Today on the Gottman Relationship Blog, we are happy to announce the beginning of a new seven-week series: “The Sound Relationship House!” We start at the  “foundation” today with the first level of the 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. 

In his extensive research, Dr. John Gottman has found that emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s worlds. He calls this having a richly detailed Love Map – his term for that part of your brain where you store all the relevant 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, 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 world 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. 

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 life and world. However, getting to know your partner better and sharing your inner self with them is an ongoing process. 

This Friday, we will post a Weekend Homework Assignment for you to explore your partner’s inner emotional world in more depth with questions that are designed to guide you through some self-exploration and to help you share this exploration with your partner. Remember, the more you know about each other, the more you feel a strong connection, the more profound and rewarding your relationship will be.

The Marriage Minute is a new email newsletter from The Gottman Institute that will improve your marriage in 60 seconds or less. Over 40 years of research with thousands of couples has proven a simple fact: small things often can create big changes over time. Got a minute? Sign up below.

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More in The Sound Relationship House
The Sound Relationship House: Build Love Maps
Ellie Lisitsa

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.

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  • Manet

    Seems so unnnessary. Relationships are simple if you just listen, understand, relate and appreciate to your partner. Done. No need for an app.

    • NonaMuss

      If you do that you’ve covered the first six continents and possibly more. I care deeply for someone that never learned, or had modeled, good relationships and not through malice but unknowing mindlessness, doesn’t get it. There are those out there who will benefit from seeing it spelled out – things that will help and are born out through research, not intuition.

  • OKRickety

    ‘We start at the “foundation” today with the first level of the House: Build Love Maps.’
    If, and I question this, the “foundation” of the “Sound Relationship House” is “Build Love Maps”, then why doesn’t the diagram show it as the foundation? I question that it is the foundation, because I don’t see how it is more important than Trust or Commitment.Does the creator of the diagram understand how a house is built? The foundation is first, with the stability of the structure dependent on its strength. When equating a relationship to a house, there should be a foundation. If, as seems to be the case here, the analogy doesn’t work well, then get rid of it and find a better one.

    • NonaMuss

      The way I understood it was “build love maps” is at the bottom because that is a foundation- bottom of house diagram. I thought they were saying you get to know, and show you care, about your partner and their world through love maps and that in turn builds trust and commitment when you show you are interested, want to know, because you care.

      • OKRickety

        Yes, a foundation is at the bottom of a house (or relationship). Part of my first comment was intended to point out that the “Sound Relationship House” diagram shows NO foundation for the pillars of Trust and Commitment”, meaning the house is not sound. Pillars without a foundation will not support the weight of the structure as they should.

        Reading further on this site, I am uncertain exactly what is considered to be the foundation of the Sound Relationship House. I have found the following 3 statements:

        “Beginning with a solid foundation is essential. This is what Dr. Gottman would call the marital friendship – the common courtesy and affection (or lack thereof) that is the basis for all subsequent interaction.”

        “In the Sound Relationship House, the foundation is the relational friendship.”

        ‘The whole structure deserves a full inspection, but for now, it’s worth noting that the house’s foundation is in “liking” each other.’

        It seems this may be three different ways to describe the foundation for the “Sound Relationship House”. And this foundation consists of 3 sub-items:
        – Build Love Maps
        – Share Fondness & Admiration:
        – Turn Towards Instead of Away:

        If so, then perhaps the diagram should have a “foundation” of “Marital Friendship” (under all of the “house” including the “pillars”) with those 3 sub-items listed in that “foundation”. This would be quite similar to the “Manage Conflict” level (which has 3 sub-items).

    • Danika

      We don’t trust or commit to people we don’t know. To do so would be a violation of basic human boundaries. Boundaries are imperative (foundational really!) to our safety (physical and emotional) as human beings.

      • OKRickety

        In essence (I can’t tell if you intended to agree or not), you are agreeing with me that trust and commitment are more important, that is, more foundational, than the other items in the “Sound Relationship House”.

        [Note: Your use of “boundaries” results in possible confusion with the mixing of metaphors.]