What’s the number one thing that couples do when they first meet? They talk.
At the beginning of relationships, it’s normal to spend hours upon hours chatting about meaningful, connective ideas. Dr John and Julie Gottman refer to this process as ‘love mapping.’ It’s the time when couples attune to each other and share their dreams, experiences, realities, and wishes. This helps to build a sense of trust and connectedness that simply cannot be denied by those who experience it.
Take a moment to ask yourself: who in your life do you spend the most time talking to about the things that matter most to you? This is the person you are love mapping with.
As careers take off and children enter the picture, unfortunately, those hours of endless chatter tend to dwindle for most couples. This is significant because it put a couple’s intimacy, friendship, and connection at risk and as they transcend through the different developmental stages of life. In the absence of an intact love map with their partner, sometimes people create stronger love maps with coworkers, friends, and even other relatives.
As human beings, we rarely resist somebody turning towards us, attuning to our needs, and showing us interest, care, concern, appreciation, and affection. The couples I observe in my practice tend to be hungry for connection with one another – but in our busy world, finding time to connect without an electronic device can be difficult.
Here are some examples of love mapping questions you can ask your partner (or yourself):
- Where do you see our marriage headed in 10 years?
- What are you looking forward to most this weekend?
- Who in my family triggers me the most?
- What can I do to make you feel special?
- What’s the one thing we’ve done together that matters the most to you?
- What’s the one thing you have done in your life that matters the most to you?
- How can I best show you my love and appreciation?
The late Jaak Panksepp of the Department of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine spent his career seeking to understand emotions and what drives the need for connection. He found that we have seven networks of emotion in the brain: seeking, rage, fear, lust, care, play, and panic. These are created in utero and require no learning; that is, we emerge from our mother’s womb with the capabilities to seek out these emotions (Sandra Paulsen, 2007). Of course, we need the people around us to nurture these abilities to ensure optimal development – but they are there for all of us, and the reason we look for connection.
So, next time your partner wants to talk, remember the power of love mapping. Nurture their desire for connection by asking open-ended questions and showing a sense of curiosity. Ultimately, it will strengthen you as a couple in ways you did not think important or possible.
Here’s a great example of what love mapping looks like: