As promised in Monday’s blog post, today we are going to share with you some examples of “turning away” from bids for attention. We hope that our in-depth explanation of “turning away” will allow you to recognize this behavior in interactions you have with your partner. Though individual instances of “turning away” from your partner’s bids may not seem to make much of an impact on your emotional connection, the build up of these moments can incur enormous damage to your relationship. Dr. Gottman warns that his research has led him to the following conclusion:

“Even if the bidder doesn’t act hurt of angry at the moment his or her bid is rejected, there seems to be some internal mechanism that keeps score… the dismissed bidder typically gets fed up… [and] starts complaining to and criticizing the person who turns away, leading to a pattern of attack and defend.” 

The ultimate purpose of today’s post is to allow the two of you to strengthen your bond by applying Dr. Gottman’s methods to avoid spiraling into an awful pattern that may be an enormous threat to your relationship. By showing you the way in which bids may be negatively responded to, we will explain how you can practice “turn towards” each other’s bids instead.

Dr. Gottman’s definitions for the following behaviors are given below, as well as examples to clarify the ways in which these “turning away” behaviors may be expressed in your relationship. As in Monday’s post, for the sake of this exercise we are going to keep the bid the same in each scenario:

Preoccupied responses

The respondent making a preoccupied response is often involved in some kind of activity, such as reading a book, making a meal, or watching TV:

Jen: “Look at that beautiful sunset!”
David: (On the computer, not turning away from the screen) “Uh-huh”

Disregarding Responses

The respondent totally ignores the bid or focuses on insignificant details of the bid:

Will: “Look at that beautiful sunset!”
Frankie: (Silence)

Interrupting Responses

The respondent introduces unrelated matters or counterbids:

Jackie: “Look at that beautiful -”
Paul: “Did you ever get that letter from the bank?”

Forming the habit of noticing and preemptively checking any urges you may feel to respond in ways that “turn away” from your partner can make an enormous difference in your relationship, reducing stress and building an atmosphere of mutual trust. Of course, turning away from bids is often done unconsciously. With the number of things we have to manage on a daily basis, our focus can’t constantly be on applying Dr. Gottman’s advice our interactions with our partners! However, we all know how frustrating it feels to make a bid and have it ignored, regardless of whether it be ignored mostly, partially, or entirely.

The good news is that as you begin to identify these behaviors and consciously practice “turning towards” your partner, it will become more effortless over time. We hope that positive patterns of interaction in your relationship will soon become second nature to you, and allow you and your partner to grow closer together!


More in The Archives
A Deeper Look Into Turning Away From Your Partner
Ellie Lisitsa

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.