Before I begin this post, let me first ask you a few questions about how well you know your husband.
What are your husband’s painful and happy childhood memories?
What are the things that make him happy or stressed right now?
What are his dreams and aspirations for the future?
The first question is about your husband’s history; the second, his present; and the third, his future. If you were able to answer all of this, then you know your husband pretty well, and I hope it goes both ways. These are some of the information about your partner which you store in your love map. Some details about him remains the same such as his best cousins, and some info change, such as his present situation or his personal goals. Thus, it is important to always update each other’s love map, lest you’d grow estranged from each other.
What is a love map?
Love map is the term coined by Dr. John Gottman which refers to that part in our brains where we store all the relevant information about our partner’s life.
You know he wants his sunny-side-up egg intact and half-cooked yolk, his bacon and fries crunchy, and his coffee brewed among others. You know he’s looking forward to that upcoming Reru Kenshin and Christopher Nolan movies, you know he feels stressed and overwhelmed by too many clients’ demands, you know he’s suffering from his perfectionist inner critic. Okay wait, I think I just described my husband. But anyway, I know you got the picture.
Why is it important in marriage?
In one study, newly wed couples were asked to rate their marital satisfaction before they became parents and after the arrival of their first child. The researchers found that 67% of these couples had a swift decline in their satisfaction in their marriage. The 33% meanwhile, did not experience this drop—in fact, about half of them saw their marriages improve.
What made these two groups different is that the couples whose marriages thrived after the birth had detailed love maps. These couples know each other inside out. The love maps protected their marriages in this significant change in their lives. Imagine the major adjustments they had to make — the adjustment to their roles as new husband and wife, and as new father and mother. Yet because of their strong love map, their relationship satisfaction stayed the same, and if not, went better.
Couples who have detailed love maps are in touch not just with the outlines of each other’s lives–their favorite hobbies, sports, and so on–but with each other’s deepest longings, beliefs, and fears. No matter how busy they were, they made each other their priority—always making sure they had time to catch up on each other’s day. And at least once a week they’d go out for dinner and just talk—sometimes about politics, sometimes about the weather, sometimes about their own marriage.
Have you ever heard or known some married couples who have gone estranged? Or maybe some couples who spiraled down into becoming just roommates? One grieving woman said, “I don’t know who my husband is anymore.” Perhaps this happened because the couples failed to update their love maps regularly. They forgot to prioritize to share each other’s individual lives.
As they said, “change is the only constant thing,” and it holds true for us and our spouses. As years go by, we experience many things in life, and these experiences change us, mold us, hone us. Updating our love maps deliberately will keep us on-the-know of who our partners are in the present, and what they will become in the future. The getting to know each other stage doesn’t just happen in the pre-relationship, the time during your courtship, it also happens and needs to happen during the entire course of your marriage.
Gottman, J. S. (Ed.). (2004). The marriage clinic casebook. WW Norton & Company.