Have you ever heard of the Love Lab?
The Love Lab looks like an ordinary bed and breakfast place that anyone might take your spouse for a romantic getaway. Yet, there is one major difference—Cameras—cameras are everywhere.
There are cameras in every room, watching and analyzing your every move. It sounds creepy—I know, but some incredible findings about marriage relationships have been discovered from this research lab.
John Gottman and his team of researchers have written many scholarly journal, books, blog posts, and magazine articles about this research. Yet, there is one principle that does not get much attention in the popular press at the Love Lab, but I believe it makes all the difference in any relationship. Surprisingly enough, it is quite simple to do too. It only takes two steps.
- To identify bidding moments
- To respond effectively
It is all surrounding what John Gottman calls bids.
To illustrate a bid, let’s say Mike and Susan are cleaning up after a meal, as Susan is clearing of the table she notices, through her window, that two kids are playing. For example, let’s just say they are playing Patty-Cake. Susan thinks it so adorable. So Susan stops everything she is doing and says sentimentally to Mike “Mike look,” as she point out the window, “That’s so cute! Come see the neighbor kids playing.”
That’s a bid.
Did you notice the bid?
Susanna is creating an opportunity to share a memory or make a connection with her husband. It’s an invitation to connect with her. We typically do not consciously create moments like this, but they can be intentionally made. The bids inevitably happen as humans are social creatures and have an innate desire to connect. Yet, if you build the skill to identify these bids and take a few moments to respond appropriately, it will makes a difference in your relationships.
Yet, like John Gottman conclude from his research, just having these bids send out to connect does not make the difference between a thriving relationship and a struggling one, but rather it’s how the other spouse responds to their partner’s bids. Gottman categorized the responds to bids in 3 ways.
- Turn away from the bid
- Turn against the bid
- Turn towards the bid
Let’s look at each of these styles of responding.
Turning away from a bid looks something like this: After Susan points out the kids Mike responds, “Oh, that nice dear.” Mike hardly looks up as he is multitasks by putting the leftovers in the refrigerator while looking up for his lasts email on his smart phone having just toggled from the number of likes on his updates status on FaceBook. Clearly Mike’s focus is somewhere else, and made little investment in to the relationship in the moment.
Be mindful and avoid turning away from a bid to share a meaningful moment, but turning away is not as destructive as the sharp rudeness of turning against your spouse’s bids.
An example of turning against would be something like this: as Susan points out the game of patty-cake her husband snaps at her saying, “Can’t you see I working here? Gosh!” as he sits down abruptly to focus more intensely the email he was trying to read.
I think it pretty self-explanatory why this is a withdraw for the relationship when one responds to a bid in that manner.
Turning towards a spouse’s bid is when the choices build up the relationship. An example of turning towards would be Mike putting down his smart phone, stopping a kitchen chore, walking over, watching the kids play together, and genuinely saying, “that is cute.”
It’s simple, but it is surprising how often we pass up such connecting moments in the name of finishing a task, working on our cell phones, and even entertainment. This small thing will be a game changer.
John Gottman says, in his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, “turning toward your spouse in the little ways is also the key to long lasting romance many people think that the secret to reconnecting with their partner is a candle lit dinner or by-the-sea vacation. But the real secret is to turn towards each other in little ways every day. A romantic night out really only turns up the heat when a couple has kept the pilot light burning by staying in touch in all the little ways” (p. 81).
Turning Towards is a Buffer For Hard Times
These moments, of turning towards the bids, are stored up into something that can be likened to making a deposit in an emotional account. We are either building up or taking away from the account—it never stays constant. When the sticky particulars of life happen, we need this reserve account to weather the down turns. If there are not enough of these moments of turning towards our spouse’s bids, the relationship will inevitably go bankrupt during hard times.
So next time you are home surfing the web on your tablet and your spouse comes home from work all excited about the great news or wants to vent of their challenging day…
What will you do to respond to their bid?
Are you content to continue playing with the touch screen?
Will you tell your spouse to hold on because you are almost done?
Or will you put it down, stop doing whatever you were doing, and turn towards your spouse?
It is up to you to choose to do the small things that make the big difference. What do you think? Please take a moment to leave me a comment below.
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- Gottman, J. M. (1999). The marriage clinic: A scientifically-based marital therapy. New York: W.W. Norton.
- Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Crown Publishers.