As our own Laura Heck, MA, LMFTA mentioned in her guest posting on Monday, almost half of marriages end in divorce. With such odds, the idea of marriage may seem like a recipe for disaster, a naïve and idealistic dream which will inevitably end at best in disappointment and, at worst, in the destruction of your life. Though there is plenty of evidence for such a bleak view of marriage in this day and age, long-term commitment to the one you love need not be a gamble.

Whether you feel that you and your partner are sailing swiftly through clear waters or are perilously adrift, applying Dr. Gottman’s principle of building Love Maps can help to build the friendship and intimacy in your relationship. In our research, we have discovered that a very powerful predictor of relationship stability is whether couples allocate “cognitive room” for their relationship and for the world of their partner. 

The Gottman Institute has developed a number of products and resources that emphasize building Love Maps. The 52 Questions Card Deck is one of the most useful. In this post, we invite you to discover your similarities and your differences in the world of romance with your partner. Exercises from the 52 Questions Card Deck can be a source of joy, and more importantly, an invitation to further discovery. If practiced with warmth, curiosity, and affection, these questions will strengthen your intimate connection and initiate an exchange of personal stories. To build deeper meaning with your loved one in your shared relationship, and to learn more about each other and yourself,  ask each other some of the following questions:

  • What feelings and thoughts race through your mind when you anticipate seeing your partner soon?
  • What are some of your partner’s quirks? What kinds of humor do the two of you enjoy? 
  • Do the two of you diverge in your communication style when you are being playful together? Is there anything that doesn’t work? How could it be improved?
  • What does loving each other mean to you? How do you and your partner demonstrate your love for each other? How do you show your appreciation?
  • What are three of your partner’s deepest hopes, aspirations, or dreams?
  • How do the two of you feel about sharing your past sexual histories? Do any aspects of your past or current sexual experiences make either of you uncomfortable?
  • How do the two of you feel about having children? Pets? How strong are your positions on these questions? In what circumstances do you imagine you could change your mind?

While these conversations can be playful and fun, it is important to keep a few things in mind. Most importantly, remember that discussing these topics with your partner, especially if you run into areas of disagreement, can be challenging and overwhelming. Give yourself and your partner time to process the emotional reactions caused by your conversations. Don’t rush! Take your time to find out if “happily ever after” is in the cards for you.

For Friday, look forward to similar exercises that you and your partner can enjoy together as you embark upon your journey to explore and deeply understand each other’s feelings and goals, particularly in the areas of social life, work, and money. To make sure you play with a full deck, whether you are married, considering marriage, or just moving in together, get your copy of all 52 Questions here!


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Premarital Relationships: Building Love Maps

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.