Love Map: 10 Questions to Find or Deepen Love
If love and relationships seem overly complicated, here’s a new starting point…
It’s February 6, and you know what that means: T-minus 8 days until Valentine’s Day.
Single people hate it. Loving couples celebrate it. The relationally progressive ignore it. And everyone else just deals with it.
Romantic love is complicated — much more complicated than a random day in February makes it out to be. Working through timing, fears, hopes, and expectations makes finding a partner feel like either dumb luck or utterly impossible.
But love isn’t just complicated. It’s also one of the most central parts of our lives. Maslow places it as one of our most basic needs — right after safety. Author and psychotherapist, Esther Perel claims the quality of our relationships determine the quality of our lives. And, in the words of the Beatles, “All you need is love…love is all you need.”
At Experience Institute, we’ve spent the past six years helping educators, college students, and executives learn by doing. We believe that anything can be solved or improved if you ask questions and find ways to place yourself in the middle of the challenge to experience it fully.
So for this month, we’ve put our energy towards helping you do just that with one of the most complex areas of life: Love and Relationships.
We spent the first part of 2018 digging through our favorite articles, podcasts, and books in order to create something we call the Love Map. At the core, the map is 10 questions to help you either find or deepen love.
It’s organized in a way that encourages you to complete the questions with friends if you’re single, or with your partner if you’re in a relationship.
This isn’t meant to be a one-stop-shop to “create your best love now” or anything like that. Rather, this is designed to be a simple starting point for moments when you might feel stuck or curious.
One side of the Love Map includes 10 questions for those of you looking for love. The other side consists of 10 questions for couples looking to deepen their relationship.
You can download the full Love Map for free for the month of February at: www.expinstitute.com/lovemapdownload and let us know how it goes in the comments. We’ve also included all the questions and the thinking behind them below.
10 Questions for Singles
1) Characteristics about my personality that I like…
Finding a great partner often begins with accepting and loving who you are.
2) Ways in which I hope to grow…
We are all works in progress. The goal isn’t about making yourself perfect before getting out there. But you can begin to identify ways to make you a happier, healthier individual and future partner while also looking for others with similar goals.
3) Partnerships that inspire me… + 4) Those partnerships inspire me because…
We’re all influenced by the relationships we see. By calling out why you think certain relationships are special, you can begin to define what you want out of a relationship.
5) Good Story: Write about a moment when you felt great in a relationship. What happened? Why is it such a great memory?
6) Bad Story: Write about a difficult moment in a relationship. What happened? Why was it so difficult?
Most of us have had challenging moments and great moments in relationships. By taking time to look at past relationships, we can find patterns that we don’t want to repeat and be more clear about what we ARE looking for.
7) Future Me: Sketch an image of where you’d like to be in two years. What career are you pursuing? What are you doing with your partner? Where are you living?
Becoming clear about the things you hope for allows you to gain clarity on the kind of partner you want. No matter how simple or specific, the clarity at this stage allows you to navigate the complexity of emotions as you meet new people.
8) Quality List:
List up to four must-have qualities in a future partner.
List up to four qualities you hope exist in your future relationship:
There are likely very specific qualities you want in a partner. By listing the top few things, you’re narrowing it down to a realistic list (because remember, no one is perfect).
Similarly, there are things you want in a relationship. These are different because a relationship isn’t the same as your partner. Author Carol Dweck offers the suggestion of considering the relationship as a third party entirely.
9) People who I enjoy talking about relationships with are…
Though a relationship is wildly personal, asking for other people’s perspectives can often provide clarity, emotional support, and peace of mind. Calling out those people ahead of time gives you a community to rely on when things go awry or to celebrate with when things are going well.
10) Low-Stakes Love Brainstorm
- Start attending a class, Attend meetups/events, Sign up for online dating apps, Ask close friends to introduce me to their single friends, Give my number out if I see/meet someone intriguing, Review my own list of great friends who are single, Other ____________
Even though society can look down on “looking for love,” finding a partner isn’t just dumb luck. Finding ways to meet people in a low-stakes manner gives you the chance to see what you like and don’t like without feeling the need to answer the question “Is this the right person for me” right from the start. Listen to the On Being interview with Helen Fisher for more on this.
10 Questions for Partners
1) The story of how we met:
Every good team, company, organization, and couple has a beginning — a founding story. In a relationship, the way we remember and tell that story has the ability to shape how we feel about our partner. Whether you met online or through a chance encounter, recall the key points that led to your beginnings.
2) I fell in love w/my partner because:
At some point, your relationship shifted from something new and exciting, to something that could last. Recalling those powerful moments reminds you of how you and your relationship has evolved and blossomed. And it may give clues to what you should revisit to continue growing together.
3) The people who have supported our relationship the most are:
It takes a village to raise a child. And it takes community to support a healthy relationship. Who are the people who have directly or indirectly supported your relationship? Identify who those individuals are for you, for your partner, and/or for both of you so you know who to call in the future when you need more support or when there’s something worth celebrating.
4) A difficult challenge we’ve conquered together is:
When you conquer a challenge, you share a powerful moment of connection. Whether the challenge was related to your relationship or an external factor, you made your way through a difficult circumstance together, and that shows character, strength, and a common bond.
In the (summarized) words of Bill Murray, “If you think you found a partner, don’t just go on a date. Instead, travel somewhere difficult — a place that’s hard to get into. If you still love each other when you return, get married in the airport.”
5) We conquered that challenge because my partner contributed…We conquered that challenge because I contributed:
Your partner did something that only they could have done to conquer that challenge. And because of that, you two made it through. Similarly, you offered something that only you could have done. Naming those things will help you better understand how you work together in daily life.
6) Rank the following in order of importance (1–5)
My partner feels most loved when I…
- Invest time, Give gifts, Help with a task, Say/Write kind things, Share physical touch, Other ______________
I feel the most loved when my partner…
- Invests time Gives gifts, Helps with a task, Says/Writes kind things, Shares physical touch, Other ______________
In his NYT bestseller, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman shares five ways individuals prefer to give and receive love. Becoming a student of your partner and learning what makes them feel valued and cared for helps you determine how to bring out the very best in them.
7) If your relationship was a person, what characteristics would she/he have?
In both personal life and relationships, we can begin to believe that we can’t change and our characteristics are fixed. Instead, author Carol Dweck challenges us to see ourselves and our partners as people who are growing — moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. She also invites us to see the relationship as something separate from you or your partner — something that also can grow and improve. Start thinking of your relationship as a third party that the two of you are helping flourish and come into its own.
8) Is there something you haven’t been able to share with your partner lately? If yes, share a few words about what is and why it’s been hard for you to share it:
Nearly every book, article, or podcast discussing relationships mentions the central role communication plays. It’s easy to begin hiding feelings or masking the truth in order to wait for a perfect moment or for things to magically change. But the only way to see real change is to bring everything to the table so you can work on it together and with others. This is your chance to do so.
9) Future Us: Sketch an image of where you’d like to be in five years. What are you doing with your partner? Where are you living? Who are you with?
Now it’s time to look ahead. Dreams. Aspirations. Community. Begin to chart your path to the places you hope to reach together.
10) What can you do to grow your relationship….
End this conversation with a few specific things you can do together. Be as specific as you can. Pull out your calendars. Book tickets. Schedule the babysitter. And plan for the change you hope to see in yourselves and your relationship.
On self-love & acceptance:
Book: Radical Acceptance by Tara Barach
Brene Brown’s TED talk: The Power of Vulnerability (and any of her books)
On Values & Beliefs:
The Road to Character by David Brooks
How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen
On whether or not to have kids:
Appropriately titled “The Mother of All Questions”
On building powerful relationships:
A more professional approach to how powerful relationships are formed and maintained.
Also, this piece in QZ.
On the science of attachment:
This On Being interview with Helen Fisher delves into how the brain works during love, sex, and relationships
On creating a contract with your partner:
A short article about how and why you should define what makes your relationship work.
A beautiful story about a hard breakup…and a lovely conclusion.
And When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
A few great nuggets in this podcast with Krista Tippett and Alain De Botton
Dr. John Gottman has identified 4 harmful dynamics to try to keep at bay in your relationship.
On working through disagreements:
This book by Judith and Bob Wright summarizes the 15 most common fights in relationships.
On the evolution of a relationship (and relationships as a whole) over time:
This interview with Esther Perel held by the lovely Debbie Millman on her podcast, Design Matters.
The Experience Institute team has already begun using these questions in our own lives. Now we hope they will help you think and learn about love differently. We’re sure they will.
Special thanks to Jessica Herman for helping to edit this article, Betsy, Aaron, and Katie for thinking through the questions, and Rod Hunting for designing the final piece.