Remember when we used to stay up all night talking?!
We used to be able to talk about anything and everything!
Most couples get so far away from date nights and spending regular quality time together that it seems impossible to get back to where they were.
In their book, And Baby Makes Three, the Gottman’s research found that 67% of couples experience a significant drop in couple satisfaction in the first 3 years of a baby’s life.
This is where rebuilding what the Gottman’s call a Love Map becomes so important.
In John Gottman’s book, The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, building Love Maps is the foundation of what they call the Sound Relationship House.
Through their research in the Love Lab, the Gottman’s 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.” Gottman Institute article on the Sound Relationship House
To break this down into simple terms, have you ever watched The Newlywed Game? The game show where newly married couples are asked to answer questions for their spouses to prove how well they know each other. The “emotionally intelligent couples” would win at that game show because they know each other so well. They know the little details about each other’s everyday lives, at home, at work, stressors, dreams, etc. They know because they talk about it. They make the time to spend together and ask the questions. No matter how tough or how mundane.
The first step is making a small change in the right direction.
Think about it this way. If the amount of quality time you and your partner spend together represented your retirement account, could you both survive on what you’ve invested?
In the past, I’ve run a 15 For 15 Challenge, to help couples reconnect and rebuild Love Maps. Take 15 minutes a day (at least) and talk with one another. Try to spend an equal amount of time talking and listening. If you go over the 15 minutes, great!
I’ll give you some questions to help get things started.
- 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?
*Taken from Gottman Love Maps exercise
Don’t go through them all in one sitting. Don’t just answer it quickly and move on to another. Try to ask more followup questions for each one. Ex. Name my two closest friends – When did you first meet? What has kept you together as friends over the years? What have been struggles in your friendship? How did you handle it?
You’ll be amazed at where the conversation goes. Those trips down memory lane will work to rebuild and strengthen your relationship. The compound interest from this regular time together will astound you.
Take care as you are talking to look and listen to one another. Put the devices down, turn the tv off. Be mindful of not interrupting one another. Don’t solution find and give advice. Watch out for what the Gottman’s call the 4 Horsemen during these conversations or they will turn into arguments. Using the steps from their Stress-Reducing Conversation (covered in the Relationship 911 Podcast Series) are a good guideline to go by during the Love Maps conversations.
Beyond the questions listed above, the Gottman’s have an app with these and more questions, called the Gottman Card Deck App.
There are tons of other lists out there. A quick search on google or Pinterest will give you loads of questions. Would you rather….? If you got a last meal what would it be and why?
Remember it’s all about getting back that sense of fun and romance, rebuilding the connection that once came so easily.
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Relevant Podcast Episodes – Relationship 911 Series