One of the most significant theories created by The Gottman Institute is the Sound Relationship House. In John Gottman’s book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, those seven principles are connected to each level, or floor, of the Sound Relationship House. Those levels are:

  1. Build Love Maps
  2. Share Fondness and Admiration
  3. Turn Towards Instead of Away
  4. The Positive Perspective
  5. Manage Conflict
  6. Make Life Dreams Come True
  7. Create Shared Meaning

And the two walls holding up the house are trust and commitment, which are essential to all relationships. We’d like to start at the foundation with the first level of the Sound Relationship House: Build Love Maps. The principle of building Love Maps is simply this: knowing the little things about your partner’s life creates a strong foundation for your friendship and intimacy.

Why Love Maps are so important

In our research, we found that emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s worlds. We call this having a richly detailed Love Map: our term for that part of your brain where you store all the important, and even not so important, information about your partner’s life.

Another way of saying this is that these couples have made plenty of cognitive room in their minds for their relationship. They remember the major events in each other’s histories, and they keep updating their information as the facts and feelings of their spouse’s world change. They know each other’s goals in life, each other’s worries, and each other’s hopes and dreams. Without such a love map, you can’t really know your partner. And if you don’t really know someone, how can you truly love them?

From knowledge springs not only love, but the fortitude to weather marital storms. Couples who have detailed love maps of each other’s worlds are far better prepared to cope with stressful events and conflict. Partners who are already in the habit of keeping up to date and are intently aware of what each other are feeling and thinking aren’t as thrown off course by changes and stress in each other’s lives. But if you don’t start off with a deep knowledge of each other, it’s easy for your relationship to lose its way when your lives shift with the challenges and stressors that come to you over time.

How to build Love Maps

Start creating and strengthening your Love Maps today! Try to answer the following questions about each other and find out how much you really know about your partner’s world. While you’re having fun playing, you’ll also be expanding and deepening your relationship.

Love Map Exercise:

  • Name my two closest friends.
  • What was I wearing when we first met?
  • Name one of my hobbies.
  • What stresses am I facing right now?
  • Describe in detail what I did today or yesterday.
  • What is my fondest unrealized dream?
  • What is one of my greatest fears or disaster scenarios?
  • What is my favorite way to spend an evening?
  • What is one of my favorite ways to be soothed?
  • What is my favorite getaway place?
  • What are some of the important events coming up in my life? How do I feel about them?
  • What are some of my favorite ways to work out?
  • Name one of my major rivals or “enemies.”
  • What would I consider my ideal job?
  • What medical problems do I worry about?
  • What was my most embarrassing moment?
  • Name one of my favorite novels/movies.
  • What is my favorite restaurant?

Asking these questions will help you develop greater personal insight and a more detailed “map” of each other’s lives and worlds. However, getting to know your partner better and sharing your inner self with them is an ongoing process. We suggest regularly updating each other’s love maps by sitting down and catching up. Remember, the more you know about each other, the more you feel a strong connection, and the more profound and rewarding your relationship will be.


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More in The Sound Relationship House
The Sound Relationship House: Build 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.