How do you respond to your partner? Do you ignore them (turn away), or do you engage (turn toward)? The Gottmans wanted to assess these patterns, so they created an apartment lab and studied couples who stayed there for 24 hours. “One of the most powerful things that we discovered in our apartment lab was that people were always reaching out for connections,” says John. “They’re making bids for conversation, for touch, for affection quite often, and the reaction of the partner is so critical.”
Namely, they found couples who wound up divorcing seven years after their wedding had only turned toward their partner’s bids for connection 33% of the time. “Whereas the couples who were still married (prior, six years ago) had turned toward those bids 86% of the time. So these small moments are very, very, powerful,” John adds.
What does a bid for connection look like, you ask? Well, it can be something as simple as: “Honey, look at that blue bird outside. Is that a blue jay?” If you ignore their observation completely, that’s turning away; if you respond with shared interest, that’s turning towards. “And that makes all the difference in the quality of friendship, the quality of passion and romance in the relationship, as well as conflict,” says Julie. “[Bids for connection] can be tiny, they can be big, but the important thing is the tiny ones are just as important to keep fulfilling as the big ones.”