By: Cristina Trette
Dr. John Gottman is a well know relationship expert that has conducted extensive research on what the happiest and healthiest couples do to create lasting love relationships. In his book, "What Makes Love Last", Gottman teaches a concept known as turning towards each other. Taking on a general mindset of turning towards your partner or spouse can increase connection and reduce conflict.
1. Making Bids
Gottman suggests that on a daily basis, you and your partner will make numerous bids for support, attention, and connection. Some examples of bids could include your partner asking you to run an errand, telling you about something that happened at work, or cracking a joke. Bids can be seemingly minor or unimportant. But the need behind the bids (for support, connection, and attention) is very meaningful and highly important. There are all sorts of ways couples reach out to each other, that can go unnoticed.
2. Pay attention to bids
Bids can easily go unnoticed! Busy parents in particular are consumed with careers, household duties, and children. It is common to overlook all of the small ways that partners reach out for connection. If you do not notice most of your partners bids, then you can see how your partner may end up feeling unsupported, not heard, not seen, not valued, etc. So, start noticing all the ways, big and small, your partner makes a bid for your support, attention, and connection. Gottman found that the happiest couples are the ones that are highly attuned to each other, and one way to be attuned, is to notice bids.
3. Turn towards
Hopefully you are beginning to see the many ways in which your partner reaches out to you for connection. Some bids are subtle, others are obvious. The next time your partner makes a bid, respond with interest and care. Turn toward them. Show your partner that you care and they matter. At the minimum you can stop what you are doing for a moment and be present. If you have time and availability you can offer deeper support, connection, and conversation.
3. Catch yourself when you have turned away
Maybe you are busy with the kids. Perhaps you are stressed with work or caught up in your own problems of the day. Whatever the reason, there will be times that you don't notice a bid for connection. Or, maybe you notice it, but you are unavailable for some reason. This will happen! Perhaps your partner reached out and you ignored them, withdrew, or said something to shut down communication. On the more extreme end, and more difficult to repair, turning away can includes criticism and contempt. Be encouraged to know that once you have noticed that you just turned away, all you have to do is turn towards again.
4. Fill up your joint emotional back account
Many couples find that it is exciting and enjoyable to take on a mindset of noticing bids and turning towards each other. Couples quickly see how easy it is to create more joy and connection with this simple shift in increasing awareness around bid and responses. When responding to bids with interest, you will be filling up your "joint emotional bank account". If you make a habit of consistently responding to the small bids with care then you will create a foundation of connection and support for your relationship to thrive on. Being there for each other in all the small ways will make it far more likely that you will be there for each other when something significant happens, and the need for genuine support is big.
Hello! I am Cristina Trette. I am a Couples Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Certified in Perinatal Mental Health. I write on all things related to relationships, parenthood, and connection.