Everyone is familiar with the daunting statistics about marriage. Namely, the one where experts estimate that nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce. Unfortunately, by the time a couple enters my office, they are often concerned about the viability of their relationship and are anxious to find a technique that will help to restore their connection. Most often, couples are not seeking help because of one specific incident that eroded their relationship. Rather, they report a slow breakdown in connection over several years. In these moments, I often think about how I wish that couples would come to counseling sooner. The truth is that most of us were not given a roadmap on how to have a successful relationship, and by the time we realize this, our marriage is already struggling. What if there were a simple way to increase the likelihood of marital success?
Thanks to John Gottman’s research on marital stability, we now know that there is! His research suggests that there is one specific thing we can do to maintain our relationships- he calls it “turning toward”. According to his analysis of newlyweds at a six-year follow-up, couples that stayed married turned toward one another 86% of the time, as compared with 33% of the time in couples that ended up divorcing (Gottman & Silver, 1999).
So what is turning toward? Turning towards requires you to recognize and respond to your partner’s bids for attention and connection. This can look different in every couple, but esentially acknowledging your partners needs in a kind and responsive manner will increase connection. Conversely, not recognizing or responding to a bid is called “turning away.” Often times, turning away happens because we are simply not aware that our partner is trying to connect with us. Our bids for connection can be so simple and subtle that they are easy to miss if we are not paying attention. And, the consequences of turning away from our partner’s bids can be devastating if done consistently. Missed bids over time can lead to feelings of rejection and disconnection. Below are some examples of simple bids for emotional connection:
If you are looking to maintain or strengthen your relationship, pay attention to your partners bids! Noticing and responding to them will help your partner feel connected to you.
For couples who are interested in investing in their relationship and learning skills to strengthen their connection, reach out to Ali Devine.
Ready to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation?
Ali Devine, MS, LPC
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1429 N. Prospect Ave
Milwaukee WI, 53202
Gottman, J.M. & Silver, N. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.
New York, NY: Crown Publishers, Inc.