Bids for connection: making your relationship more resilient

It’s Valentine’s Day week. Perhaps you are the ebullient cherub of the patron saint of love and romance, prepping your rose petals for your Valentine’s evening. Or maybe you fall more to the, shall we say, jaded end of the spectrum and cringe at the Hallmark-contrived mandatory love-in. Most likely, like me, you fall somewhere in the middle. We feel super lucky if we get to spend a date night out with our one-and-only. But hey, if we are just exchanging cards over pizza on the couch because one of the kids has the flu? We’re cool with that too. I mean, as long as that pizza also includes wine and some dark chocolate.

Regardless of where you fall on the Valentine’s Day continuum (I’m talking to you, V-day Scrooge), relationships take care and feeding. The good news is that the “care and feeding” has nothing to do with expensive white-tablecloth dinners or jewelry in light blue boxes. It is about making and accepting bids for connection. Dr. John Gottman defines these bids for connection as any attempt from one partner or another for any positive connection: attention, affection, affirmation or other.

Turning toward those bids for connection instead of turning away is adding a layer of strength and resilience in that relationship. Why? Because it creates safety. It says, “I can express my need, I can be vulnerable, I can ask for help and I won’t be shamed, belittled or embarrassed. I am safe here.”

Does that mean every bid for connection must be met? Well, yes and no. Sometimes a bid for connection includes a request that can’t be fulfilled. While it is true that the request might not be met, the bid for connection still can be. Let’s use an example from a couple Rita and John.

John: *sigh*

Rita: That was a big sigh. What’s on your mind?

John: Between work and the kids, we are going in 100 different directions lately. Remember when we were first together and could sneak away for the weekend just us? Let’s look and see where we can take a trip next month! No KIDS!

Rita: I miss that too. SO MUCH! I’d like to do that again one day. We agreed that we’d put our finances first for awhile. What else could we do to carve out time just for us right now while we save money for a trip later?

Your attention might have been drawn to The Big Request of the trip, but the most important bid for connection was barely audible. It was The Sigh. In that moment, Rita had an option to ignore the sigh and continue working on her computer or she could put her laptop down and literally turn toward John. While John might feel a bit disappointed to not be packing for a weekend in Cabo, he was able to feel that Rita not only heard what he was saying, but that she felt the same too. So much so, she is ready to problem-solve to meet the needs of their relationship. He left the conversation knowing that he wouldn’t be turned away.

So on this Valentine’s week, whether you buy the box of chocolate or not, give your partner the gift of noticing his/ her bids for connection and turn towards it.

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