How Emotional Bids Impact Your Relationship

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You may have heard about the concept of an emotional bid for connection. An emotional bid could be a variety of verbal or nonverbal behaviors one partner uses to gain the attention of the other. The other partner can respond by either acknowledging the bid (turning towards it), or ignoring it (turning away). Did you know that one predictor of a healthy, long-term relationship is turning toward, rather than away from, your partner?

What Are Bids?

What exactly are bids? They’re pretty easy to detect and respond to. A bid could be making a joke (“Did you hear the one about..?”), sharing an observation (“It’s a beautiful day”), or showing interest (“How was your day?”). Nonverbal bids may include facial expressions such as smiling or blowing a kiss; affectionate touching like holding hands; or gestures such as opening the door for your partner. Examples of turning away could include being preoccupied with your phone or TV, or ignoring or dismissing what your partner says. The way you respond to these bids either verbally or non-verbally goes a long way, and once you are aware of what bids are you can be better equipped to respond to them in a respectful and receptive manner.

How Bids Predict the Health of Relationships

The guru of relationships, John Gottman, says that couples are always making “bids” for each other’s attention, affection, humor or support, and each bid presents an opportunity for the other individual to turn towards and acknowledge the bid or away and dismiss the bid. In a six year follow up of newlyweds, Gottman found that couples who remained married had turned towards their partner 86% of the time while those who ended up divorced had accepted bids only an average of 33% of the time.

The little, simple things often get overlooked or taken for granted in relationships, especially over time. Simply turning towards your partner and responding respectfully can have a significant positive impact on the relationship. Turning toward each other builds mutual trust, maintains an ongoing tone of admiration of one another, and increases emotional connection. Couples who acknowledge these bids are less likely to have chronic negativity in their relationship. Because these bids can be so minute it is easy to miss them; be mindful of your interactions with your partner so you don’t miss opportunities to connect.

Talking with a therapist one-on-one can help identify the role you play in the relationship and develop tools to improve your ability to respond to your partner. Couples’ counseling allow allows clients a safe platform to voice their concerns and improve communication. If you feel you and your partner could benefit from couples’ counseling, contact The Light Program today to schedule an intake appointment.

By Sarah Hildebrand, MA, LPC