Building Love Maps

There is a long-time running joke about husbands and wives having fights during road trips about using maps. You’ve seen it in movies, commercials and it’s been a topic at dinner parties for years.  He thinks he’s right and knows exactly where he’s going. She thinks she’s right and is frustrated that he’s not listening. And all the while the map, the key to ending the argument for once and for all, is sitting on the backseat. Maps. They work…when you use them. Maps hold TONS of information that most of us never even pay attention to (don’t worry. I won’t bore you here with all of the details concerning map minutia). “It’s too complicated”, some say. And they may be right about the amount of information, but think about how much easier our lives are because of maps. Now, in real life nobody is really using physical maps anymore. No judgment here if you are :). But GPS (which is based on maps) is here now to make our lives even easier. How so? Because the more information you have, the easier any area is to navigate. And if that’s true, why can’t it be that easy to navigate love? Or can it!? (Enter snazzy way to introduce Gottman’s love maps.)

A really smart and down-to-earth therapist came up with a term called “love maps.” He defines them as “the part of our brains that store all of the relevant information about our partner’s lives.” Incredible, right!?!?! At first glance the term might make one think it means something corny about how to find your way to a perfect love. Well, besides the fact that there’s no such thing as a perfect love, it’s good to know that Dr. Gottman has more substantive information to share about having (a) better love and that it is not centered around one’s self. I, at least, found that to be very refreshing. So much advice centers around what your partner can do for you. I like this because it requires, much like love does, for you to be unselfish and intentional. Let’s get into it. 

Dr. Gottman talks about love maps and offers that they are opportunities to intentionally make plenty of space to store information about their preferences, opinions, quirks, dreams, fears…you know. All of those things that make us us. Isn’t that what we all want? A place that lives inside of our partners that is just about us. A place that they can access anytime they need to pull information about us for gifts…for the best way to apologize…for a new way to say “I love you.”…or just anything. I love the concept already! But, if you’re looking to sharpen them or add a new one, let’s take at what it takes to really build a love map. Keep in mind that the purpose of these maps is to help your partner(s) have the best resources for navigating your heart. You are sharing you so that you can equip them with the most up to date software that your world operates on. So how do we do it? How do we build a love map? Glad you asked. 

If you are gifting someone with a love map for Christmas, the best place to get started is with yourself. How in the world can you expect someone to know more about you than you do? It’s an unfair expectation. Therefore, and this is just good for relationships in general, all love starts with self-love. So, getting to know yourself is key. What do you like? What are your triggers? What are your fears? What are you good at? What are you most proud of? What are some of the things that you said you would take to your grave? And why did you say that? What are you ashamed of? And what are your shame parameters? What is your happiest childhood memory?  What makes you tick? What makes your you know what tick tick boom? WHO ARE YOU??? And, what are the bricks that make you made out of? Important questions, right? There are many that could be added to the list. The point is that you can’t help people navigate through a town that you don’t know. That brings me to my next point. 

When you’re building a love map about your partner, you must ask questions. And they can’t be just any type of questions. You have to ask open-ended questions that provide opportunities for your partner to expound and give flesh to a response. Closed-ended, as in “yes or no” questions only provide surface information about a person. But, if you want to get to know the real them, you’ve got to put on your wetsuit and dive deep. Here’s a really simple example of an open v. closed-ended question session: 

Closed-ended question:

 You: Hey hon. Did you have a good day at work?

Hon: Yes. 

 Notice that you did get an answer, but was that all that that you wanted to know? Maybe not. So, what could it look like if you tried the open-ended question approach?:

   Open-ended question:

 You: Hey hon. You up to telling me about your day?

Hon: Absolutely. You’re my favorite person in the whole world, and I’m so grateful to be able to come home and have someone who really cares about the nuance of my day. Come sit next to me and let me rub your feet while I tell you all about it.  

  1. OK. I may have laid it on a little thick at the end but you get the point. You have to ask questions, not just for asking’s sake, but with a consciousness about what the information is that you really want to know. You want connection. You want to create memories that are built on a foundation of substance. You want to understand your partner’s actions from a place of personal awareness. You want to know the why’s behind their actions. And not just the good stuff. You want to understand how they interpret and manage conflicts. You want to know how they process information to ascertain conflict in the first place. You want to know them. 

It is important to note that building love maps is a perpetual event. It’s not one of those situations where you can take a weekend and make a long list of questions to rattle off. Not at all. We are complicated and ever-evolving, as are our maps. There will be times when the winds of life blow over monuments that used to stand tall in our worlds. There will be moments where the water of our tears will rise and flood parts of our lives. The floodwater may cause damage in some areas that our maps will need to reflect. Life will happen and the more information you have on the key of your map, the more prepared your partner will be able to weather the storms with you.  

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I understand how intimidating giving this kind of access can be. A roadmap to your heart? A blueprint to find all of the skeletons? What sane person gives that up willingly?!?! The answer to that question is YOU! And yes, it will require a certain level of vulnerability that only the brave attempt. But that’s you! And if it isn’t yet, it will/can be. Building love maps for each other can be a vastly rewarding experience for all parties when it’s done properly, and you both are intentional about being gentle with each other…and yourselves. 

 If it’s a healthier relationship you’re seeking, and you want/need a little support in building/sharing or mapping out your love maps, we’re here for it (and you!). Come by yourself. Come with your partner(s). If you need us, just come. We’ll map out (get it? Map out? lol) the rest. 

Alicia Beltran

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