Turn Toward Your Partner to Stay Connected

You’re not sure what to do. You’ve had a fight, and you haven’t spoken since. Which isn’t great, considering that you live together. You’ve managed to share the same space without making eye contact once. As you’re walking past the living room, he says, “Come and take a look at this.” He’s sitting on the sofa, focused on the iPad on his lap. You walk over. It’s something banal, some picture of something vaguely interesting. You make the expected noises. “Uh huh, cool.” You’re not sure why he called you all the way over here to look at it. Then he looks up at you. You make eye contact for the first time in days. You smile spontaneously. And you get it: This was his way of making it okay again. There’s actually a technical term for what just happened. It was a bid for connection. Bids for connection happen when one partner tries to engage the other, hoping for some positive attention. They’re rarely as obvious as, “Hey, do you have a minute to talk?” or, “I’m feeling disconnected from you, and I want to feel connected again.” Instead, most bids for connection happen under the radar. You sigh, hoping he’ll ask you what’s wrong. He shows you a funny clip on his phone, hoping you’ll laugh. You start talking about this crazy thing that happened to you today, hoping he’ll listen with interest. He pulls you next to him on the sofa, hoping it will lead to snuggling. Bids for connection always have an ulterior motive: You’re seeking to feel connected. Which should always be a good thing, right? Try out this scenario. You’re cooking dinner. Every burner on the stove is full of pans bubbling and hissing. You’re chopping salad, toasting bread, stirring the sauce, trying to get everything done at the same time. “Hey, honey, come and look at this,” he says. Do you think: “That’s a bid for connection, so I should respond positively”? Or do you think: “What a jerk! Does he think dinner cooks itself?”? [BREAK POINT] Bids for connection can come at precisely the wrong time. When you’re busy, stressed, irritated, and frankly not in the mood. You’re not a bad person if you don’t respond. But you might want to pay attention to how often you turn away from his bids and how you do it. How you respond to his bids for connection—and how he responds to yours—has a measurable influence on whether your relationship will last. If you ignore each other’s bids for connection two thirds of the time, then you’re in the danger zone. There’s a very good chance you’ll split unless you change this pattern. On the other hand, if you make the effort nine times out of ten, then you’re in the golden zone. Your relationship is on solid ground. Those figures come from Dr. John Gottman, a psychologist and leader in the field of marital stability. He studies couples in crisis with the goal of being able to predict who will split and who will stay. Gottman found that there were two possible responses to bids for connection: turning toward or turning away. You can turn toward a bid for connection without having to drop what you’re doing. “I’d love to see that!” you shout over your shoulder. “Show me after dinner’s ready.” What you want to avoid doing is turning away. For example: “I’m cooking at the moment, can’t you see?” Or “What is it, another one of those dumb jokes?” Or completely ignoring him, knowing he’ll have forgotten it in a minute anyway. Even the strongest couples turn away from bids once in a while. Sometimes, it’s by accident. They don’t even notice that the other person has made a bid for connection until it’s too late. You’re sitting at the kitchen table writing out a to-do list for tomorrow when he walks in. “Hi, honey!” you say. “Gosh, it’s cold out,” he responds, unwinding his scarf from around his neck. “I wonder what the best way to get warmed up would be.” You’re so busy thinking that you don’t even really hear him, let alone catch that mischievous glance he just gave you. We all miss bids sometimes. In strong relationships, the other person will repeat the bid until we finally hear it. But in rocky relationships, a missed bid feels like rejection. So, do your best to pay attention to those opportunities for connection. Watching that silly YouTube clip he wants to show you may not feel much like relationship building, but it is. Connection is made in those little moments.You’re not sure what to do.

You’ve had a fight, and you haven’t spoken since. Which isn’t great, considering that you live together. You’ve managed to share the same space without making eye contact once.

As you’re walking past the living room, he says, “Come and take a look at this.” He’s sitting on the sofa, focused on the iPad on his lap. You walk over.

It’s something banal, some picture of something vaguely interesting. You make the expected noises. “Uh huh, cool.” You’re not sure why he called you all the way over here to look at it.

Then he looks up at you. You make eye contact for the first time in days. You smile spontaneously.

And you get it:

This was his way of making it okay again.

There’s actually a technical term for what just happened.

It was a bid for connection.

Bids for connection happen when one partner tries to engage the other, hoping for some positive attention.

They’re rarely as obvious as, “Hey, do you have a minute to talk?” or, “I’m feeling disconnected from you, and I want to feel connected again.”

Instead, most bids for connection happen under the radar.

You sigh, hoping he’ll ask you what’s wrong. He shows you a funny clip on his phone, hoping you’ll laugh. You start talking about this crazy thing that happened to you today, hoping he’ll listen with interest. He pulls you next to him on the sofa, hoping it will lead to snuggling.

Bids for connection always have an ulterior motive:

You’re seeking to feel connected.

Which should always be a good thing, right?

Try out this scenario.

You’re cooking dinner. Every burner on the stove is full of pans bubbling and hissing. You’re chopping salad, toasting bread, stirring the sauce, trying to get everything done at the same time.

“Hey, honey, come and look at this,” he says.

Do you think: “That’s a bid for connection, so I should respond positively”?

Or do you think: “What a jerk! Does he think dinner cooks itself?”?

Bids for connection can come at precisely the wrong time. When you’re busy, stressed, irritated, and frankly not in the mood.

You’re not a bad person if you don’t respond. But you might want to pay attention to how often you turn away from his bids and how you do it.

How you respond to his bids for connection—and how he responds to yours—has a measurable influence on whether your relationship will last.

If you ignore each other’s bids for connection two thirds of the time, then you’re in the danger zone. There’s a very good chance you’ll split unless you change this pattern.

On the other hand, if you make the effort nine times out of ten, then you’re in the golden zone. Your relationship is on solid ground.

Those figures come from Dr. John Gottman, a psychologist and leader in the field of marital stability. He studies couples in crisis with the goal of being able to predict who will split and who will stay.

Gottman found that there were two possible responses to bids for connection: turning toward or turning away.

You can turn toward a bid for connection without having to drop what you’re doing. “I’d love to see that!” you shout over your shoulder. “Show me after dinner’s ready.”

how to connect after a fightWhat you want to avoid doing is turning away.

For example: “I’m cooking at the moment, can’t you see?” Or “What is it, another one of those dumb jokes?” Or completely ignoring him, knowing he’ll have forgotten it in a minute anyway.

Even the strongest couples turn away from bids once in a while. Sometimes, it’s by accident. They don’t even notice that the other person has made a bid for connection until it’s too late.

You’re sitting at the kitchen table writing out a to-do list for tomorrow when he walks in. “Hi, honey!” you say. “Gosh, it’s cold out,” he responds, unwinding his scarf from around his neck. “I wonder what the best way to get warmed up would be.”

You’re so busy thinking that you don’t even really hear him, let alone catch that mischievous glance he just gave you.

We all miss bids sometimes. In strong relationships, the other person will repeat the bid until we finally hear it. But in rocky relationships, a missed bid feels like rejection.

So, do your best to pay attention to those opportunities for connection.

Watching that silly YouTube clip he wants to show you may not feel much like relationship building, but it is. Connection is made in those little moments.


What Men Secretly Want

After consuming this short-guide, you will possess a secret that men cannot express well because it is so foundational to their view of the world that they don't even realize it is there.

Learn More

Why Men Shut Women Out - A Special Report By Slade Shaw. Get Your Free Special Report
Get Your Free Report

7 thoughts on “Turn Toward Your Partner to Stay Connected

  1. Lina said:

    Hi James,

    Thank you so much for one more nice article. I am following your courses during the last 6 months and I have to admit that with your advice I managed not only to get back with my boyfriend but to make our relationship better than ever.

    I have never been interested in what my exes wanted to show to me, since I was always believing that my staff are always more important and I would waste my time, until I met that guy who turned my mindset upside down. After reading psychology, your courses, blog and e-mails, I now understand how important is for a guy to ask from you to share his thoughts and chilling moments with you and I learned how to pay attention and appreciate it. Even if I am tired or stressed, a moment of showing interest to my partner and connect with him is always beneficial. Your advice improved my personal life so much 🙂

    Thank you for touching these topics, we all need some good piece of practical advice. Keep up the good job!

    cheers

    Lina

    • James Bauer said:

      Thank you, Lina!

      James

  2. Lorna (LaLa) said:

    Oh – a really good one, yet again, James!! And timely for me. As you may have picked up over the years (!!!) my relationship with my long-distance BF has been on and off and rocky all along – due to his psychological problems and his drinking too much to try to cope with his demons. I was feeling rejected the last few days over Easter, as he plays the organ for the Easter Church services, and also had his 86 year old Mum staying for a few days. He said he would ring me to make arrangements for me to go after she leaves. He didn’t ring, so I was feeling rather down in the dumps – deciding to not bother with him any more – my ego feeling rather battered, as usual – jumping up and down and screaming at me. My inner child sulking. After reading your article, I decided to reach out and give him a ring this morning to see how he is (he also had a really horrible operation on his eye last week – corneal transplant). He answered in a breathless state saying could he ring later as he was just going out with his Mother. So – from me thinking he was avoiding me and feeling miserable and rejected – taking your advice and reaching out has made me realize that he is just being thoughtless (yet again!!) and very, very busy. My problem is that I DO get very anxious and paranoid – overthink everything (well – I am Gemini, so that is a huge problem), and I know I have my own demons to cope with – so between us we are a nightmare!! However, as he is 64 and I am 68, I feel it is worth keeping on trying. Life does not get easier as we get older, I now know, and we definitely have to be there for each other – supporting and holding each other up. I am hoping to get him to have talking therapy for the demons in his head, and maybe we should have couples therapy, too. However, getting men to agree to this is not always easy!!! He says he does want me in his life and he does want to give up the drink – he knows it is not good – but you can lead a horse to water – however, getting him to drink is another matter (unless it is spirits, of course!!!) – I have to keep my sense of humour – and that conjures up a bizarre picture!!! (Funny!) I do love him and want to be there for him. On the bright side, as a spin-off from all of this, I have been asked to train as a counsellor on a help-line for people affected by drink addiction. So, to every cloud there is a silver lining. Thank you, James, once again for all your very insightful advice. Over the years it has kept me sane!!! Well – almost, but not everyone may agree! Have a wonderful day!! It’s a beautiful bright, sunny Spring morning here in England – life is good!!! It’s what you make it. Lorna (LaLa)

  3. Anette said:

    “In rocky relationships missed bids feel like rejection”

    That’s spot on, James. I can’t say I will make it better from now on, because the BF became an ex, (the relationship was ALWAYS rocky I guess…)
    but I can be more conscious about it from now on with my new BF.
    He often shows me things om Twitter. I didn’t think it meant that much until now. Thanks for showing me how to make that work to improve the connection with my BF 🙂

    • James Bauer said:

      That’s a great example of a specific way to apply this concept, Anette.

      James

  4. z said:

    Could also be called using your boundaries lovingly and when we can affirm our selves and others we create connection and bonds which as humans we all need

  5. Mel said:

    This all sounds so great, if you see one another! So what do you do when a jealous best friend that he looks up too, said some not so true things and now…created distance. We don’t live together and I miss him. He messages every now and again, but hasn’t really gone out of his way to see me… He invited me and my kids on a family outing last month and it was amazing, then..he kinda fell off the radar. Not sure how to handle it. I’ve gone on a few dates, but I don’t feel that same connection as I do with him…it actually makes me miss him even more.

    I can be super passive and not express my feelings either. I hate feeling vunerable, but I understand it’s a must if I want this to work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.