The Crucial Role of Bids for Connection in a Lasting Marriage

April 22, 2024 |Gideon Hanekom

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Dr. John Gottman’s research has revolutionized our understanding of successful marriages and relationships. Through his extensive studies, he has emphasized the importance of bids for connection in creating a lasting and fulfilling union. But what exactly are bids for connection?

Bids for connection are essentially the small, everyday interactions and gestures that partners make to seek attention, support, or affirmation from each other.

These bids can take various forms, such as a simple question, a touch, a smile, or even a shared joke.

But, regardless, bids for connection are the building blocks of emotional connection and intimacy in a relationship.

One reason is that when partners respond positively to each other’s bids for connection, they create a positive feedback loop that strengthens their bond.

For example, if one partner makes a bid by sharing a funny story, and the other partner responds with laughter and interest, it reinforces their sense of connection and closeness.

On the other hand, if bids for connection are consistently ignored, dismissed, or met with negativity, it can erode a relationship’s emotional foundation.

Over time, if that happens enough, that can lead to feelings of loneliness, resentment, and disconnection.

Dr. Gottman’s research has also shown that couples who consistently respond to each other’s bids for connection are more likely to have successful and lasting marriages.

These couples have a greater sense of emotional intimacy, trust, and satisfaction in their relationship.

However, it’s important to note that bids for connection are not always obvious or explicit.

Sometimes, they can be subtle or disguised in everyday conversations or actions.

Therefore, effective recognition and response to these bids requires attentiveness, empathy, and active listening.

Also, and this is crucial, bids for connection are not limited to positive interactions.

Conflict and disagreements are inevitable in any relationship, and how partners respond to each other’s bids during these challenging moments can greatly impact the (long-term) outcome.

For instance, responding with empathy, understanding, and a willingness to find common ground can turn conflict into an opportunity for growth and deeper connection, whereas the opposite can erode any chance of growth and any connection.

In fact, couples can actually condition each other to distrust the other person, which will only result in an out-of-control cycle of toxicity and cynicism.

Ultimately, bids for connection are the threads that weave the fabric of a lasting and fulfilling marriage.

And by recognizing and valuing these bids, partners can create a strong foundation of emotional intimacy, trust, and love that will withstand the test of time.

According to Dr Gottman, this “turn towards instead of away” behaviour is characterized by small, everyday gestures that demonstrate interest, affection, and responsiveness towards one’s partner.

It could be something as simple as responding positively to a partner’s bid for attention or showing empathy when they express a concern.

But these seemingly insignificant actions, when consistently practised, create a sense of emotional connection and security within the relationship.

More importantly, in his research, Dr Gottman observed that the couples who divorced displayed a lack of this crucial behaviour.

These couples often ignored or dismissed their partner’s bids for attention, leading to a breakdown in communication and emotional disconnection.

And over time, this erosion of emotional connection led to increased conflict, resentment, and ultimately, the decision to end the relationship.

On the other hand, the couples who stayed married demonstrated a high degree of responsiveness to each other’s bids for attention.

They actively listened, showed genuine interest, and responded with warmth and affection.

Consequently, these couples were able to maintain a strong emotional connection, even during times of conflict or stress.

Bids for Connection

Dr. Gottman’s findings highlight the importance of nurturing emotional connection in a relationship.

While grand gestures and romantic moments are important, it is the everyday interactions that truly make a difference.

By consistently turning towards each other instead of away, couples can build a solid foundation of trust, intimacy, and mutual support.

That’s where the magic and power lie for creating a happier, healthier, and more intimate relationship that lasts.

The Power of Turning Towards

At the six-year follow-up of Dr Gottman’s study, the couples who remained happily married demonstrated a remarkable tendency to turn towards one another in response to bids for connection.

In fact, they responded positively to these bids a staggering 86% of the time.

On the other hand, the couples who ended up divorcing responded to bids for connection only 33% of the time.

So, what exactly is a bid for connection?

As already mentioned, a bid is any attempt by one partner to seek attention, affirmation, affection, or any other form of positive connection from the other partner.

But, regardless of how, when a partner makes a bid for connection, it is almost always a vulnerable act that requires trust and openness.

It is essentially an invitation for the other person to respond and engage in a meaningful way.

And the response to these bids, whether positive or negative, can have a profound impact on the overall health and longevity of the relationship.

In the case of the couples who remained happily married, their high percentage of positive responses to bids for connection indicates a strong sense of emotional responsiveness and attunement. They recognize and value these bids as opportunities to deepen their connection and strengthen their bond.

Bids for Connection

On the other hand, the couples who ended up divorcing responded to bids for connection only a third of the time. That lack of responsiveness suggests a breakdown in communication and emotional disengagement.

Moreover, when these bids for connection go unanswered or are met with indifference (probably worse), it can lead to feelings of rejection, loneliness, and, ultimately, relationship dissatisfaction.

It’s crucial to understand that turning towards one another in response to bids for connection is a powerful tool for building intimacy and maintaining a healthy relationship. But it involves being present and attentive to your partner’s needs, desires, and emotions.

It also requires active listening, empathy, and a willingness to prioritize the relationship over individual needs.

And by consistently turning towards one another, couples can create a positive cycle of connection and emotional support.

Each bid for connection becomes an opportunity to strengthen the bond and deepen the level of trust and understanding.

Furthermore, it is through these small acts of responsiveness that couples can navigate challenges, resolve conflicts, and cultivate a lasting and fulfilling relationship.

However, there can be a challenge when it comes to men and women being in a relationship; not everyone ‘sees’ or responds to bids for connection in the same manner.

Gender Differences in Bids

It is worth noting that, in general, women tend to make more bids for connection than men.

However, in the healthiest relationships, both partners feel comfortable making all kinds of bids.

Unfortunately, many men struggle with reading or making bids, which can significantly impact a relationship’s dynamics.

While women may tend to make more bids overall, it is important to note that the quality and nature of bids can vary between men and women.

Women often make bids for emotional connection, seeking validation, support, and empathy from their partners.

These bids can be expressed through verbal cues, such as sharing personal stories or expressing vulnerability, or non-verbal cues, such as seeking physical affection or engaging in activities together.

On the other hand, men may be more inclined to make bids for connection through shared activities or problem-solving.

They may seek connection by suggesting a joint project, planning a date night, or offering practical help and solutions to their partner’s challenges.

These bids for connection may not always be as overtly emotional as those made by women, but they are still crucial for building a strong bond and fostering intimacy.

However, despite these general tendencies, it is important to remember that individuals are unique and may not conform to these gendered patterns.

Some women may prefer to make bids for connection through shared activities, while some men may be more comfortable expressing their emotions verbally.

Overall, the key is for partners to be attuned to each other’s bid styles and respond with warmth, interest, and acceptance.

Therefore, it becomes crucial for individuals, regardless of sex, to learn the art of paying attention and being open to bids for connection.

It is the responsibility of both partners to be present and attuned to these bids, as they are the building blocks of a strong and thriving relationship.

Dr Gottman’s research ultimately underscores the importance of bids for connection as a fundamental skill in building and maintaining a healthy relationship.

In conclusion, gender differences in bids for connection exist, but they should not be seen as rigid or limiting.

Both men and women have unique ways of expressing their need for connection, and it is essential for partners to be open, responsive, and accepting of each other’s bids.

Take away

Remember, the little things really do make a big difference in relationships.

According to Dr. John Gottman’s research, paying attention to and responding positively to your partner’s bids for connection can strengthen the bonds of intimacy and trust that are essential for a lasting relationship.

Each smile, question, or shared moment is an opportunity to deepen your connection.

So, take a moment today to notice and respond to these bids—it’s a simple yet powerful way to build a happier and more resilient partnership.

Start turning towards each other in the small moments, and watch your relationship flourish.

About the author

Gideon Hanekom

Gideon Hanekom is the creator of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a popular relationship blog that ranks among the top 50 relationship blogs in 2024. The website helps couples to create happier, healthier, and more intimate relationships. Gideon is a trained professional counsellor and holds post-graduate degrees in Theology and Psychology. His articles have also been featured on respected platforms such as Marriage.com and The Good Men Project.

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