Tuesday, 03 February 2015 17:45

Marriage Needs…Curiosity and Love

Written by  Jessica Gibbe-Fernandez
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Curiosity and exploration are normal parts of courtship and create attachment and love.  John Gottman, a leading marriage researcher, finds that for marriages to endure, couples must become better friends, support each other’s hopes and dreams for the future and learn to manage conflict.  To do this, he says that they should build healthy relationships. 

A component of building healthy relationships is learning your partner’s thoughts, feelings, history, stresses, joys and hopes.  Gottman calls this process learning your partner’s “love map.”  Gottman states that “couples who have detailed love maps of each other’s world are far better prepared to cope with stressful events and conflict.” 


Think back to when you first met your spouse.  You probably wanted to learn as much as possible about their thoughts, feelings, history and experiences.  Do you remember the enthusiasm you felt?  The curiosity of courtship creates an exciting time of discovery about one another.


However, once couples settle into a familiar routine (know each other well) the curiosity lessens and they begin to make assumptions based on what they already know. Unfortunately incorrect assumptions lead to misunderstandings, anger, frustration and other negative reactions.  When couples stop exploring, they frequently listen less, share less, and have less patience with one another.  Couples may wonder what has changed in their relationship.


Individuals and couples experience many changes in the course of a marriage.  Some are gradual and expected and some are sudden and unexpected.  While we are sharing our lives with one another, it is very important to keep up the communication to update our love maps. Without updated love maps, these changes can be more difficult to negotiate because of lack of understanding.  Scripture speaks to this point.



James 1:19:  My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to

become angry. (NIV)



An article in Psychology Today reports that… “over the course of a relationship that can last as many as seven or eight decades, a lot happens. Personalities change, bodies age, and romantic love waxes and wanes. And no marriage is free of conflict. What enables a couple to endure is how they handle that conflict.”


Not only do couples have to handle that conflict, but couples have to handle change as well. Both are equally important and related.  Sometimes we handle stress gracefully and other times we have difficulty. Learning to handle change avoids conflict and contempt and increases the likelihood of a successful marriage. Paul advises the Colossians in this matter.


Colossians 3:12-14 …Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  (NRSV) 



According to Gottman, the antidote for conflict and contempt is an abundance of affection and respect or fondness and admiration through which couples continue to nurture attachment and develop their love maps by exploring the thoughts, feelings, dreams, beliefs and other important aspects of their spouse. So keep being curious, update your spouse’s love map and avoid assumptions. Conflict is inevitable but conflict is an opportunity to be curious, to learn something new, to enhance your understanding, and love your spouse through it.



Jessica Gibbe-Fernandez is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of Alabama. She is originally from Mexico and fully bilingual in Spanish and English. Ms. Gibbe-Fernandez joined the center in 2006 and currently serves as the Clinical Coordinator.


Jessica’s clinical interests include marriage and couples therapy, healthy relationships, and family therapy. She sees adolescents and adults with depression, anxiety, stress, transitional issues, gender issues, family adjustment, acculturation issues,  self-esteem and personal growth issues.




Last modified on Friday, 13 February 2015 17:50
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