Every day in so many ways we have the opportunity to turn towards our partner and answer their bids for connection. When our partner calls out, “Honey check out this guy on TV”, they’re making a bid for connection. You may be busy finishing an email, cooking dinner or unpacking the dishwasher, and feel like ignoring this bid… but that would mean turning away from your partner. It would mean their bid wasn’t worth putting down your phone or pausing to say “Sure, I’ll be there in five”, or whatever is suitable to let your partner know you get them, you’ve got their back, you’ll be there for them when they need you. You’re strengthening your relationship and building trust with each answered bid.
How do we know this works?
John Gottman, world-renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction, conducted a study with newlyweds and then followed them up six years later. Some had divorced, some had not. The couples that remained married had “turned towards” each other on average 86% of the time. The couples that had divorced turned towards each other on average only 33% of the time. This is worth unpacking!
What does it mean to turn towards your partner?
Every time we try and positively connect with our partner we’re turning towards them. It could be a bid for attention, support, affirmation or affection. Sometimes the bids, and the responses, can be subtle; almost unnoticeable so how can we catch them? The secret is noticing, being tuned into your partner and aware of
what they’re doing, saying and thinking. Ask yourself “what is the secondary layer to the bid?”. If needed ask some questions to clarify, “Do you need me there now or will five minutes be okay?”. Here’s a list of bids Gottman has suggested we can look out for:
Each time we respond, even if it’s just with a nod, our partner can feel heard, understood and a priority in our world. This can be considered as a deposit in your relationship’s emotional bank account. You want to have a good buffer built up for the inevitable days when you’re tired or unwell and just can’t respond.
What about turning away?
Let’s be honest, sometimes I think I’m busy and I just don’t feel like responding to my partner’s bid, I want to finish a chapter in my book or simply put my needs first. Continually turning away or even turning against a bid for attention isn’t going to end well. Consider, if you’re too busy on your phone when your partner
bids, don’t be surprised if they’re not that keen for a cuddle later on in the evening – they haven’t been heard or understood. They haven’t felt like they’re important enough for you to put your phone down for a moment. If you keep missing their bids, the bids will slow down and eventually they’ll stop bidding for your attention and possibly even look elsewhere for understanding.
Small things often
So why don’t you try it. Pay attention to your partner, notice their bids, put down the phone and connect, even for just a moment. I think you’ll find it’s worthwhile. Each time you do, it’s building your bond. Your partner will know you’ve got their back and you’ll know they’ve got yours. And that feels great.