On Tuesday, Zach Brittle wrote about Turning Towards and asked readers to send him a picture of the “flowchart for conflict” through bids and turning that he describes in “T is for Turning.” This is what we think it may look like:

He received many excellent (and creative) submissions from readers, and has selected his two favorites to share with you: 

via Erin M. 

via Melanie J.

Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we would like to continue the discussion of Turning Toward by providing an exercise written by Dr. Gottman for what to do when your partner doesn’t Turn Toward you. 

If one of you is feeling rejected by the other lately, or overwhelmed by your partner’s need for closeness, you should both take some time this weekend to review the exercise below and then share your answers. There is no answer key for these questions – they are merely a point of departure for discussions with your partner. The bottom line of this approach is that there isn’t one reality when a couple misses each other in little ways. There are two equally legitimate perspectives. Remember: couples often ignore each other’s emotional needs out of mindlessness, not malice. Once you understand and acknowledge this, you’ll find that reconnecting just comes naturally. 

During this week I felt…

1. Defensive.        

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

2. Hurt.                

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

3. Unappreciated. 

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

4. Unattractive.                  

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

5. Sad.                                  

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

6. Lonely.                             

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

7. Criticized.                        

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

8. Worried.                         

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

9. Misunderstood.              

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

10. Like leaving.                 

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

What triggered these feelings?

1. I felt excluded.                           

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

2. I felt that my partner  was not attracted to me.            

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

3. I was not important to my partner.                 

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

4. I felt no affection toward my partner.                   

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

5. I definitely felt rejected.                     

A Great Deal    Definitely    A Little    Not at all 

Now that you know what triggered this episode, it’s time to see whether your emotional reaction is rooted in your past. Were there any connections there between earlier traumas or behavior and the current situation? Use the following list to facilitate this search for links between the past and present.

These recent feelings about my relationship come from: 

  • The way I was treated in my family growing up
  • A previous relationship
  • Past injuries, hard times, or traumas I’ve suffered
  • My basic fears and insecurities
  • Things and events I have not yet resolved or put aside
  • Unrealized hopes I have
  • Ways other people treated me in the past
  • Things I have always thought about myself
  • Old “nightmares” or “catastrophes” I have worried about

After you’ve discussed each other’s answers above, you will come to see that many of your differences are not really matter of “fact.” We are all complicated creatures whose actions and reactions are governed by a wide array of perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and memories. 

As you work through this exercise, you’ll become more adept at turning toward each other regularly. When you honor and respect each other, you’re able to appreciate each other’s point of view, even if you don’t agree with it. 


More in The Archives
Weekend Homework Assignment: Turning Towards
Michael Fulwiler

Michael Fulwiler is the Editor in Chief of The Gottman Relationship Blog and Director of Marketing for The Gottman Institute. A proud University of Washington graduate, Michael is an avid fan of love, live music, and Seattle sports teams.