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The Power of Bids for Connection

In any relationship, the small moments often carry the most weight. Picture this: you're sitting in the living room with your partner, and they say, “I had a really tough day at work today.” How you respond in this moment can significantly impact the strength and health of your relationship. This is an example of what renowned couples' therapists John and Julie Gottman call a Bid for Connection.

What Are Bids for Connection?

Bids for Connection are the little ways that we reach out to connect with our partners. These can range from a simple smile or reaching for a hug, to sharing your thoughts or seeking support. These bids are essentially emotional attempts to engage with our partners, seeking their attention, affection, or understanding.

Recognising and responding to these bids is crucial. Misinterpreting or ignoring them can create emotional distance and leave the bidding partner feeling neglected.

The Importance of Responding to Bids for Connection

When your partner makes a bid, they are reaching out and saying, "I want to connect with you." Your response to these bids can either strengthen or weaken your relationship. Acknowledging and engaging with these bids demonstrates that you see and value your partner, building emotional intimacy and trust.

Three Ways to Respond to Bids for Connection

There are three primary ways to respond to your partner’s bids:

1. Turning Towards

Turning towards means responding positively to your partner’s bid. It shows that you are present and engaged. For example, if your partner shares that they had a tough day, you might respond with, “I’m sorry to hear that. Would you like to talk about it?” This kind of response strengthens the emotional connection between you and your partner.

2. Turning Away

Turning away is to ignore or miss the bid, or to not give your partner’s bid the attention it deserves, often due to distractions or disinterest. If your partner mentions their difficult day and you reply with a distracted, “Oh,” while looking at your phone, you’re turning away. This can make your partner feel unimportant and ignored, creating emotional distance.

3. Turning Against

Turning against involves acknowledging the bid but in a negative, unkind, or dismissive manner. For instance, responding to your partner’s tough day with, “Well, my day was worse,” invalidates their feelings and can lead to conflict. This response can damage the emotional connection and trust between you and your partner.

Why Positive Responses Matter

Research by the Gottman's indicates that successful relationships have a higher frequency of turning towards bids for connection. Couples who consistently respond positively to each other’s bids create a loving and supportive relationship. These interactions build a foundation of security, trust, and intimacy.

The Consequences of Missing Bids

When bids for connection are missed or ignored, it can lead to significant issues in a relationship. Miscommunication, emotional distance, and increased conflicts can result from repeatedly overlooking these small yet crucial moments. Over time, this can make partners feel neglected and unimportant, eroding the bond between them.

Repairing Missed Bids

The good news is that missed bids can be repaired. If you realise you've missed a bid, acknowledge it, take responsibility, and make an effort to reconnect. Apologise sincerely and show your partner that you value their attempts to connect. Being proactive in recognising and responding to future bids can help mend the emotional rift.

Strengthening Your Relationship Through Bids for Connection

Bids for Connection are the building blocks of a strong relationship. By understanding and responding to these bids with empathy and attentiveness, you create an environment where your relationship can flourish. Here are some tips to help you turn towards your partner’s bids:

  • Be Present: Put away distractions and give your partner your full attention when they reach out to you.

  • Pay Attention: Really take the time to listen to your partner when they are talking to or sharing something with you.

  • Respond: Respond to your partners simple requests and be sure to answer their questions or requests for information.

  • Show Interest: Show an active interest in your partners world and the things they share with you, taking time to share in their accomplishments or excitement.

  • Share Together: Create a two-way-street for sharing your thoughts, feelings, experiences and interests.

  • Show Empathy: Respond to your partner’s bids with understanding and compassion.

  • Be Mindful: Pay attention to the subtle ways your partner may be trying to connect with you.

  • Communicate Openly: Encourage open and honest communication about your needs and feelings.

Questions to Ask About Bids for Connection

What are some common ways I express my need for connection?

Am I aware when my partner is making a bid?

What do verbal bids look like in our relationship? What do nonverbal bids look like in our relationship?

Making a conscious effort to turn towards your partner’s bids for connection is a powerful way to nurture and strengthen your relationship. These small, meaningful interactions build a foundation of trust, intimacy, and mutual respect that can help your relationship thrive in the long term. By being attentive and responsive, you can create a loving and supportive partnership that grows stronger with each bid for connection.

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