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