Monday, February 13, 2012

Intentional Relationships 101: Creating a Love Map

by Elisa Torell, M.A., LAPC

One of my guilty pleasures is watching “Say Yes to the Dress” on the TLC channel. This reality TV show is entirely devoted to which beautiful gown a girl will choose for the day she walks down the aisle to marry the love of her life. To me, it’s almost the epitome of our culture’s perception of true love! For most brides, it can be impossible to think that the dress and the day that she “has dreamed about her whole life” could result in anything but a perfect fairytale. And no man watches the “most beautiful woman he has ever seen” walk towards him to commit to the good and bad together with the thought that divorce may be only a few years down the road. They are in love, what could possibly change?

Yet after the honeymoon when all the excitement and glamour fades, too often couples experience a painful dose of reality—the reality that “staying in love” actually takes some intentional work! In his years of research with thousands couples, psychologist John Gottman claimed he could predict with 91 percent accuracy whether or not couples would divorce after observing them in as little as 5 minutes. Yikes! With so many varying opinions out there about what makes or breaks a relationship, Gottman has sought to use research to understand couples who have truly “made it work” and extract those common principles that have made them successful.

 A basic, yet vital, foundation of a healthy relationship is a thorough knowledge of your partner. When you first get to know someone, you must ask questions to find out his or her likes and dislikes, values, and passions. According to Gottman, healthy couples don’t stop there. They continue to keep themselves familiar with each other’s world on a consistent, even daily, basis. This requires making time for communicating and checking in with each other. It doesn’t mean a full-fledged Valentine’s Day event every week, but prioritizing each other in little ways to keep each other updated on facts and feelings that change in each other’s world. This includes everything from how he is adjusting to the new boss to her current favorite song, to the bigger things like goals, life worries, values, hopes and dreams. Such knowledge not only allows partners to truly love each other (how can you love what you don’t know?), but Gottman’s research also reveals that couples who have intimate knowledge of each other are better equipped to weather life’s stresses and conflicts.

            Below is fun, light-hearted exercise you and your partner can do together to check-in and see how well you know each other. Maybe set aside a date night to enjoy this together! This exercise and further principles dealing with conflict and cultivating a healthy relationship can be found in Gottman’s book, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

The Love Map 20-Questions Game

Step 1:  Together with your partner, pick twenty randon mubers between 1 and 60. Each of you then should list the selected numbers on the left-hand side of a blank sheet of paper.

Step 2:  Starting at the top of your number collumn, match your numbers to the questions on the following list.  Each of you should ask your partner the question and decide if answered correctly.  If correct, the person answering receives the indicated points and the other receives 1 point.  If answered incorrectly, neither receives points.  Make sure you both take a turn asking and answering every question! The winner is the person with the higher score after all 20 questions have been answered.

  1. Name my two closest friends. (2)
  2. What is my favorite musical group, composer, or instrument? (2)
  3. What was I wearing when we first met? (2)
  4. Name one of my hobbies. (3)
  5. Where was I born? (1)
  6. What stresses am I facing right now? (4)
  7. Describe in detail what I did today, or yesterday? (4)
  8. When is my birthday? (1)
  9. What is the date of our anniversary? (1)
  10. Who is my favorite relative? (2)
  11. What is my fondest unrealized dream? (5)
  12. What is my favorite flower? (2)
  13. What is one of my greatest fears or disaster scenarios? (3)
  14. What is my favorite time of day for lovemaking? (3)
  15. What makes me feel most competent? (4)
  16. What turns me on sexually? (3)
  17. What is my favorite meal? (2)
  18. What is my favorite way to spend an evening? (2)
  19. What is my favorite color? (1)
  20. What personal improvements do I want to make in my life? (4)
  21. What kind of present would I like best? (2)
  22. What was one of my best childhood experiences? (2)
  23. What was my favorite vacation? (2)
  24. What is one of my favorite ways to be soothed? (4)
  25. Who is my greatest source of support (other than you)? (3)
  26. What is my favorite sport? (2)
  27. What do I most like to do with time off? (2)
  28. What is one of my favorite weekend activities? (2)
  29. What is my favorite getaway place? (3)
  30. What is my favorite movie? (2)
  31. What are some of the important events coming up in my life? How do I feel about them? (4)
  32. What are some of my favorite ways to work out? (2)
  33. Who was my best friend in childhood? (3)
  34. What is one of my favorite magazines? (2)
  35. Name one of my major rivals or “enemies”. (3)
  36. What would I consider my ideal job? (4)
  37. What do I fear the most? (4)
  38. Who is my least favorite relative? (3)
  39. What is my favorite holiday? (2)
  40. What kinds of books do I most like to read? (3)
  41. What is my favorite TV show? (2)
  42. Which side of the bed do I prefer? (2)
  43. What am I most sad about? (4)
  44. Name one of my concerns or worries. (4)
  45. What medical problems do I worry about? (2)
  46. What was my most embarrassing moment? (3)
  47. What was my worst childhood experience? (3)
  48. Name two of the people I most admire. (4)
  49. Name my major rival or enemy. (3)
  50. Of all the people we both know, who do I like the least? (3)
  51. What is one of my favorite desserts? (2)
  52. What is my social security number? (2)
  53. Name one of my favorite novels. (2)
  54. What is my favorite restaurant? (2)
  55. What are two of my aspirations, hopes, and wishes? (4)
  56. Do I have a secret ambition?  What is it? (4)
  57. What foods do I hate? (2)
  58. What is my favorite animal? (2)
  59. What is my favorite song? (2)
  60. Which sports team is my favorite? (2)