Romance lives and thrives in the everyday little things. It isn’t a beach vacation, expensive meal or lavish gift. According to Dr John Gottman, a world renowned marriage therapist, “ Romance is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life.”
Love and Science
Dr. John Gottman has devoted his career to studying couples, conducting nearly 40 years of research.
He and his colleagues studied over 3,000 couples, interviewing and videotaping their interactions; even measuring their stress levels by checking heart rate, sweat flow, blood pressure and immune function. He then followed up annually (sometimes over 20 years) to see how their relationships fared.
Gottman’s research is exciting, because he identified qualities and practices that help couples stay together.
One principle is ‘Turn Toward Each Other’. He found a subtle but significant difference between strong marriages and vulnerable ones: In the small, everyday moments of life together, the couples more likely to stay together are much more responsive to their partner’s attempts to engage with them.
These attempts at engagement, or “emotional bids”, are efforts on the part of one partner to connect. While some bids are obvious, such as asking for a hug at bedtime, others are as subtle as a comment about the weather. Gottman found that partners who consistently responded positively- or turned toward- each other’s emotional bids enjoyed more marital satisfaction. In fact, in a six-year study of newlyweds, Gottman discovered that couples who stayed together turned toward each other’s emotional bids 86 percent of the time. Those who went on to divorce turned toward each other’s bids only 33 percent of the time.
4 Different Responses
Gottman identified four different responses that people utilize when their partner sends an emotional bid in their direction. Each can either support or undermine a relationship.
We can turn toward our partner, turn enthusiastically toward them, turn away from our partner or turn against our partner. Either of the first two will do! Although an enthusiastic response is almost always appreciated, more often than not a simple acknowledgement is enough to deepen your connection.
How do these small moments make a such a big difference in our relationships? Life can be hard, but having someone by your side makes it sweeter. Consistently turning toward your partner when they reach for you in small ways, fortifies your relationship against the stressors and obstacles of life. Couples that turn toward each other have more in their “emotional bank account”. This account distinguishes happy marriages from less happy ones.
Essentially, an emotional bid is a small way we daily ask our partners, “Are you here with me?” or, “Do I matter to you?” By receiving a metaphorical “Yes!” to these questions consistently throughout your relationship, you strengthen your trust and connection to each other.
Once you identify your partner’s bids, look for ways to turn toward them. Every time you turn toward your partner, you invest in the health and security of your bond.