Love Cards: How to Develop Emotional Intimacy with a Partner
“We cannot learn our partner to the end. But you can always get to know him even better. ”- Zach Brittle, Licensed Mental Health Consultant
Why are some spouses getting closer and others are parting?
This was told by psychologist and relationship expert Dr. John M. Gottman. Gotman spent over 40 years of research with thousands of couples. He is known worldwide for his work to ensure stability in marriage and to predict divorce. Moreover, in 2007, a specialist in psychotherapy called him “one of the 10 most influential therapists in the last quarter century.”
According to the psychologist, people who are more likely to enjoy family intimacy and be satisfied in marriage are those who build detailed “love cards”.
What are love cards?
In his book “The Seven Principles of Building a Marriage,” Gottman defines the “love map” as “that part of your brain where you store all the necessary information about your partner’s life.” The presence of a detailed “love card” implies a sincere interest in your partner. This means allocating mental space to store information about their personal opinions, preferences, quirks, dreams and fears. You should be aware of the main events in each other’s life history and carefully update your list of knowledge, as your partner continues to grow and change.
“Getting to know your partner and sharing your inner self with him is a lifelong process,” says Ellie Lisitsa, a staff member at the Gottman Institute. “The more you know about each other, the better you feel connected, and the more deep and useful your relationship will be.”
Why are “love cards” so important
Gottman says spouses who are in the habit of keeping abreast of each other’s lives (including details of what the other feels and thinks) are better prepared to deal with serious life changes, stressful events, and conflicts.
It is well known that the birth of the first child can be a test time for any marriage. A study of 50 newlyweds, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, showed that in 67% of couples, parenthood coincided with a significant drop in satisfaction with marriage. However, in the remaining 33% of couples, satisfaction with marriage either increased or remained stable. Researchers found that satisfied couples showed greater awareness of their partners and the lives of their partners (compared to dissatisfied couples). In other words, since satisfied spouses are already used to being aware of each other’s emotions and experiences, this served as a kind of protective “glue” for their marriage.
Gottman tells us that “the experience of parenting is so deep that all your ideas about who you are and what you value are shuffled.” Especially when your life changes dramatically, it is important to set priorities, knowing each other.
Understanding how a loved one is changing allows couples to “together survive the transformation of parenthood without losing sight of each other.”
“Having a baby is just one event in life that can lead couples to get lost without a detailed love card,” Gottman explains. “A job change, relocation, illness, retirement, or even just time, can have the same effect. But the more you know and understand each other, the easier it is to stay in touch while life spins around you. ”
Signs you may need to work on your “love cards”
Many couples accidentally fall into the problem habit of neglecting their “love cards.”
To illustrate this widespread relationship problem, Gottman provides a notoriously rare example. He describes Rory and Lisa, a couple he encountered who were experiencing serious relationship problems:
“Rory was a workaholic pediatrician who slept in the hospital on average twenty nights a month. He did not know the names of the friends of his children, nor even the name of the domestic dog. ”
Rory’s wife, Lisa, was upset – not only because she saw Rory very little, but also because he seemed so emotionally unconnected with her and her whole family life. He seemed annoyed by her attempts to show him that she cares. Lisa began to fear that their marriage was no longer important to him.
Although the situation of Rory and Lisa may seem hyperbolic, similar dynamics are manifested in many respects, although usually less dramatic.
What the problem looks like in real life
It begins when couples fall into “inattention to the details of their spouse’s life.” In other words, they are so busy with other priorities that they have little room to keep up with each other’s ever-evolving worlds. Consequently, they have only a very basic, superficial sensation of each other’s current likes and dislikes, joys and sorrows, hopes and anxieties.