I have been in the counselling field for almost 25 years now. I use a number of different models with individuals, couples and families.
One of the models I really enjoy working with when it comes to my couple work is Dr John Gottman’s ‘Sound Relationship House’. This model has been developed out of 40 years of clinical research with thousands of couples and helps us understand what healthy, happy resilient couples are doing well. These couples are normal and still have their “moments” – but recover and Re-pair well.
In John Gottman’s book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, the seven principles are connected to each level, or floor, of the Sound Relationship House. Those levels are:
- Build Love Maps
- Share Fondness and Admiration
- Turn Towards Instead of Away
- The Positive Perspective
- Manage Conflict
- Make Life Dreams Come True
- Create Shared Meaning
And the two walls holding up the house are trust and commitment, which are essential to all relationships.
Right now, let’s 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
The research found that emotionally close couples are intimately familiar with each other’s worlds. We call this having a richly detailed Love Map: the 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 brain room in their minds for their relationship and their partner’s world. 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?
Like a good GPS or phone maps system, these Love Maps need to stay updated. As humans we change and grow especially during times of change. Having a baby, changing location, buying a house, new jobs, new friends and on and on, all impact upon us and change us. We need to stay in a position of keen to know and learn about each other right the way through our relationship, not just at the start.
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?
- What is my greatest fear?
- What is on my bucket list?
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.
Use time on your “dates” to learn more about each other and update each other not just talk about the kids, work, the house.
Create special time between you that feeds your relationship.
Tracy Lynch works with her Relationship Team from Thrive Wellness Hub Wickham (Newcastle NSW). She also sees clients via SKYPE.
Couples Counselling is needed during crisis periods in our relationship but is best as a way to feed, resource and act in a preventative way.
For more information please feel free to make contact with me.