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A few weeks back, we shared this post: How to Recognize a Healthy Relationship — and Improve Yours Today. In an effort to help you take stock of your relationship, improve it, and, ultimately, achieve a sense of unmistakable connectedness and renewed love with your partner, we asked five questions. They point to five concrete, evidence-based ways to strengthen your relationship. Think of them as your blueprint to a regular check-up on your relationship.

Here are the five questions we asked:

  1. Do you know your partner’s stressors?
  2. What are your partner’s highs and lows of this season of life?
  3. Are you able to state with confidence your partner’s dreams?
  4. Do you give your partner at least one long hug or kiss every day? 
  5. Can you list your partner’s highest core values?

Today, we’d like to dive into the first two: knowing your partner’s stressors and knowing the highs and lows of this season of life. Both are integral to building your love maps which, in turn, form the foundation of the Gottman’s Sound Relationship House (more on that here). 

Here we go!

Do you know your partner’s stressors?

To really flesh out your love maps, you need to know your partner’s biggest stressors. If you’re not quite sure what they are, a great place to start is the daily stress-reducing conversation.

It’s really quite simple: Check in. Hear what each other’s day has been like and what’s going on in your life at the moment. Make time to do this. All it takes is twenty minutes. Each of you shares for about ten minutes. You can do it at the start of your day, before you go to bed, or at some point in between. What matters most is that you check in.

It’s important to note that this is not a time to talk about your relationship. Rather, it’s a time to come alongside your partner, lock arms with them, and say, “I’m with you in this. I’ve got your back.” As you’re listening, never ever take the side of the enemy. Maybe their stressor is their boss at work who’s coming down hard on them. You should never say something like, “Yeah, I can totally see why your boss would say that!” Now is not the time to play Devil’s Advocate. This is a time to be empathetic.

What are your partner’s highs and lows of this season of life?

Do you understand the stress that can be brought on by this time of year? 

Fall, for instance, can signal a return to school, upcoming holidays (and family gatherings), changes in weather, shorter days, etc. Each of these shifts can challenge your partner and amplify their highs and lows.

If you want to think about it more deeply, consider this season of your life. 

Maybe it’s a season with a new baby in the world. What does it feel like to your partner to become a parent (or become a parent again)? What are the things that scare them? What really excites them? What are the things that make them paranoid? 

Or maybe your partner is considering retirement. Do you know what their heart is going through as they’re facing that? My husband, Eric, is in this season right now. We went on a walk yesterday and had a long conversation about it. I asked him, “How’s your heart?”

In a recent post, I shared about losing my brother a couple of years ago — and about the grief that I continue to process. The last text that he sent me said exactly that: “How’s your heart?” I have his words engraved on a bracelet that I wear daily, both as a reminder of my brother but also as a reminder to check in with and be kind to myself. Because that’s the sort of person my brother was. He checked in with me, and he knew my love maps, as my precious brother and friend.

So that’s what I asked Eric yesterday: “How’s your heart, as you’re thinking about retirement?” Now, Eric isn’t always great at expressing his emotions, so when he said, “I guess I’m kind of sad,” I was so thrilled that he was able to share that vulnerability. So I said, “Tell me more about that sadness.” (And that’s what it means to have a therapist as your wife!) 

Eric does the same thing with me. We try to check in daily, whether it’s at night in bed before we turn on Netflix or in the morning as we cuddle together and say a prayer for each other and our day. 

Twenty minutes a day

That’s all it takes to build your love maps and start making a real difference in your relationship. Twenty minutes to check in, understand one another’s stressors, and support your partner in this season of life. Try it. You’ll love it. And so will your partner.