Build Lasting Relationships

Since people are currently quarantined and spending more time with each other, I thought it would be appropriate to consider how couples build lasting relationships.

Here is a summary of theories and concepts taught by Dr. John Gottman from The Gottman Institute( ) Dr. Gottman indicates that marital friendship is the foundation of what he calls the Sound Relationship House. Friendship is the thing that keeps the relationship going. He says that couples who have been together for a long time don’t stay married because of luck or the absence of conflict. They stay married because they know and like each other.

Dr. Gottman believes the primary task of new couples is to get to know each other.  He thinks there will always be more that you don’t know about your partner than you do.  He indicates that you need to make it a priority to get to know your partner over the lifetime of your relationship.

Dr. Gottman stresses the importance of getting to know your partner’s world through a process he calls Building Love Maps.  He describes building love maps in the following way:  When you choose to spend your life with someone, you hand them a map to your inner world. Your inner world is complex including the memories of your past, the details of your present, your hopes for the future. It includes your deepest fears and your grandest dreams. But the map you hand your partner is a pencil sketch.

Couples need to constantly be adding details to the love map.  The map needs things like color, texture, scale, landmarks, direction, and legend.  A love map that is well developed can bring perspective to the challenges that a marriage will encounter.  Dr. Gottman stresses the importance of starting this early in a marriage.  He says, “if you don’t start off with a deep knowledge of each other, it’s easy for your marriage to lose its way when your lives shift so suddenly and dramatically.”

Here is a Love Map Questions Game Adapted from John Gottman, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.  Dr. Gottman suggests playing this game frequently with a spirit of gentle fun.  He developed this game to help people strengthen their relationships.  Here are 10 questions from the game.  Please see his book for additional questions.

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?

Note:  The Gottman Institute has created another tool to help with Love Map development.   They have a deck of cards called 52 Questions Before Marriage or Moving In which can also be helpful.

Hopefully this information can help us be more mindful about the importance of really getting to know our partner in order to help build lasting relationships.

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