With an odd name like “love map,” the concept that has helped countless marriages and relationships might often be overlooked. But here’s why you shouldn’t.
Our husband is most likely the person we spend the grand majority of our time with. Even if we both have busy work schedules, by the end of a chaotic week, we’ll still have spent hours over breakfast and dinner, and cuddled up at night with him. It’s striking to think of how much time we unwittingly spend in his presence.
But when the relationship was new, every moment felt like an eternity, in the best way possible. We’d soak up every minute we got to spend with him, noticing every little new thing about him, and count down the days until we’d get to see him again. We’d constantly be on the hunt for more information about him, as this new person who wasn’t yet “ours.”
And then, we start to get used to being with him, calling him ours. We begin to feel like we already know everything about him, and eventually stop digging for more new nuggets. We assume, having spent all these months and years with him, that there’s no way there could be anything left to discover.
However, Dr. John Gottman, a respected marriage expert, says otherwise — in fact, he even conceived a concept about the importance of continuing to know and dig and discover new things about our significant other, called the love map.
But wait, what’s a love map, exactly? Why would we need a map when we’ve already found the one we love?
What Is a Love Map?
The love map is a concept that Dr. Gottman describes in his book, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. The concept centers around encouraging our continued pursuit of our spouse, rather than letting our familiarity with them to allow us to let the relationship become stagnant.
The love map refers to a deeper knowledge of the “little things” that make up our spouse.
The love map refers to a deeper knowledge of the “little things” that make up our spouse — the unique qualities, tendencies, and temperaments that set them apart from everyone else in our life. It covers more than the bigger picture things, like their past experiences or how they relate to the world because of their upbringing – it’s about taking note of seemingly trivial things, like their work friend’s name, or that they really dislike corn, or the name of their favorite band in high school, or if they prefer the aisle or window seat on airplanes, or what’s been worrying them lately.
How To Build a Love Map
Building a love map for your relationship isn’t as arduous, complex, or long-winded as the name might imply. There’s no actual charting of territories, but instead, intentionally making the effort to find out and remember what we might assume to be “silly” or “meaningless” details about them, such as:
What were they wearing when we first met them?
How do they prefer their eggs/coffee in the morning?
Who are their friends at work?
What’s their comfort TV show?
What never fails to stress them out?
Do they have a favorite item of clothing?
What always helps them calm down?
Do they have any phobias?
How would they spend a night at home alone?
What is a dream of theirs that hasn’t come true?
Which sibling/parent do they get along best with?
Being able to answer these personal questions about our spouse will act as our “map” when interacting with their world, handling their emotions with gentleness and tact, and intuit what they might need from us – a very special assignment, considering it’s something our spouse has most likely trusted very few people to do.
Why Having a Love Map Is Crucial
Building a love map is for more than our own benefit – while having a blueprint for our spouse’s inner world is helpful for our own purposes of making life simpler and happier – it’s also for them, for our spouse to feel known, valued, understood, and like a priority.
Knowing this information about our husband creates a stronger connection that breeds a more profound love – after all, we can’t truly love what we don’t know. Being up-to-date like this also helps us anticipate a change or shift of their priorities and adapt much more quickly, if we’ve been practicing being an “expert” on them anyway.
We can’t truly love what we don’t know.
But along with these undeniable positive effects on a marriage, building a love map also serves to breathe new life into a relationship, making it better able to outlast a tough season, survive whatever life might throw at us, and emerge with a stronger, stabler connection.
Part of the draw of marriage is having a person who’s pledged to spend the rest of their days knowing and loving us, and only us; when difficult times inevitably hit a marriage, we’re faced with the decision to fight through the challenge or give up. If we’ve made sure that our spouse has consistently felt our devotion to them through our knowledge of the little things, every day (ex: knowing how they like the thermostat at night, or always making sure to get their favorite shampoo scent, or keeping track of their work schedule so you can have dinner ready when they’re home), our marriage will have that deep bond to fall back on and support it through the tough times.
A love map enables us to foster a love based on more than just a momentary feeling, but rather, on familiarity and security. It’s out of this knowledge of our husband that new, more mature love can be cultivated.
A love map means more than being able to remember his favorite color or food – it means having invested our precious time and energy in developing a fuller, more meaningful understanding of our spouse. It’s in our best interest, and our husband’s, to never treat them like a puzzle that’s long been solved, but instead to pursue them for years and years to come.
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