Valentine’s Day is coming up, and partners everywhere are stocking up on chocolates, flowers, cards, and making dinner reservations, to enjoy a romantic evening together…
And then they go back to their busy lives, wishing they could feel more connected.
What if you could feel more connected on a daily basis, without spending more time?
The strongest way to create emotional connection is not just through candle lit dinners and planning romantic getaways-although those are also important. It’s actually the smallest, most mundane interactions on a daily basis that make the most difference.
If you don’t do THESE things on a daily basis, your romantic gestures won’t make much difference…
In all relationships, we build closeness by making what Gottman calls “bids” for connection. A bid can be anything that invites your partner to respond to you. It can be affectionate touching – like caressing their back, a handshake, a pat, or a squeeze. It can be a facial expression- like smiling, or winking, or making eye contact from across the room. It can be a kind gesture, like opening a door, handing over a utensil or tool. Or It can be vocalizing such as laughing, grunting, or sighing in your partner’s presence.
A bid can be something as insignificant as looking out the window and saying “Wow, it’s a nice day out.” But underneath that, you’re wondering, “Is my partner going to respond to me? Are we still connected?” Of course we can’t be responsive all the time, but statistics show that being unresponsive the MAJORITY of the time, over time, is what causes the disconnection that leads to the escalation of intense fighting.
Throughout the day, we are making bids for connection with our partner, to make sure we’re still connected.
There are 3 ways we can respond to our partner’s bids. We can turn towards, turn against, or turn away.
Lets take the example of looking out the window and saying, “Wow, it’s a nice day out.”
A Turning towards response would be: “Yes it is! Maybe we can go for a walk later.”
This builds stable, long lasting relationships that include humor, affection, and interest in each other, even during conflict.
A Turning Against response would be: “What do you care? You’re just going to hang around the house anyway.” Turning against is acting belligerent or argumentative, use sarcasm or ridicule. This is destructive to relationships too, but at least you’re engaged. Turning away is actually more destructive!
A Turning Away response would be: Ignoring them or acting preoccupied. Consistent turning away is destructive for the relationship and often leads to disconnection and fighting. This is because our attachment system in our brain is like a radar, scanning the environment to make sure that we ARE connected. If one partner feels ignored the majority of the time, their attachment system can go on red alert and that triggers the tiger or turtle behaviors of being angry or withdrawing.
John Gottman’s research showed that:
- Husbands headed for divorce disregarded their wives’ bids 82% of the time.
- Husbands in good relationships disregarded their wives’ bids 19% of the time.
- Wives headed for divorce disregarded their husbands’ bids 50% of the time.
- Wives in good relationships disregarded their husbands’ bids 14% of the time.
So you can see that responsiveness is a really important indicator of whether your relationship will succeed or fail!
Repeated turning away will activate your partner’s fight or flight response, and they’re either going to become anxious, needy, and demanding, or emotionally withdrawn. This empties the emotional bank account, and when it’s running on empty, fights are much more likely.
We all miss our partner’s bids sometimes. The key is understanding that each time you bid, and each time you receive a bid well, you are making deposits in the Emotional Bank Account. These little moments add up, reminding the two of you of the feelings you have for one another, and of your commitment to staying connected and engaged with each other.
Questions to ask yourself (And share in the comments 🙂 )
Let’s bring awareness to how you bid, and how you respond: whether you turn towards, turn against, or away from your partner’s bids.
How do you bid for connection? What do you do to maintain physical and emotional closeness with your partner?
How does your partner bid? What do you notice them doing to maintain physical and emotional closeness?
How do you respond to your partner’s bids?
What’s the affect on our daily emotional connection?
What new actions can you take based on these insights?