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A Deeper Look Into Turning Away From Your Partner

Though it may not seem to make an impact on your emotional connection, the build-up of these moments can incur damage over time.

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Here are some examples of “turning away” from bids for attention. The previous blog described “turning toward” so that you 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 an impact on your emotional connection, the build-up of these moments can incur damage over time.

Dr. John 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.

Preoccupied responses

The respondent making a preoccupied response is often involved in an activity, such as reading a book, making a meal, or watching TV.

Sam: “Look at that beautiful sunset!”
Tracey: “Uh-huh.”

Disregarding responses

The respondent ignores the bid or focuses on insignificant details of the bid.

Sam: “Look at that beautiful sunset!”
Tracey: *silence*

Interrupting responses

The respondent introduces unrelated matters or counterbids.

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

Forming the habit of noticing and preemptively checking any urges you feel to respond in ways that “turn away” from your partner can make a difference in your relationship, reducing stress and building an atmosphere of mutual trust. Of course, turning away from bids is often done unconsciously. However, we all know how frustrating it feels to make a bid and have it ignored.

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.


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Ellie Lisitsa is a former staff writer at The Gottman Institute. She holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

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