Don’t we all love having people in our lives who know us well? When we’re sad, they know just what we need to cheer us up. The ability to anticipate a need signifies an intimacy with someone who has taken the time to know us well.
This experience is often found with our best friends, but shouldn’t it also be true of our spouses? Ideally, your spouse should know you better than even a friend of twenty years. But that doesn’t just magically happen when you say “I do.” If you want to truly know your spouse and anticipate their needs, you need to take the time to get to know them more deeply.
John Gottman refers to this process as developing your love map. The idea is that you spend time getting to know everything about your spouse – down to their salad dressing choice – to demonstrate that you want to know every part of them. It’s about building a friendship with your spouse that will help you ride the rough waves life brings.
It’s like making your spouse a case study. Ask your spouse a range of questions from, “How do you like your steak?” to, “ What’s your biggest pet peeve?” Store away those answers. Great things happen in a marriage when two spouses work at getting to know each other. It will create deeper intimacy and closeness, and you’ll feel loved and liked. Knowing your spouse will help you in the years when life gets more complicated and busy.
The first thing you need to do is to make time to just be a couple. Get a babysitter, plan a date, and set aside time to talk about your relationship. As stated earlier, ask questions of your spouse and listen to their answers. Below are some sample questions to help you. The point is to be intentional. Developing a love map will take time and energy. It will require continual follow-up as your spouse will change over the years.
Get to know your spouse in everything from the mundane to their deepest thoughts and fears. Show your love and commitment by being intentional and getting to know your spouse in a way that no one else does.
These sample questions are adapted from John Gottman’s The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work.
- What’s your favorite dessert?
- What’s your favorite movie?
- What’s your biggest pet peeve?
- Who is your best friend?
- What’s your favorite way to relax?
- What’s your least favorite chore?
- What is your biggest stress right now?
- What’s your favorite holiday?
- What’s your biggest fear?
- What’s your most embarrassing moment?
- What’s your favorite meal?
- What are your goals for the next five years?
- How do you feel about your job right now?
- What do you see our kids’ future to be like?
- What qualities do you most value in a friend?
- What was good about your teen years? What was hard?
- If you could build a home, what would it look like?
- If you could change one thing about you, what would it be and why?
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- On a scale from 1-10, how well do you think you know your spouse? Defend your answer.
- How do you know when a friendship goes from casual to more intimate? What does it communicate to you when someone doesn’t bother to get to know you?
- How did you get to know your spouse in your dating years? What was the motivation back then?
- Why do you think most couples stop “dating” once they’re married? How has your view of cultivating intimacy in your relationship changed since being married?
- In what areas of life could you get to know and understand your spouse more? How did you identify those areas?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.