What all these attempts are saying is “I really want your attention, I want to feel a connection with you, and I hope you will respond positively by showing some interest in me”.
Sadly, if we fail to respond to our partner, or we don’t respond in a positive way, then we send the message that we don’t care. This concept is the same with our children too by the way, only they often up the stakes by behaving badly so that we cannot fail to give them our attention!
Couples researcher John Gottman, who developed this concept, observed in one study that couples who were still married after six years made successful bids for connection 86% of the time, while couples who had divorced in this period only tended to do this 33% of the time.
Gottman tells us there are three ways we can respond to bids for attention:
- We can turn AWAY from the person, ignore them or change the subject.
- We can turn AGAINST the person, and say something critical or undermining.
- We can turn TOWARDS the person, and give them the positive response they are looking for.
In his research, Gottman observed that happy couples turn towards their partners approximately twenty times more than couples in distress during every day discussions.
So, if your partner is wanting to connect with you by seeking your attention, then give it to them. If they want to share a moment with you because you are on their mind, then be soft and meet them in that place, don’t shoot them down, ignore them or leave them feeling bad. Every time you turn towards your partner’s bids for emotional connection, you are making a deposit in what Gottman calls your Emotional Bank Account, and your relationship is ideally a constant long-term investment in that account.
A strong relationship is made up of a million little instances where you showed care and attention for each other. None of these will cost you much in terms of time or energy, but they will collectively build over time to create an emotional connection that will reward you for years to come.
If the subject matter in this article resonates with you, then counselling might be a good option to help you to move forward. I offer a free 20-minute consultation so we can explore how I might be able to help you.