This article in Business Insider is a look at a central finding from John Gottman’s research into the relationship glue that keeps relationships working. This research informs the relationship therapy that Vivian and I practice.
In our relationships we are always communicating or attempting to communicate with our partner. Critical to relationship health are the minute to minute particulars of this communication.
- How kind and friendly are we to our partner in those small interactions?
- What are the messages that we’re sending about our care for him/her and our life together?
The main idea of the article is the impact on our relationship of how we respond to our partner’s attempts to start communication. The Gottmans calls these attempts “bids for attention”. They may be trivial remarks: “Look at that bird!” “What a beautiful looking day.” “It’s still raining.” “I’m glad that day’s over/It’s nice to be home”. Or they may be direct queries: “How was your day?” “What’s your plan for today?”
How Strong is Your Glue?
How often those bids get a positive response, what Gottman calls a “turning towards” response, is a very reliable guide to the strength and future of the relationship:
“These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids” 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.”
- How aware are you of your partner’s bids?
- How aware are you of your usual style of response?
- Do you affirm him/her or do you shut him/her down by “turning away” responses?
- Are you building or eroding your relationship?
The article extends this theme to fighting styles and later on breaks bid responses into four styles: “ active destructive, passive destructive, passive constructive, and active constructive“. These four styles have increasing positive effect on the relationship.
Think of the destructive styles as sandpaper with active destructive being very coarse: these wear away at your partner’s sense of security and friendship in the relationship. Even passive constructive fails to convey an actively kind and positive regard: “Yes, that’s nice, Dear. What’s for dinner?”
Keys to Success
- The first key is awareness: do you know what you are doing?
- The second is your relationship goal: do you want to improve this relationship or are you (unconsciously?) sabotaging it?
If you want to learn more about becoming a “master of relationship” instead of a “disaster of relationship” please give me a call or contact me here.
Enjoy the article.