Every romantic relationship needs a strong friendship at its center. Friendship is essential to long-lasting, passionate connection. It is like the coals of a bonfire that maintain the heat through the night and remain even after all the wood has burned up. Even in the morning with a little stoking and more wood, the coals quickly blaze again into a warm fire. Friendship is the foundation of long-lasting romance.
The friendship we share with our partner is not second rate to the romance and passion of love. Without a strong friendship, there is no foundation for romance. If you tell me that romance and intimacy is dead in your relationship the first thing to start working on is your friendship! When friendship with your partner dies out, the whole relationship loses its foundation and its spark.
The great philosopher Aristotle once said in his writing, “A friend is a second self.” This is one of my favorite phrases to think about when considering friendship, especially in the context of romantic relationships. True friendship brings forth the desire to know your partner as intimately as you know yourself. Of course, you will never be able to know your partner completely, but you can get pretty close! Desiring to grow in intimacy with your partner in such a deep way creates a continued journey to know our partners and be known by our partners. If you don’t know what your partners hopes, desires, and aspirations are, then how can you support them in those? If you don’t know what their stressors, sensitivities, and hurts are, then how can you be present to their pain and difficulty? Friendship is the foundation of love that lasts.
Drs. John & Julie Gottman are world renowned relationship experts. They have dedicated their lives to learning what separates the “relationship masters” from the “relationship disasters.” The Gottman’s call their blueprint for healthy relationships The Sound Relationship House. Each level of the Sound Relationship House contains an essential ingredient for making love last, and at the very foundation of the Sound Relationship House is friendship. The Gottman’s refer to Love Maps as the center of friendship, and the foundation of love that lasts. Love Maps refer to the amount of mental space you have in your brain for your partner. A Love map is your knowledge of your partner’s inner world. Research conducted by the Gottman’s has revealed that the amount of mental room a partner has for their relationship and for the world of their partner predicts how stable the relationship will be.
Masters of relationships develop a map of their partner’s history, likes, dislikes, concerns, preferences and the current world of their partner. The Masters of relationships create Love Maps of their partner’s world by asking open-ended questions. An open-ended question is a question that can’t be answered by a simple “yes” or “no.” An example of an open-ended question is, “How was your day today?” This question leaves room for your partner to respond in the way they would like and lets them really tell you about their day. It shows that you are really interested in their life and their experience. In comparison, “Did you have a good day today?” is a closed ended question, and while it shows you are interested and care about their day, it limits the response of your partner to being “yes” or “no.”
Just like the operating system on your phone, the Love Maps of your relationship need to be routinely updated. We are always changing and evolving. Our perspectives, stressors, hopes and dreams can change with time, so it is important to take time to update the Love Maps in your relationship. This exercise below is a simple way to update your love maps and to develop the skill of asking open-ended questions about your partners answers. Enhancing your love maps is really about building friendship on an intimate level. True friendship is the bedrock of love that lasts. Try this activity to test & build Love Maps with your partner!
THE LOVE MAPS QUESTIONS GAME
Now that you understand the importance of building Love Maps, play a fun, light-hearted game with your partner. The more you play, the more you’ll learn about the Love Maps concept and how to apply it to your relationship.
Step 1: Both you and your partner take a piece of paper, and with a pen, write down twenty numbers between 1 and 60.
Step 2: Below is a list of numbered questions. Beginning with the top of your column, match the numbers you chose with the corresponding question. Each of you should ask your partner this question. If your partner answers correctly (you be the judge), he or she receives a point. If your partner responds incorrectly, neither of you receives any points. The same rules apply when you answer. The winner is the person with the higher score after you’ve both answer all twenty questions.
- Name two of my closest friends (2 points)
- What is my favorite musical group, composer, or instrument? (2 points)
- What was I wearing when we first met? (2 points)
- Name one of my hobbies. (3 points)
- Where was I born? (1 point)
- What stresses am I facing right now? (4 points)
- Describe in detail what I did today, or yesterday. (4 points)
- When is my birthday? (1 point)
- What is the date of our anniversary? (1 point)
- Who is my favorite relative? (2 points)
- What is my fondest unrealized dream? (5 points)
- What is my favorite website? (2 points)
- What is one of my greatest fears or disaster scenarios? (3 points)
- What is my favorite time of day for lovemaking? (3 points)
- What makes me feel most competent? (4 points)
- What turns me on sexually? (3 points)
- What is my favorite meal? (2 points)
- What is my favorite way to spend an evening? (2 points)
- What is my favorite color? (1 point)
- What personal improvements do I want to make in my life? (4 points)
- What kind of present would I like best? (2 points)
- What was one of my best childhood experiences? (2 points)
- What was my favorite vacation? (2 points)
- What is one of my favorite ways to relax? (4 points)
- Who is my greatest source of support (other than you)? (3 points)
- What is my favorite sport? (2 points)
- What do I most like to do with time off? (2 points)
- What is one of my favorite weekend activities? (2 points)
- What is my dream getaway place? (3 points)
- What is my favorite movie? (2 points)
- What are some of the important events coming up in my life? How do I feel about them? (4 points)
- What are some of my favorite ways to work out? (2 points)
- Who was my best friend in childhood? (3 points)
- What is one of my favorite magazines? (2 points)
- Name one of my major rivals or “enemies.” (3 points)
- What would I consider my dream job? (4 points)
- What do I fear the most? (4 points)
- Who is my least favorite relative? (3 points)
- What is my favorite holiday? (2 points points)
- What kinds of books do I most like to read? (3 points)
- What is my favorite TV show? (2 points)
- Which side of the bed do I prefer? (2 points)
- What am I most sad about? (4 points)
- Name one of my concerns or worries. (4 points)
- What medical problems do I worry about? (2 points)
- What was my most embarrassing moment? (3 points)
- What was my worst childhood experience? (3 points)
- Name two people I most admire. (4 points)
- Name my favorite ice cream flavor. (2 points)
- Of all the people we both know, who do I like the least? (3 points)
- What is one of my favorite desserts? (2 points)
- What is my social security number?
- Name one of my novels. (2 points)
- What is my favorite restaurant? (2 points)
- What are two of my aspirations, hopes, wishes? (4 points)
- Do I have a secret ambition? What is it? (4 points)
- What foods do I hate? (2 points)
- What is my favorite animal? (2 points)
- What is my favorite song? (2 points)
- Which sports teams is my favorite? (2 points)
*Adapted from John Gottman, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
PhD, G. J., & Silver, N. (2015). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert (Revised ed.). Harmony.
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
By John Paul Dombrowski – Therapist Intern
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghNovember 3, 2016 couples counseling, couples therapy, divorce, marriage counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, therapist, therapists, therapy, wellness, wisdom0 comments
Love, Aspires, Inspires, A Verb from the Muses
There are relationships, there are couples, marriages in fact which succeed in months, years, decades even in commitment and in monogamy without living in love. Let us not confuse the fact that because we have created a relationship that we are loving another person. Just as we know sex can exist without love, long and short term relationships exist, co-habitation, partnerships, they are aplenty without love. Often as therapists, we see couples in crisis, they bring in the scathing shards of their shattered romance and wonder how they can rebuild the faith in their affection. Across America the typical couples make a beeline for argumentative conversation which meanders around topics of how can we get our partner to hear, to see, to acknowledge our needs and to change their behavior. Certainly, these lines of inquiry have their place in the creation of meaningful bonds, we expect and validate that there must be a mutual and respectful collaboration and a relationship is a place where both member’s voices are heard, understood, and at the minimum respectfully entertained. For this essay, let us examine the relationship from a separate space, in recognition that true love isn’t about what we can get, how we get our partner to put down the toilet seat or offer more physical intimacy, it is within what we can give, as at its root, love is not about us as individuals it is about the other, the beloved other.
Love is Patient
Love is patient, love does not make unnecessary demands upon time or attention as love remains present when hearing “no”, “not right now”, “maybe tomorrow” or another day. Love excites to hear no because it is within “no” that an opportunity to understand a boundary exists. Love listens and can hear the fears and anxieties beneath the shaking words of long and difficult days, and with best intention, love seeks to sooth anxiousness and fear. Love is the gentle nuzzle which brings the sharp wail of the crying baby closer into bosom. Love is the gracious wind which billows atop positive intentions, the sweet breezes which pollinate The Delicate Cherry Blossom and The Mighty Japanese Maple, alike.
Love is Kindness
Love is kindness and the assumption that our beloved is offering to us goodness. Love is so infinitely gentle in its delivery of words and connection; it is lovingness which exudes its feather tipped delivery, not sharp needling. Love is inquisitive and present; she is the instillation of hope. Love connects and harmonizes towards natures bountiful flow. Love is abundant and shares in the quest for greater understanding and timely compassion.
Love is Sacrifice
Love is sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice indeed because love makes no room for the egos demands and rigid preconceived notions of personal expectations. To love is to receive and respond to another person’s needs. Love is a beacon and a refuge, the replenishment of optimism, as indeed there are many who would proffer that love is a delusion and perhaps it is true. Perhaps there could be no love in the universe if it weren’t for the proverbial rose colored glasses that tinge our earthen bonds with eternal delight. We can see it in those who share in it, as there are indeed relationships, there are passionate romances and sexually fueled emissions of pleasure but many or most of those are not in fact love. Love is connection, love chooses us and then we choose to make the leap of faith offering our brittle bones in their vulnerable frailty to the source of human faith.
For many lofty philosophical types and religious leaders, love is indeed The Source, it is the meaning for human existence, love, the elixir of the gods is all plentiful but sometimes too the well runs dry. Yet I can promise any reader this; that if we have come to a place where we question the integrity, the meaning, the strength of our connection in our relationship, that we have in fact moved away from these necessary components, these loving heart swelling calliopes. Sometimes too, that is for the best, not every person, place or moment is deserving of love and this thing which is so pure and grand, this glimmering star dust may not be within the reach of capacity for each of us or in each moment, dear mortals, this too is much more than ok. Let us all be cautiously aware of loves impostors dressed as the fool, searching for easy answers, demanding knowingness, the ego, suspicions and cruelty, violating boundaries, dismissal, withdrawing, manipulation, these, none of these deserve the association to loves eternal expansiveness. When we speak of boredom and unmet needs we are no longer singing the praises of love, these are only ego.
We always know most immediately those who are vibrating near the pulse of loves harpsichord, their eyes shone a bit more brightly, they are willing to look beyond the shadowy valleys to take in the vistas of the cloudless sky, yes, yes, just perhaps that is it, the source of it all, love a gift pluming and cascading like the most precious gift, the rays of sun dancing down from way, way, up there.
Your friends The Troubadours of The Millennium
In love and light,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
by Stephanie McCrackenSeptember 23, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, mindfulness, psychology, psychotherapy0 comments
Tight Hugs I Like; A Psychotherapists Musings
It could be risky to admit this but here it goes anyway, I judge people, in social settings I categorize to such a grand degree, some may say I can hardly help myself. You see, I rank people based on how they hug. When it comes to hugs, they are certainly not all the same. For example, my grandmother, she was a woman who knew how to wallop out a good old-fashioned, full on, closed-arm, hug. Of course she was blessed with a constitution of advantages being a billowy woman who with her puffy arms was capable of ensconcing me in a way that warmly emitted rapture. When I am meeting, enjoying, and connecting, I always cherish most those folks who know how to put extra endurance on the squeeze, those are my people the kind, warm, close, hug-loving people.
Hugs are kind of like the word “love” in regards to the way we have come to dole them out socially. We hug upon meeting and greeting, at every social and familial function, it’s inextricably woven into the fabric of our social essence yet I wonder if the more that we do it, the less care we pause to exert that extra “umph” into its meaning and effort, somehow causing it to lose its magical luster. Like the carelessly tossed “love you” which punctuates the end of conversations over iPhones and peppered unto friendly discourses. The whole thing makes me melancholy, myself being a women known to exhibit a propensity for intensities of passion, I know that the altitudes of love are not unleashed when we lube up every good bye with “luv you.” My fiancé and I have a rule between us that we only say those words when we are superbly overcome with loves sentiments and can offer proper tone and intimations to its grander meaning and I think hugs should be the same.
We can enter a discussion into the mounting scientific evidence which identifies oxytocin and other alchemical neurochemicals and their vast proliferation upon the synapse during human contact, a full 20 second hug ranks best in stress relief, bonding, relationship healing, it’s sort of like a love serum. Yet I really only need to think about the mutually enveloping sensation provoked upon a tight, warm, and long hug and I already know- this is the sweet spot, this is indeed where the magic happens; tight hugs I like.
Perhaps we best know the tight hug by its inverse, the dowdy anticlimax of the one-armed, limited contact encounter, this is the person who offers one limp and paltry arm to the embrace, their hand barely grazing the others back. Sort of like its phony cousin, the air-kiss, quite popular in Europe and Hollywood. These pseudo-signs of affectionate encounter make me wonder “Good gracious Darling!!! Why are we even bothering with a hug?!” Perhaps these people are better temperamentally suited for handshakes or high fives, which is simply fine but please don’t spoil the hug. Still there are others who fumblingly attempt the hug with a gapping distance between their bodies, as they lean in with their chest, their hand taps upon their would-be comrades back. I watch imagining that fluttering hand so close to a warm embrace yet the hand will not rest nor envelop their friend, they will not anchor them down, pulling friends nor acquaintances in, ever missing the full embrace. I sigh watching their leaning chests and tapping hands, saddened by what I imagine to be their trembling fear of connection.
Perhaps I am a romantic as somewhere in my heart of hearts I know that maybe some of us are destined to be less than adequate huggers, the ecstasy of a limb-locked, enduring hug is not something that one can enjoy with everyone. The dreamer in me is helpless to float upon imaginary visions of a world teeming with propensities towards deep, soul-strewn connection, flowery displays of oozing, syrupy, love. Where we hug it out in the market place with arms firmly enveloping the neck, with chests pressing chest, body rocked embraces like pillars of hope amidst the coffee shops and promenades. Can you imagine such a place, an earth where we envelop each other more freely and shamelessly, where hugs mean something and the tight vibration of muscles grid locked around each other thrumming into the hollows of our insides, where we move into the distances, stomping out those numbing chasms and we commence upon celebration of full bodies connections. Tight hugs I like.
Exuding robust love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh pa 15233
412-322-2129 [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenAugust 15, 2014 counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, psychotherapy0 comments
/ˈɪntəməsi/ Show Spelled [in-tuh-muh-see] noun, plural in·ti·ma·cies.
1. The state of being intimate.
2. A close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving relationship with another person or group.
3. A close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject.
4. An act or expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, or the like: to allow the intimacy of using first names.
5. An amorously familiar act.
Those in staunchly well mind and body are often motivated for enjoyment, the want to enjoy good food, good love, and good sex. Most ideally we are able to enjoy closeness with our family and friends, mutual pleasures with ones that we love. Yet it very well may be possible that for all of our satisfied physical urges we may still be missing the ship on nurturing intimacy. You see, while intimacy may be fostered within the context of lovemaking it is most readily sustained within the mundane moments of other parts of the relationship. Intimacy is where all of this “relationship stuff” really melds into a complex interplay, intimacy is the nectar which offers fluidity to our love. The gazing into each other’s eyes, it’s the subtle touch of the arm while walking down the street, it’s the intermingled limbs awaking at dawn, the secrets that you know of each other.
What if I told you that the secret to sustaining intimacy is in how well your relationship tolerates distance? Intimacy may be well known by its opposite which for the intention of this cursory summary, is distance. We and our lover are always in the eternal dance of closeness and distance. We meet at home and spend our lives in different jobs or completing divergent tasks, we may share friends but we have our own as well, we converge and diverge. How close we become as years unfurl around our partner and our self. Yet too, how much can we allow and encourage some space between us before feeling that there is a chasm. Often in psychology we see a range of personality disorders which are challenged by forging emotional closeness and distance in interpersonal relationships. When we allow our partner the safe space to separate autonomously and then reemerge into the sanctity of our love we will often be thanked by abundant closeness.
Imagine this, you go to the grocery store and run into a college friend in the isles, you chat for a while about the pledges of your sorority and are feeling fabulous as you go home to your husband to enjoy a quiet evening together. Your husband is seated brooding when you enter the house, accusations begin to fly about why you are home a half an hour late. “What were you doing? How could you be so thoughtless to not text or call that you would not be on time? Were you with someone else?” Perhaps in years one through three you used to defend and explain but that leads to no solution, over time you shut down and swallow tears, sometimes wondering if you should be doing all of the things that you are accused of, it sure would beat the loneliness of your quiet sulking. Hours later, your husband, feeling guilty for his explosion, eager to close the chasm between you, reaches to touch you and begin making love when you crawl into bed. Now you are brooding and squirm away from his touch, he accuses yet again, “What is wrong with you? Why are you so cold to me?” In his mind he is now certain that you are cheating and you are certain that he is a Neanderthal. The couple exemplified here is suffering greatly the lack of trust and diminished communication among possible other hypothesis. I wonder how different this interaction would look if distance was encouraged between the two? It’s vital to remember that the moment that we step out of the habit of encouraging our partners autonomy and space we become something different and distance will inevitably begin to replace our longed for closeness.
Its most important to keep in mind that a relationship is made up of multiple components and the way that you and your partner are relating is an ever malleable matrix, influenced and influencing a multiplicity of domains from the physical, emotional, psychological, social, spiritual to name a few. With this in mind, hold fast to hope. The maintenance of a marriage or relationship occurs by a specific skillset which for some of us is natural while for others it may take a bit of work, like all aspects of our relational style we can always learn how to do better. If you are a part of a romantic relationship or if you are thinking back to other relationships, you may want to ask yourself, how well do you and your partner relish distance and what does that do to the intimacy between the two of you? A little intimate secret for you is that we can only allow to come close that which is existent within from its own context, from its very unique and nurturing distance.
In love and light,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy 1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233 Suite 100
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling