to manage conflict, there are many factors including how you argue. So, it’s important to talk about how you talk to one another. During a calm time, ask your partner how they feel about the way the two of you approach conflict resolution. Does one of you stonewall? Is there criticism even if it’s unintentional? Discuss your feelings around this. Having this conversation when you’re at peace with one another can help you implement strategies to combat difficult conflict problems. You’ll also get to know a bit more about each other (even if these are traits you both need to work on).
Discover Your ‘Dreams within Conflict’
The passion that comes out in conflict can often be linked back to something deeper than the topic at hand. Think of an argument you had recently. Ask your partner more about what they really wanted and why. Share your own perspective about what issues or hopes underlined your position. Dr. Gottman believes there are dreams within conflict. Talking about those dreams helps you understand what motivates each of you in this area of conflict and draws you closer to each other.
Don’t Forget Play Time
Ask your partner what they like to do for fun. You think you might already know, but hobbies and interests change over time. Keep up with your partner’s idea of a good time and make plans to engage in play together regularly. You’ll get a nice break out of the day-to-day responsibilities and remember what it’s like to enjoy each other again.
There are so many ways to build Love Maps. The key is to stay curious about your partner. No matter how long you’ve been together, there’s still something new about them that you can explore.