As the year draws to a close many people create lofty New Years resolutions and set intentions and goals to have their best year ever. For many single people, finding love often ends up in the center of their vision board or top of their New Years goals list. What happens to couples once they have found the love they so desperately once longed for? Often love no longer makes it on the New Year’s Resolution list because we already have our partner, so why focus on more love? We tend to get more of what we focus on, so if we put energy and focus on love, the more love we can have in our life. Unfortunately, we often do the opposite and instead focus on what is not working, so we get more of that. It’s time to put love back on the list and keep it as a top priority.
Many couples end up in my therapy office because they have somehow drifted apart and have lost that feeling of love, intimacy, and connection they once had with each other. In today's fast-paced world it is so easy to get caught up and distracted by things like work stressors, children's schedules, family obligations, technology, and social media, just to name a few. When this happens couples may lose sight of each other and often one or both may start to feel neglected or taken for granted. During a recent session, one partner confessed that "I just assume that I'll catch up with my partner whenever because, after-all, were together for life". Meanwhile her partner has been feeling like they've become more like roommates, seeing each other in passing and not knowing what the other is going through. This lack of connection led one of them to question the relationship and seek out couples therapy.
Sound Relationship House Theory
In renowned Couples Therapist and researcher Dr. John Gottman's “Sound Relationship House Theory”, he uses the metaphor of a house having different areas which need to be maintained and worked on in order to have a strong house. If one area is weak, over time it can cause the house to fall apart. In couples therapy there are exercises that couples can do to maintain and strengthen the different areas of the house. The foundation of the house is what Gottman refers to as “Enhancing Your Love Maps” which is essentially knowing your partner and staying current about what is going on in their world. This level often gets neglected in long term relationships because partners assume they know their partner already and they assume they will be alerted to any new information as needed.
This assumption is a false one because just like the world is changing rapidly every minute, so are we and our partners. It’s a challenge to keep up with all of the new information coming at us from different directions and so much can happen in a day, let alone a week. Without staying current on each other’s worlds, partners may find themselves feeling distant, lonely, and like they hardly know their partner who lives under the same roof. Knowing your partner not only deepens your connection, but helps prepare couples for stressful events such as illness of a parent or having a new baby. In one study of new parents by Dr. Gottman it was found that after the birth of their first baby 67% of couples experienced a decline in marital satisfaction while the other 33% saw an improvement. The difference between those that saw an increase versus those who had a decline was, love maps. Those who knew their partners deeply and kept current of their changing worlds, continued to feel closer and more connected versus those who did not.
The Love Map Game
Dr. Gottman created a fun game that can be used by couples to assess how well they know their partners, and to get current on each other’s world, using The Love Map Game, available as a card deck or free phone app. I’ve included some sample questions below if you want to try this at home with your partner or any other person you consider close to in order to deeper your bond and connection.
The way this game works is one partner pulls a card or picks a question from the list. They read the question out loud to the other partner and then that same partner answers the question. The other partner then confirms they are correct or provides the most current information. For example, Partner A picks the question: Name your partners two closest friends. Partner A then proceeds to name the people who they believe are their partners two closest friends (Jill and Jane). Partner B responds by confirming that they are right or gives them more current information. For example, Partner B may respond, “Yes, you are right that one of my close friends is still Jane and we talk daily, however I am no longer close with Jill because I don’t feel I can rely on her ever since she agreed to help with my party and then bailed on me last minute. That’s the 3rd time she has let me down, so I no longer consider her my close friend. Now I would say my second best friend is actually Patricia.” Then you would switch turns and go back and forth picking and answering questions.
This is meant to be a fun and lighthearted game with the goal being deeper connection and allowing yourself to know and be known by your partner.
With this in mind, when giving your partner up to date information, do your best to keep it positive and acknowledge your partner for trying to answer the question even if they are wrong. It won’t feel fun if every time they get the answer wrong you criticize them for not knowing you. Instead, try to keep in mind that your partner is actually interested in knowing you and what is current in your world so it helps to encourage them to do this.
Sample Questions from Love Map Game:
1. Who is my favorite artist or composer?
2. What was my worst childhood experience?
3. What personal improvements do I want to make in my life?
4. Who is my greatest source of support (other than you)?
5. What are some important events coming up in my life? How do I feel about them?
You can see all of the questions in the Gottman Card Deck App- under Love Maps. These decks are currently available for free in the app store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gottman-card-decks/id1292398843?mt=8 There are several other card decks included that are great for deepening your knowledge of each other providing other insightful questions around life and sexuality.
If you find yourself wanting to reconnect with your partner yet unable to connect without conflict, you may need some outside support
In some relationships there may be resentment and conflict present which may prevent you from being able to interact and have these sorts of deep, connected conversations with each other. . One of our trained and highly skilled therapists and coaches can help facilitate your reconnection.
Let us help you get the love and connection you desire this New Year and beyond.