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A Simple Way to Improve Your Relationship

Turning Towards Love: A Simple Way to Improve Your Relationship

“How was your day?” “Can I have a hug?” “I heard a song you might like today!” These all seem like pretty simple prompts or questions that probably happen within your relationship on a daily basis. What if I told you that these simple prompts actually provide a huge opportunity for growth and connection within your relationship?

These “prompts” are what John and Julie Gottman have identified as Bids for Connection or “bids.” Bids can be defined as any verbal or nonverbal “attempts from one partner to another for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection” (Brittle, 2015).  Bids can be small or big, explicit or implicit, but all matter in the grand scheme of the relationship. The Gottman’s found that couples who stay together will respond to bids 86% of the time, while couples who separate or breakup tend to respond to bids only 33% of the time. That’s a pretty big difference! So why do these “bid responders” stay together- because these bids matter. Responding to bids increases trust, creates stronger emotional connection, and a more satisfying sex life.

Now as you read the next part of the article, I want you to reflect on how you respond to your partners bids. Do you respond or acknowledge the bid? Do you find yourself ignoring your partners bid? Think about how you respond to these bids and how they impact your relationship.

There are three predominant ways that couples tend to respond to bids for connection:

1) “Turning Towards.” This is objectively the best way to respond to a bid. Turning towards your partners bid will look like reacting and responding in a positive, loving way. For example, a bid could be “how did your meeting go today?” To turn towards this bid, a partner might respond by saying “the meeting went well, although it was a little boring!” using a cheerful or positive tone of voice. They may also physically be turning towards their partner, while making eye contact and putting away or turning off any distractions, like a phone or the tv.

2) “Turning Against.” Turning against your partners bid may look like responding in a way that conveys disrespect or hurt. This can include using sarcasm or put downs towards your partner (Durham, 2011). So, to use a previous example of your partner asking, “how was your day?”, turning against this bid may look like responding with “why do you care?” or “it was fine”, while using a harsh or sarcastic tone, or even rolling your eyes. You might be thinking that this is the worst, most harmful way to respond to a bid, but that is not the case.

3) “Turning Away.” Research has shown that “turning away” from a partners bid is the most devastating to the relationship (Lisitsa, 2012). Turning away means to completely ignore or reject your partners bid. This can look like not responding at all to a bid, walking away from your partner without acknowledging their bid, or responding with something that has nothing to do with their original bid. Overtime, turning away from your partners bid can have lasting negative impacts on emotional connection and intimacy in the relationship.

So, let’s review. You can turn towards, turn against, or turn away from your partners bids for connection. We have all probably exhibited each example at one time or another for various reasons, but increasing and improving turning towards bids will improve your relationship.

 You may be now asking, “how can I start turning towards my partners bids?” Here are some tips:

  1. Start paying attention! Try to start identifying when your partner is making a bid and think about how you can turn towards your partner.
  2. Self-reflect! This is crucial. Think about your experience with making, receiving, and responding to bids for connection. How does it feel when your partner turns towards your bids? How does it feel when they turn away or against your bids? How do you make bids in your relationship? Are the bids you make clear and understandable?
  3. Sit down with your partner and talk! Explore how you can both start to turn towards one another and reflect on experiences with bids within your relationship.
  4. Be patient! It may take time to get in the groove of turning towards one another, but over time you and your partner will learn to become masters of responding to each other’s bids! It will take effort and patience (and maybe a little frustration), but in the end it will be worth it.

Navigating relationships can be challenging, so do not be afraid to seek support from a licensed professional. Feel free to contact one of our many wonderful couples therapists at Symmetry Counseling to start working on your relationship today. Contact (312) 578-9990 for more information about couples counseling in Chicago. 

References

Brittle, Z. (2015). Turn towards instead of away. Retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/blog/turn-toward-instead-of-away/

Durham, J. (2011). Relationships: Bids for connection. Retrieved from https://www.peps.org/files/bids-for-connection

Lisitsa, E. (2012). A deeper look into turning away from your partner. Retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/blog/a-deeper-look-into-turning-away-from-your-partner/

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