It’s easy to think you know your spouse well. However, there are always deeper opportunities. It’s also easy to get busy and lose track of important details.
Over the summer I was sorting through some of my husband Phil’s boxes long stored in the garage. Included were many items from his college years at West Point Military Academy. I admit that musty, decades-old things from a place I was unfamiliar with seemed…well…useless. Maybe it was time to get rid of them.
Early in September, Phil took me with him for his 35th class reunion with hundreds of his classmates and their families. I saw the bond of loyalty and camaraderie he still has with the men he learned and grew with. I got a sense of the experiences that deeply shaped his excellent character. I saw his connection to the decades of traditions at this institution. I better understand now his commitment to service and making a difference in the lives and organizations of others. My view of him and his memorabilia shifted from that experience.
One of the activities that marriage researcher John Gottman encourages couples to do is create a Love Map (7 Principles for Making Marriage Work). Below is my version of the activity adapted from his (excerpted from my couple discussion guide “Deepening Your Marriage Connection”; https://marriagetransformation.com/shop/marriage-guides-group/). Please take the time to learn more about your spouse or relationship partner this week:
ACTIVITY – CREATING A LOVE MAP
Materials Needed: Basic requirement – 2 large sheets of paper or lightweight posterboard and colored markers or pens. This is a creative activity, however, so you can expand it as you wish with photographs, magazine pictures, or any other materials that inspire you.
Instructions: It is vital for couples to know one another well through observing, sharing, and listening. This activity will help ensure that you are up-to-date with what is important to your spouse. To begin, each of you should have your own piece of paper and writing/drawing utensils. You will do the first part of the activity on your own. (Note: This activity follows the general recommendations of marriage researcher John Gottman.)
On the paper, you will record a description of your spouse in words and drawings in whatever creative way works for you. One possibility is to draw circles for different topic areas and fill in the circles with words. The goal is to map out your spouse’s life to assess whether you know him/her well right now.
Consider various aspects of your spouse’s life; such as the examples listed below:
• Who he/she is striving to be
• Wounds in the middle of healing
• Upcoming events
• Favorite activities, service choices, and high priorities for spending time
• Best friends
• Current fears, stresses, and worries
• Common irritants
• Purpose(s) in life
• Philosophies/practices of parenting
• Life dreams
• Religious beliefs and activities
• Basic philosophy of life
• Favorite music, movies, TV shows…
• Most special times in life
• Childhood traumas/stresses
• Major aspirations and hopes
• Would do with a major sum of money
• What does to re-charge energy
• Dream vacation spot
For example, a husband could draw a circle for “Current fears, stresses, and worries” and list in the circle about his wife that she is concerned about: “Molly’s report card, her own upcoming medical test, and her mother’s health”. A wife could draw a circle for her husband’s “Major aspirations and hopes” and write in the circle: “Getting a promotion, teaching Jason to play baseball, retiring and traveling at age 60”. You could draw a tree, squares, pictures, or anything else that creatively helps you to display your spouse’s life.
Couple Discussion: When you are both complete with your maps, then share/trade them with each other, discuss them, and add to them. Discuss: What were the surprises? What did you appreciate learning? Do you feel confident you know one another better? Know one another well?
Related Activity: Now draw a map together of your marriage. What activities do you do together? What does parenting or grandparenting look like? What are your goals as a couple?