Is emotional disconnection killing the intimacy in your relationship? Read on to find one simple way to bring it back to life!
So does this sound like your relationship? You come up to the entrance of your home and hesitate to turn the door knob. You can feel the tension already. If you are the first one to say hello as you enter, you risk that it’ll go unanswered. If you don’t, you will likely be scolded for being “rude”. There’s no way to win. And it’s been that way for a very long time.
How did it get this way? Well psychologists and authors Drs. John and Julie Gottman, along with other researchers, seem to know the answer. It may be the way we respond to something they call “bids” and it’s an often overlooked secret to resurrecting the emotional intimacy you long to feel again.
What is a “bid” anyway?
Bids are the way we ask for emotional connection in a relationship. It’s as simple as “how was your day”, or “did you get that answer you wanted from your Mom”, or “guess what happened to me today!” It’s an invitation offered to someone to draw closer. It enhances emotional intimacy which leads to all kinds of connection emotionally and physically. The thing is that we have options in how we respond to a bid, or even whether we notice the words or actions of another as an invitation to connect at all. And how we respond often makes a huge difference in the amount of closeness we feel in a relationship and whether romance thrives.
What are our options in responding to a bid?
When someone turns toward a bid, they engage and offer insight or understanding to you. They offer their attention and engage with you. They may ask questions, express enthusiasm, or offer empathy. And they often offer a similar invitation to you as well, sharing something that helps you know them better, or asking about something that is part of your world. “Can I help you tonight with that project you were working on? Want to go to that movie you’ve been wanting to see?. In couples where emotional and physical intimacy remain alive, strong, and vibrant, bids are turned toward more often than in couples who feel distant and starved for emotional connection.
Turning away from a bid happens when we miss or dismiss a bid. When someone doesn’t respond to our bid it stops interaction, and we often don’t rebid and risk rejection again. Turning away can also be asking a question that is not even relevant to the original bid as if you never heard it or that it was unimportant. Whatever form it takes, it starves out the opportunity to add a shot of nourishment to the relationship and grow intimacy.
Turning against a bid means we respond angrily or with a put down. “Why do you keep asking me the same thing? You should know I don’t want to talk about that right now. What’s wrong with you?” It’s an attack, and leaves our partner hurt, angry, and perhaps longing for understanding and a safe place they can flourish, be welcomed, and cared for.
Turning away or against bids may tell our partner we don’t care about what they are saying and, in essence, about them as a person. Sometimes these responses are innocent preoccupation with one’s own thoughts or they can also be intentionally offered to create distance and room for autonomy. Either way, it is one of the most toxic, deadly relationship interactions and is guaranteed to keep conflict going or at best result in feeling distant and lonely. Even more, research conducted by the Gottmans and other researchers have found and that it is evidence that a relationship will probably end if not resolved.
So you can see how romance – or any kind of emotional or physical intimacy – starves when all it has to live on is a steady dose of indifference or negativity.
So how can you resurrect romance and intimacy?
According to “The Relationship Cure”, by Dr. John Gottman, PhD and Joan DeClaire, one way to start is by feeding your relationship regular doses of kindness, attention, and positive affection. Here’s how:
Be mindful of opportunities to turn toward your partner.
Balance complaints with lots of praise and complements.
Recognize and change a “Crabby Habit of Mind” and replace it with expressions of gratitude and appreciation.
Add a few doses of vulnerability and more talk about your feelings and challenges, so that you can be better known by your partner.
If there’s a problem, bring it up and stay focused on your own feelings and what you’d like help with or more understanding about, rather than blaming your partner and being unkind.
This secret to connection may not solve all your relationship struggles, but you’ll be surprised at how much these changes can help you and our partner feel more connected to each other. And when you feel more connected and listened to, you want to be closer, and being closer can do a lot to bring a dead relationship back to life!
For more insight from Dr. John Gottman and Joan DeClaire, read their book “The Relationship Cure” or engage with a Gottman Trained Therapist today!
Dianne Presley, LCSW
Owner/Founder Believe, Hope, Inspire Wellness Services LLC
Level 1 & 2 Trained Gottman Therapist
Certified Educator for 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work and Bringing Baby Home