Call us: 469.225.9040

Turning Towards - Bids for Attention

Turning Toward vs. Away

Is your emotional bank account overdrawn?  If so the overdraft fees can be far worse than anything imposed on your regular bank account.  So what am I referring to, and how does it affect your world?  Well as you have probably guessed, this emotional account has to do with your relationship.  When the balance is high, and you’re having a bad day or in a thoughtless moment react harshly to your spouse, it’s not the norm.  Therefore they are more apt to realize you’re dealing with something right now, and either let it go or come to you and ask if there is anything they can do to help.  If, however, the balance is already overdrawn, then this just becomes one more in the long list of events that may spell disaster for your relationship.  

So how do you fund the emotional bank account?  Well the answer comes from research by The Gottman Institute and it’s found in the three little words, “Small Things Often.”  I have referenced this in previous articles, but today I’d like to address one that is specifically known for increasing the balance of your account.  It’s Level 3 in our Sound Relationship House model-“Turning Towards Instead of Away.”  This is such a seemingly small thing, that it’s easy to miss, but holds profound hope for your relationship.  

In each day there are these short moments in time-moments Dr. John Gottman refers to as “Sliding Doors” in time after the movie by the same name.  These are short opportunities that exist for mere seconds and have the ability to create a profound affect on your relationship, and it’s in these short moments that you have the opportunity to turn toward your partner.  

These moments were first observed in the apartment lab where researchers have been studying relationships for decades.  A typical example takes place when the couple is having breakfast.  The husband is eating his cereal, staring at the TV, and the wife looks out the window over the ocean and says, “Oh what a beautiful boat.”  Now the husband has three choices.  He can continue watching TV, eating his cereal, and ignore the comment; this is known as turning away from the bid for attention.  He could also respond harshly with a comment like, “I’m trying to hear this.”  That’s turning against the bid for attention, or he might reply by turning his head to see the boat and say, “Oh.”  Now while he could obviously show more interest than just, “Oh,” that little acknowledgment is enough to be considered turning toward the bid.

This little bids are often subconscious in nature, meaning your partner may not even realize he or she has requested your attention, but it’s oh so important.  What we know from the research is that the couples we call the Masters or Relationship who stayed married, turned toward their partner’s bid 86% of the time.  Couples who were divorced six years later (The Disasters) only turned toward their partner’s bid 33% of the time.  Oh and one last thing! Learn to pay attention because when it comes to bids for attention, it’s unusual for a partner to rebid if a bid is declined or ignored.  In fact research has shown that in happy couples if the bid is ignored, the partner will only attempt a rebid 22% of the time.  The Disasters, or couples who divorced, well research showed they didn’t rebid at all.

So strive to never miss that sliding door in time.  When your spouse comes in all happy and wants to tell you a joke, put down the book, turn away from the laptop, or mute the TV, and be genuinely interested!  Take that moment:

“Oh look, a hummingbird.”

Oh, wow!”

Maybe even get up and go look.  

If you feel like your partner is missing your bids for attention, research shows us there are some underlying reasons as to why 50% of the bids are being missed.  If you'd like to work on that and become one of the masters of relationships, call me at 469-225-9040 or contact us online for a free consultation.