Creating A Love Map Could Be The Key To Strengthening Your Relationship

People often complain that there is no manual for relationships when they've drifted into choppy waters with their partner. There may not be a manual that can lead you to understand your partner, but what if there was a map you could continually build to help you love your partner better? According to Dr. John Gottman of The Gottman Institute, a love map is a mental inventory of important facts about your partner. This wealth of knowledge is what lays the groundwork for a solid connection that will support what Gottman refers to as your "sound relationship house." While you could jot down facts and other tidbits about your partner and relationship while, say, journaling, love maps as a concept are typically mental by nature.

If you're just now hearing about the concept of a love map for the first time and your relationship isn't new, don't worry. Thankfully, a developed relationship's foundation is much easier to access and modify than a house's. As such, it's never too late to start building a love map of all the traits, memories, and experiences that make your partner who they are (and your relationship what it is).

Understanding formative experiences

A person's formative years occur in early childhood: that is, between birth and turning 8 years old (via the CDC). These are the years during which neurodevelopment occurs at its most rapid pace. An individual's experiences during this rapid brain growth will strongly influence the way they develop mentally, socially, emotionally, and even physically — along with how they view the world. What's more, someone who experienced love and positive guidance from adults during their formative years is less likely to struggle with hurdles like depression, addiction, and even heart disease as an adult, and people who experienced or witnessed abuse or neglect are more likely to face these challenges and more (via Parenting for Brain).

It's essential to understand what your partner's early childhood experiences were like if you want to gain a deep understanding of them as an adult. If your partner survived challenging circumstances as a child, they might then face related struggles as an adult. Without understanding these issues, you might mistakenly categorize them as bad habits or personality flaws. If your partner grew up under nearly perfect circumstances and you didn't, understanding that key difference can save you from wondering why it seems like you just can't relate to each other in certain situations. Ultimately, knowledge is power when it comes to keeping your relationship strong and equitable. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

What is their love language?

One of the most important pieces of information to learn and covet about your partner is their love language. Throughout your relationship, you'll both attempt to give and receive love. Knowing which of the five love languages — physical touch, gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, or acts of service — comes most naturally to you and to your partner can save you many misunderstandings and hurt feelings. For example, bringing your partner flowers when what they really need is for you to weed the garden can leave both of you feeling frustrated and unappreciated.

Once you know your partner's love language and have added that information to your love map, become a translator. Rather than expressing love the way you'd like to receive it, translate that love into your partner's language. For instance, if your love language is quality time, you may feel the urge to take your partner out to an elaborate dinner at a fancy restaurant. However, if your partner's love language is acts of service, invite them to an at-home date night instead. Teach them how to prepare a new recipe and then offer to clean up the kitchen while they relax. In this scenario, everybody wins.  

Ask about their pain points (and learn from them)

No one gets through life unscathed; even the most privileged people have experienced pain and trauma. The details surrounding a person's traumatic experiences can play a major role in who they become and how they view others (via It can even affect how they make moral choices, according to research published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. Knowing what your partner has been through can clue you in to their potential triggers. Going into a future situation fully aware of how and why your partner may become triggered can prevent misunderstanding and conflict, and seeing you react to them in a new way after they've informed you of their trauma can show them how much you care, as well as how much you're willing to grow with them.

Moreover, taking the time to listen to your partner's pain points and how they're still affected by them can turn you into a source of deep comfort, support, and understanding for them. Just be sure to practice patience and respect their privacy when you ask about past traumas. Speaking about painful subjects can be difficult and requires a great amount of trust. Express your interest and then let your partner decide which details to disclose. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Your partner's preferences

Creating a mental love map of your partner's innermost workings isn't all about childhood traumas and love languages. It can be about the more fun parts of life, too. How can you plan a surprise birthday party for them if you don't know their favorite flavor of cake? Knowing seemingly small details about your partner — like their favorite color or what they wanted to be when they were a kid — can sometimes feel even more intimate than knowing big-picture facts. How many other people know that your indie sleaze-obsessed partner secretly loves crisp golf polos?

Is your partner a dog or a cat person? Do they prefer diners or bistros? Wine, beer, or cocktails? There is no limit to the number of small bits of information you can lock away in your love map to help you understand the unique sum of the person you've chosen as your lifelong partner. These, too, as all things on your love map should, can interact with the other areas — such as one of their favorites being related to a childhood experience — creating a fuller picture.

What are their dreams and future plans?

A major part of deciding whether or not you and your partner are compatible for the long haul is comparing your hopes, dreams, and concrete plans for the future, per The Gottman Institute. If you managed to skip this step at the beginning of your relationship, now is a great time to remedy it. Your love map should include all your partner's dreams, goals, and aspirations for the future, as well as imagery of how they will intertwine with your own. As you look to the future, keep in mind that people are always evolving. Your partner will change over time, and so will you — and your love map. This is essential to note because many aspects of the love map focus on the past, leaving the future to be an afterthought, but no relationship can last without the present, past, and future all working in tandem.

While love mapping typically refers to a treasure trove of information about your partner that you've committed to memory, there is no rule against taking notes or even creating an actual map. If you struggle with memory or simply enjoy tangible materials, get out your pen and paper. Perhaps you'd like to draw out a map, using rough mountain terrain to represent past struggles and serene beaches to mark future dreams. Maybe a simple categorized list in your journal or a note in your phone is more your style. The goal is to know your partner in a way that they may not even know themselves in order to create an impenetrable base on which to build a happy, healthy, and successful relationship.