They say when you love someone, you know them fully, right from their likes and dislikes to their deep-rooted fears and ambitions. Any relationship in our lives be it friends, family or lovers involves a learning process, a stage where we get to know them as a person. So it's safe to say that knowing someone is part of loving them.
Let me ask you this, have you and your partner ever shared your fears or dreams? Do you also find yourself getting surprised at the things your partner enjoys as hobbies or what guilty pleasures they engage in? If you've answered yes to both of these questions then I have got an interesting exercise for you.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (1999) is a book by John Gottman where he takes this idea of “knowing is loving” and builds it into what he calls, ‘Love Maps’. He defines love maps as that part of your brain where you store all the relevant information about your partner's life. The principle of building Love Maps is to simply know the little things about your partner’s life in order to create a strong foundation for your friendship and intimacy. In his research, he found that many married couples fall into a similar habit of inattention to the details of their spouse's life. So even though you may remember that your partner likes rap music, you may find it hard to tell who their favourite artist is.
But there are also couples who are intimately familiar with each other's world. What do they gain by knowing their partner? What can love maps do for their relationship?
To answer these questions, let’s hear from Jashan, 28 who shares his experience of building a love map with his partner. “Of course when we first started dating we asked each other all kinds of questions like we all do, your favourite colour, food and whatnot. The more we talked about our interests and know each other the more we ended up liking one another. But it wasn't until one night we started talking about our dreams that I felt deeply connected with Rohan. Since then we have shared almost every thought on our mind. We share the big days of our lives and even the changes our life puts us through, be it moving cities or climbing that corporate ladder. Doing that really makes us feel connected”, says Jashan.
Hearing Jashan speak about his relationship, we can see that this couple possess a richly detailed love map, which means that there is plenty of room in their brains for their relationship. They remember the significant events in each other's history, and they keep updating their information as the facts and feelings of their partner’s world change. This is an important detail to note; just like how you grow over time, so does your partner and your relationship with them. And so with each incoming change, your love map would also need an update.
This practice may seem important for new couples especially but it remains crucial throughout the relationship. I mean imagine if Google Maps remained the same as it did 5 years ago? Do you think we’d be able to reach our destinations in time? Just as Google updates their maps to increase accuracy and help you reach your stops, updating your love maps helps you increase intimacy and reach to higher levels in your relationship.
There will always be a need and opportunity to get to know your partner better. So it becomes essential to make it a priority over the lifetime of your relationship.
Let us consider this for a minute: how often have we struggled to understand and realise our feelings, thoughts and worldview? How many times have we seen our thoughts and feelings change right before our eyes? If we understand that internal struggle, we must also see how understanding our complex inner world can be a challenge for another person. After all, our inner world contains our past, our present, our hopes for the future, our deepest fears and our grandest dreams.
Now to take on this challenge as a couple, it might help if we start by intentionally adding details we have shared with each other. It might even help you gain a visual of these maps if you sketch these out with colors, and mark key milestones. After all, a little creativity never hurts anybody! Working on these maps would not only help your partner see the world through your perspective but also allow you to express yourself. The more you understand and appreciate each other's unique paths, the more you'll find harmony and connection in your relationship. As you add detail to your maps you gain clarity about the journey that you’re embarking upon together.
To start building your Love Map, imagine love maps as the intricate paths that lead to the core of your partner's heart and mind. These unique maps are like a delicate and beautiful tapestry woven with memories, dreams, and emotions.
Now picture yourself as an explorer, eager to understand the inner world of your partner. As you embark on this journey, your empathy will serve as a compass, guiding you through the depths of their emotions and experiences. It's about creating a safe and nurturing space for your partner to open up and share their innermost thoughts and feelings. Here empathy doesn't just mean listening to your partner but truly understanding. Put yourself in your partner's shoes, and try to comprehend their perspective, emotions, and struggles without any judgment. The entire goal of the exercise is to listen and learn about your partner.
In this journey of building love maps, you'll find that vulnerability is a bridge that connects you and your partner on a deeper level. By opening up about your own emotions and experiences, you create a safe space for your partner to share theirs. It's essential to be patient and gentle with yourself and your partner during this process.
Love maps are not created overnight; they require time, effort, and commitment. Be understanding of your partner's boundaries and be willing to respect their pace in sharing their inner world.
With these intentions in mind, I leave you with a small exercise at the end. It's time to apply all that we’ve explored today. Take the following questions and get ready to interview your partner. You can take turns as a listener and speaker, and write out the answers. Even though these maps are "all in your head," it helps to write down some of the basics.
We've also curated a special Baatein deck called "Love Maps" to help you guide this exploration with your partner. (Add link)
Remember, couples in healthy relationships don't just know each other. They build on and enhance this knowledge to create a strong foundation. This sense of your partner's inner world is one that you can keep coming back to! Building love maps is a loving practice for couples to keep building a meaningful bond with their partner.