Adult Topic Blogs

The Secret Ingredient to a Thriving Relationship: Turning

Thriving relationship, turning towards each other, Gottman Institute, relationship satisfaction, emotional bank account, bids for connection, healthy relationships, conflict resolution, trust in relationships, Dr. John Gottman, marriage advice, couples therapy, relationship tips, building trust, relationship communication.

Thriving relationship, turning towards each other, Gottman Institute, relationship satisfaction, emotional bank account, bids for connection, healthy relationships, conflict resolution, trust in relationships, Dr. John Gottman, marriage advice, couples therapy, relationship tips, building trust, relationship communication.
The Secret Ingredient to a Thriving Relationship: Turning 9

Originally posted on The Gottman Relationship Blog

As I’m writing this, my wife asks “Do you want to come try this?” referring to a new meal she just made. 

Do I really need to get up and try this now? I think to myself. After all, I’m writing for The Gottman Institute. 

Here’s what Drs. John and Julie Gottman say about these moments in their latest book Fight Right, “what we saw in the Love Lab, with our three thousand couples, is that [these moments] mattered—a lot.”

Whether it’s our partner’s comment about a certain car on the road or an exacerbated sigh when they sit on the couch, these bids for connection are sprinkled throughout our days together. 

It’s what we do in these moments that carry the most weight for relationship satisfaction. Dr. Carrie Cole’s research concluded that “turning towards” our partner’s bids for connection – like the invitation to try a new meal –  is the biggest factor to a happy relationship, making up for 65% of why married couples feel satisfied with each other. 2. Cole, C. (2022). *Exploring the roles of conflict, friendship, gender differences, and their impact on relationship satisfaction within heterosexual marriages: A quantitative study* [Doctoral dissertation, Capella University]. Institutional Repository.] 

Gottman’s research validates this: Happy couples turned toward their partners 86% of the time—like pausing work to share a laugh over a meme. While unhappy couples only turned toward 33%.

If you want to improve the quality of your relationship, these seemingly insignificant moments, such as the one with my wife, are important to turn towards

If you want a better relationship, including healthier conflict, you need to be intentional about cueing into your partner’s bids for attention as well as being direct about yours. 

Here’s why turning towards these seemingly insignificant moments matter: 

When bids for connection are turned towards, it deposits a connection coin in what Drs. John and Julie Gottman call the “emotion bank account.” Attentively responding to both clear and nuanced bids, including those expressed during challenging moments, acts as incremental investments in your relationships’ emotional reservoir. 

For instance, When your partner lets out a frustrated sigh while dealing with household chores, recognizing this as a bid for connection allows you to respond constructively—perhaps by offering help or a listening ear to their overwhelm—transforming that moment of tension into an opportunity for support and understanding, thereby making a positive deposit into your emotional bank account.

Consistent deposits, build a robust wealth of goodwill, grace, and a sense of togetherness. 

Thriving relationship, turning towards each other, Gottman Institute, relationship satisfaction, emotional bank account, bids for connection, healthy relationships, conflict resolution, trust in relationships, Dr. John Gottman, marriage advice, couples therapy, relationship tips, building trust, relationship communication.Thriving relationship, turning towards each other, Gottman Institute, relationship satisfaction, emotional bank account, bids for connection, healthy relationships, conflict resolution, trust in relationships, Dr. John Gottman, marriage advice, couples therapy, relationship tips, building trust, relationship communication.

These small moments build trust. And in conflict, each partner is asking questions such as:

  • Do you have my best interest in mind? 
  • Can I trust that I matter to you?
  • Can I trust that we are in this together, even when we disagree?

Couples who have a wealth of goodwill, connection, and affection can withdraw on those positive feelings in moments of conflict, regardless of the topic. 

This sense of trust helps both partners be softer in their startups, seek to understand their partner, repair quicker, as well as act more collaboratively when conflict arises because each partner feels seen and cared for. 

Whereas couples who neglect these bids by turning away or against have little to no money in their emotional bank account. This sets the couple up for nastier conflict because neither partner is feeling connected or cared for. 

This low bank account leads us to treat each other like enemies, rather than intimate allies. Here are some of the risk of a depleted emotional bank account according to the Gottmans: 

  • We misinterpret each other and go with our interpretations rather than checking them out. He didn’t pick up the correct items at the grocery store because he doesn’t listen. He clearly doesn’t care about me. Guess how I’ll treat my partner if this is how I think about them? 
  • We assume the worst intentions and develop a negative sentiment override which causes us to see our partners actions in a negative light, rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt. “You always do this. You don’t respect me. You stayed late at work on purpose.” We are not considering all the context that may have influenced our partner to be late. 
  • We use harsher startups and the infamous Four Horsemen (criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling) during conflict to try to get our needs met. “You never do your share around here. You’re so selfish. I’m doing everything myself.” 

This low bank account inadvertently sabotages our relationship because we use harsh tactics to get our needs met which reinforces negativity in the relationship, leading to failed repairs attempts, and less bids for connection getting turned towards in the future. This sets up the relationship to get into what Drs. John and Julie Gottman call the Negative Absorbing Markov State: 

Thriving relationship, turning towards each other, Gottman Institute, relationship satisfaction, emotional bank account, bids for connection, healthy relationships, conflict resolution, trust in relationships, Dr. John Gottman, marriage advice, couples therapy, relationship tips, building trust, relationship communication.Thriving relationship, turning towards each other, Gottman Institute, relationship satisfaction, emotional bank account, bids for connection, healthy relationships, conflict resolution, trust in relationships, Dr. John Gottman, marriage advice, couples therapy, relationship tips, building trust, relationship communication.

The more bids are ignored or missed, the more we lose trust and view each other as the problem, rather than teaming up against the challenge the relationship is facing, including feeling disconnected.

This is why it’s so important to turn towards each other. The more we are intentional about turning towards each other, even in the seemingly insignificant moments, the healthier our relationship and conflict becomes. 

Take a moment and evaluate how emotionally connected you feel with your partner today by answering these questions. 

Choose the option that best describes your feelings:

  • Looking Forward to Time Together?
    • I’m eager to spend time with my partner.
    • I’m not looking forward to spending time with my partner.
  • Shared Humor and Fun
    • When we’re together, laughter and fun are common.
    • Our time together lacks laughter and fun.
  • Awareness of Each Other’s Lives
    • I’m in tune with what my partner is currently experiencing and feeling.
    • I’m unsure about my partner’s current experiences and feelings.
  • Gratitude for Partner’s Presence
    • I feel grateful when I see my partner and appreciate their contributions.
    • I don’t feel a sense of gratitude towards my partner’s presence or contributions.
  • Sense of We-ness
    • I wake up feeling united and supported by my partner, regardless of our schedules.
    • I wake up feeling alone and unsupported.

If you find yourself selecting the second bullet point more often then the first, then it’s time to work on noticing your partner’s bids for connection and turn towards them. The more you do that for them, it increases the chances they will also start to do the same with you. 

Thriving relationship, turning towards each other, Gottman Institute, relationship satisfaction, emotional bank account, bids for connection, healthy relationships, conflict resolution, trust in relationships, Dr. John Gottman, marriage advice, couples therapy, relationship tips, building trust, relationship communication.Thriving relationship, turning towards each other, Gottman Institute, relationship satisfaction, emotional bank account, bids for connection, healthy relationships, conflict resolution, trust in relationships, Dr. John Gottman, marriage advice, couples therapy, relationship tips, building trust, relationship communication.

Before diving into research based conflict strategies in their book Fight Right, Drs. John and Julie Gottman advise readers to focus on their first mission: turn towards. 

The first part of the mission is to become aware of bids for connection. A “bid for connection” encompasses any action or signal from your partner aimed at garnering your attention and cultivating a sense of closeness. Whether it’s sharing a humorous meme, making a gesture, or even a subtle sigh, these bids represent attempts to engage you.

Exercise 1: Spend one evening focusing on the variety of bids your partner makes and intentionally take note of those bids.

When our partner makes a bid for connection, we have three options according to Gottman’s research: 

  1. Turn towards, by positively responding to our partner’s bid. 
  2. Turn away, by ignoring our partner’s bid. 
  3. Turn against, by harshly responding to the bid. 

Exercise 2: Review your responses to those bids. Did you turn towards, turn away, or turn against?  

If you find yourself turning away or against, that happens when our bank account is low. By intentionally turning towards, even if it feels a little foreign to do so, it can help to rebuild your relationship. 

In Fight Right, the Gottman’s point out that 75% of the time, both partner’s emotional availability will be mismatched. Setting us up to easily miss opportunities for turning towards bids for connection. 

If you want a satisfying relationship, you can’t magically wait for connection to happen. You need to make an intentional effort to turn towards your partner’s bids for connection as well as make overt bids for connection. 

“Decades of data backs this up: these fleeting opportunities for connection that are sprinkled throughout every day have an enormous power to affect the future unfolding of our relationship.” – Drs. John and Julie Gottman. 

Fight Right: How Successful Couples Turn Conflict into Connection

Intentionally prioritizing these moments of connection is essential for nurturing a satisfying relationship. With Gottman’s research in my pocket, I chose to pause my writing and join my wife in tasting her new recipe. This not only created a moment of connection but also reinforced the foundation of trust in our relationship.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply