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Bricks construct a building; moments shared by two people establish a relationship. John Gottman, a pioneer in the field of couples counseling, referred to shared moments as bids which are defined as emotional communication. A bid can be a gesture, a look, a touch or a comment such as, “I’d love to hug you right now.” Couples make bids every day and their reactions to them are vital to connection.
John Gottman formulated four ways couples react to bids. They can turning toward each other, meaning they react positively. For example if a joke is shared, a partner laughs or smiles. This sort of attentiveness ultimately builds a trusting and loving relationship. Turning against implies partners reacts to bids with sarcasm or belligerence creating hostile patterns. Turning away suggests ignoring or being preoccupied. This checked out attitude can be destructive because it communicates lack of interest. Unrequited turning means that one is longing for affection but the other reacts with hostility or avoidance.
Gottman’s found that the quantity of positive bids reflected a couple’s level of satisfaction. The more time talking, sharing, and being affectionate, the happier a couple becomes.
A couples needs not be perfect in order for their love to thrive. Gottman’s research shows that successful couples have a ratio of one negative to five positive experiences. Unsuccessful couples are closer to a one to one ratio. When bids are routinely unfulfilled, resentment builds up. Partners eventually lose confidence in the relationship and their enthusiasm wanes.
It is important to know that if you are currently feeling negative about your relationship, hope is still possible. Couples counseling can help foster awareness of negative patterns and get partners to communicate in more respectful and loving ways. Partners can increase time spent together and learn to enhance each other.
In my practice I treat the obstacles couples face in the search for their happiness together. Having attended trainings by The Gottman Institute, I often utilize his principles and assessment tools as part of my practice with couples. I highly recommend you read The Relationship Cure by John Gottman, Ph.D and Joan DeClaire to learn more about couple and family dynamics.