This idea is part of a book I’ve written about couples…men and women each doing the best they can–and having a resource to do even better. If you like this blog, you may want to buy the whole book!
Husband and I have been married for over 3 years. I thought I knew Husband. I found out this weekend, I’ve still got a few things to learn.
Our Junior Tribe Member got married to his sweetheart on Saturday in BC. It was a warm, sunny day and they professed their love in front of family and friends overlooking the lake, with mountains in the background. It was exquisite. Husband gave a terrific speech at the wedding. Overall–an awesome day. On Sunday, we flew home.
While we were waiting for our connection home in Vancouver, Husband ducked into a store to buy some chocolate for the flight. We love chocolate!
I asked Husband an hour into that last leg of our journey to pull out the chocolate. As he reached for his backpack, he said, “I picked up my favourite kind.”
And that was when I realized:
I wasn’t sure what his favourite kind of chocolate was.
Y’see, he generally buys Reese’s peanut butter cups. Because he knows that’s my favourite.
As he was unzipping his bag, I’m frantically scrolling through the rolodex of my memory to see if I could come up with his favourite–I wanted to know that I knew what he would pull out of the bag before I saw it.
Then he pulled out a little bag of Snickers bites.
I was surprised.
I didn’t like that feeling of not knowing him well enough to know that.
John Gottman speaks of the value of love maps. A love map is an understanding of your partner’s internal world.
It’s about basic things like favourite foods, and fond childhood memories; what they like to watch on netflix and what is the most frustrating part of their job.
But it’s far more than that…it’s about their dreams, goals, values, fears, joys and fundamental understanding of life.
It’s understanding who they are by knowing all sorts of things about them:
Love maps are an excellent tool to love your partner better.
When I know what Husband’s:
- favourite chocolate bar is, I can get it when I want to give him a treat.
- hot buttons are, I can carefully choose to avoid them when we are having a heated discussion–that way we can stay on topic, and I won’t unneccessarily upset him.
- values are, I know when it makes sense to purchase something spur of the moment because we will both agree on it, and when I will hold off until we have had a discussion and make a joint decision because he might feel differently. Collaboration is always a good thing when you don’t see eye to eye.
- does when he is tired after a long, hard day of work, I can know how best to be compassionate towards him, when he needs it
- reaction will be to bad news, I know how to best react to him and provide support to husband
Having a love map of a partner with a lot of detail means I am better able to love my partner. He is better able to trust me because I know how to “be there” for him more reliably. I am able to build trust in the smallest of moments because I have paid attention and it is apparent.
We do better in close relationships when we aren’t just generically respectful and kind–but know the other person with enough specificity that we can demonstrate our love by having them feel known and cared for in the details.
Knowing Husband’s favourite chocolate bar is hardly essential to the wellbeing of our marriage. But it did feel like a warning shot across the bow.
What am I missing? Where haven’t I stopped to pay attention? When do I need to ask more questions? What do I need to work harder to remember?
Husband told me that when he wakes up every morning, one of the questions he asks himself is, “What can I do to make Carolyn’s life better today?”
And then he makes it his project to do so.
Isn’t that beautiful?
As part of that, he asks me what I need, or checks in with me. He makes it his business to know me and what makes me tick…so that he can be a better Husband.
It’s one of the many things I love about him.
He generally does the chocolate buying…and he generally buys my favourite. While I love his thoughtfulnes, it had passed me by that I hadn’t even known which chocolate to purchase to treat him.
I’m wondering how many of us move through life on autopilot, not noticing, asking, paying attention or remembering the many little (and big) things that can be so vital in building strength and trust in a relationship.
Attunement is important…dialling into who Husband is, and paying attention to what works and doesn’t work for him so that he feels deeply known and intensely valued.
I’m wondering if “the Snickers incident” is a canary in the coal mine of sorts…
- What else have I been missing?
- What else does Husband do for me so automatically, that I don’t think to be sensitive to him? Or that he doesn’t give me the room or knowledge to know that he he has different preferences/dream/desires that it is my job and privilege to discover?
- How have I been taking advantage of Husband by him knowing what my preference is and him quietly doing it, without me paying attention to reciprocate?
Do you wonder the same?
- What have you not asked your partner about?
- What little things have you overlooked and not paid attention to…and then are unable to use that knowledge in the future?
- How have you settled into your relationship where your partner automatically does it the way you like it, and you aren’t even aware that your partner would desire it differently? Do you even dare ask that question?
I’m thinkin’ I’m gonna be buying some Snickers bars real soon. 😉
And after that, I’ll be asking some open ended questions too!