Celebrating Valentine’s Day “right” is a source of stress for many couples. A deluge of advertisements pours down on us, beginning weeks before the holiday – many of them creating guilt-avoidance incentives for men to spend as much money as possible on their female partners. All of this marketing has made us feel that we suddenly need to conjure bouquets of roses, diamond rings, and expensive steak ‘n lobster dinners.
Unfortunately, by the time February 14th rolls around, most of us are really feeling the pressure. However, the most unfortunate part about this is that somewhere, between the hustle and bustle of buying gifts and preparing for an extravagant Valentine’s Day, many of us lose sight of what the holiday is really about: connecting with our partners. That’s where Love Maps come in!
First off, what are Love Maps? Proposed by The Gottman Institute, love mapping is the use of open-ended questions to better know the internal world of your partner. Asking these types of questions can truly deepen intimacy in a relationship.
In the beginning phase of relationships, Love Maps are generally strong because we are curious about the person we are falling in love with… we want to know everything! We ask questions about their favorite music, foods, and hobbies, career aspirations, and so on. Not only that, but Love Maps are also about hopes, goals, values, and convictions. Human beings are complex and, when you first meet someone new, it seems there are an endless supply of questions to ask and things to discover about one another.
But as romantic relationships progress past the honeymoon phase, we often fail to continue asking these types of questions because we think we know everything there is to know about our partner. We lose our curiosity. This is so unfortunate because, as we evolve, what was once true may no longer be. Just like roadmaps are constantly being updated to add new streets and destinations, our Love Maps must also continue to be updated to allow us to keep up with our partner’s ever-evolving interests, hobbies, likes, dislikes, goals, values, and more. Neglecting to do so usually results in loss in connection, interest, excitement, intimacy, and friendship over time.
Enhancing your Love Maps is about building your friendship on an intimate level. Research shows that the determining factor in whether wives and husbands feel satisfied with the sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship. So get to know each other!
So, here’s my challenge for you. No matter how you celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, be it at a trendy new restaurant or at home with a nice home-cooked meal, make Love Maps a part of the evening. You can even make it into a fun, light-hearted game with the steps provided below:
Step 1: Write down numbers 1 through 15 on little individual strips of paper, fold the strips, and then drop them into a cup or bowl.
Step 2: Take turns drawing a strip of paper. Each number corresponds to one of the questions below. Read the corresponding question to your partner and see how they answer. Was their answer what you expected? If not, don’t worry! Whether their answer was what you expected or not, you’re updating your Love Maps and getting to know your partner on a truly intimate level. And that’s something you both can win at!
- Name two of my closest friends.
- What foods do I hate?
- What stresses am I facing right now?
- Name two people I most admire.
- What is one of my greatest fears or disaster scenarios?
- What is my favorite time of day for lovemaking?
- What makes me feel most competent?
- What turns me on sexually?
- What is my favorite meal?
- What is my favorite way to spend an evening?
- What personal improvements do I want to make in my life?
- What are some of the important events coming up in my life? How do I feel about them?
- What was my most embarrassing moment?
- Of all the people we both know, who do I like the least?
- What was one of my best childhood experiences?
Happy Valentine’s Day!
MS, LPC-Intern, Certified Sex Therapist-Candidate