In his research, Dr. Gottman observed that happy couples turn towards their partners approximately twenty times more than couples in distress during everyday, non-conflict discussions. In a newlywed study, newlyweds who were still married six years after their wedding had turned towards each other 86% of the time while in the lab. Those who were divorced six years later, however, had only turned towards each other 33% of the time.
Every time you turn towards your partner’s bids for emotional connection, you are making a deposit in what Dr. Gottman calls your Emotional Bank Account. You add value to your account when you create and build on positive moments between yourself and your partner. These little moments add up, reminding the two of you of the feelings you have for one another, and of your commitment to supporting each other through all of the experiences you share. If you find yourself lost amid the everyday stresses of life, your investment in an Emotional Bank Account drastically diminishes the probability that these stresses will climax in some kind of catastrophic fight.
By keeping Dr. Gottman’s tips about bidding in mind, you and your partner can feel that you are in control and dramatically increase the stability of your relationship. Dr. Gottman describes positive responses to bids as “turning towards” your partner: being mindful, aware, and responsive to the small interactions that the two of you have. When we bid for our partner’s attention, affection, or support, their response generates a critical outcome. As we become used to receiving a pattern of acceptance or rejection of our bids, our feelings towards our partner are an enormous determinant of the success or failure of the relationship! To begin with, we ought to ask a question: What does accepting bids tell the bidder? Here is Dr. Gottman’s answer:
When you “turn towards” bids, the bidder hears:
- I’m interested in you.
- I hear you.
- I understand you (or would like to).
- I’m on your side.
- I’d like to help you (whether I can or not).
- I’d like to be with you (whether I can or not).
- I accept you (even if I don’t accept all your behavior).
In our next few blog entries, we will offer you some of his research-based methods for improving your ability to receive bids in ways that strengthen the trust in your relationship! For now, practice the skills we taught you in our most recent blog posts on Dr. Gottman’s Four Steps of Emotional Attunement & Intimate Conversation with your partner, and start feeling the trust you share grow. If you’ve found our discussions of trust helpful, look forward to the release of Dr. Gottman’s new book What Makes Love Last?.
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