Are you living with a Familiar Stranger?
Have you ever wondered how much you know about your spouse? If you were put on the spot, how well do you think you’d fare in a couple’s game? According to a research conducted by marriage expert and researcher, Dr. John Gottman, happy marriages are based on deep friendship. Such friendship is characterized by mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other’s company. Couples who enjoy a deep friendship maintain a high level of intimacy; they are well knowledgeable about each other’s personalities, likes, dislikes, desires, dreams and aspirations. They are not ashamed to express the fondness they have for each other and they do this on a daily basis, even in the little things. With this foundation in place, couples are able to jointly navigate through difficulties and work out problems in their marriage.
John Gottman suggests that couples who share mutual admiration and fondness have a salvageable marriage. More often than not, from the way a couple talks about their past, it is easy to tell whether or not fondness remains in their relationship. Happy couples experiencing present conflict are able to counter the negative feelings with positive ones by reminding themselves of the fond memories they’ve shared. For instance, you could think about the warm feelings you shared when you first met, while you were dating and at other significant times in your relationship.
It is the responsibility of both partners to constantly nurture this fondness and admiration for each other. Partners who connect regularly through the routine moments of life build on their mutual admiration. This could be done through simple acts such as; complimenting your partner, preparing your partner’s favorite meal, checking up on each other during the day, planning an activity together, putting the kids to sleep, asking for your partner’s opinion and listening to the response, and the list goes on.
There is a tendency for couples to take each other for granted, and this is often done mindlessly. Therefore, it is important to be deliberate about connecting regularly in small ways. As people age, their tastes change and their personalities get molded based on experiences, therefore both spouses have the psychological task of continuously rediscovering friendship by learning and re-learning about each other. Gottman refers to this as “Enhancing your love map.”
Did I just hear you ask yourself “how much do I really know about my spouse? Not to worry, you are not alone. The following exercise might be helpful in answering that question and also serve as a guide on how to enhance your love map!
Both you and your spouse can complete the questionnaire by answering true or false to the following questions, you will get a sense of the quality of your current love maps.
1. I can name my partner’s best friend. T or F
2. I can tell you what stresses my partner is currently facing. T or F
3. I know the names of some of the people who have been irritating my partner lately. T or F
4. I can tell you some of my partner’s life dreams. T or F
5. I am very familiar with my partner’s religious beliefs and ideas. T or F
6. I can tell you about my partner’s basic philosophy of life. T or F