Every day, multiple times a day, we request something from our partner. It may be a bit of attention, love, intimacy, support, or even just time. But during the day, sometimes dozens of times a day, we have these small or big requests that we make in order to maintain and grow our connection with our partner.
But how our partner responds to these bids can have a substantial affect on our happiness levels and comfort with our partner. If your relationship is struggling, you’ve been fighting more often, or you feel like you’re losing some of your connection, it helps to analyze how you both are responding to these requests, and whether you’re turning “towards,” “away,” or “against.”
These attempts to gain some type of positive interaction or experience from our partner are referred to as “bids” within the Gottman Method of couples counseling. Bids are, essentially, initiations of positive interaction. They can be related to intimacy (moving in for a hug, holding hands), or requests for help, or just questions that begin a positive conversation (how was your day?). Bids can be small, medium, or large. They can be intentional or unintentional.
We make these bids a lot. Even in difficult or unhappy marriages, there are often some type of bid that occurs during the day. How are you responding to bids? How is your partner?
What we want is for partners to respond with what’s called “Turning Towards.”
Turning Towards is when a partner’s words or actions provide a positive response to the other person’s bid. Examples include:
- Taking their hand when they try to hold your hand.
- Looking at your partner when they’re talking to you.
- Responding to your partner’s question without malice.
- Offering support when your partner is expressing a stress.
- Active listening – putting down your phone to hear what your partner is saying.
Bids can be anything from initiating sexual intercourse to saying “how was work today?” to asking for an immense amount of emotional support to overcome a recent challenge. It can be small, medium, or large. “Turning Towards” would be responding to these, whether it’s with a word, a gesture, an action, or something else.
Couples often struggle with this. One or both partners may be dismissive, ignore someone, push them away. These are some examples of the activities that we do not want to do, as they damage the relationship and cause them to grow apart. The two responses we want to avoid are “turning away” and “turning against.”
Turning away is when a partner doesn’t respond, ignores the bid, or returns it with disinterest. An example might be if a partner comes in for a kiss, and the other partner lets them kiss but doesn’t kiss back. Or one partner is talking about their day, and the other partner just looks at their phone and offers no real acknowledgment of the conversation.
“Turning Away” can be very damaging for relationships, and can hurt them over time. But we especially want to avoid what’s known as “Turning Against.”
Turning Against is when a person does respond, but it is hostile or negative. For example, if your partner goes to hold your hand, and you bat their hand away, that is “Turning Against” Or if a partner asks you how your day was and you respond with “what do you care?” or “why are you asking me?” that would be turning against, because it takes their bid and actively rejects it.
Both turning away and turning against are very harmful to relationships. If your relationship has been struggling, one way to try to start addressing it is to make sure that you’re actively trying to “Turn Toward” more. Pay attention to how you respond to your partner, and learn to make sure that you’re both noticing their bids and doing your best to respond to them correctly.
At Long Island Counseling Services, our couples therapists can help you with your “Bids” and try to make sure you and your partner are recognizing them, acknowledging them, appreciating them, and learning to respond positively. Call us today for couples counseling and support.