Make This Valentine’s Day A Happy One

February 13, 2014

Whether you’re single, taken, or somewhere in between, we’re sure you can benefit from these guidelines for positive communication!

Even the happiest and healthiest of relationships require a lot of hard work and dedication. With Valentine’s day around the corner, we thought it might be fun to share an easy way to better your relationship with your partner! We aren’t just talking about romantic relationships, though; the tips we’re going to share today can be applied to any kind of relationship in your life. Although relationships can be hard, they can also be improved by incorporating even the simplest habits. At Eugene Therapy, one aspect of relationships that we feel is especially important is communication. Communication is something that many of us struggle with, but it’s also something that is incredibly vital to the maintenance of our emotional connection with others.

Perhaps the first step towards understanding the importance of healthy communication is to understand the ways in which we connect with the people in our lives. By learning how our interactions with other people work, we begin to understand how our behaviors can help or hinder our relationships. Dr. John Gottman, a renowned marriage and parenting researcher, developed a concept called "emotional bidding" that breaks communication down in the simplest way. A "bid" is defined as an invitation for human connection. Bids can be verbal or non-verbal, like an inquiry about your day or widespread arms waiting for a hug — but the underlying message is the same: they are our way of saying, "I want to connect with you."

Whether our partner’s bids are delivered as gestures, touches, statements, or questions, they can elicit one of three responses:

Turning Towards: This is a positive response. Turning towards a bid means engaging with the other person in a way that rewards their effort to communicate. If your partner asks you about your day and you respond with a detailed account of your activities, you are turning towards their bid.

Turning Away: Failing to respond meaningfully is characterized as "turning away." Other ways that you might turn away from your partner include avoidance of eye contact or physical contact, walking away, or responding with something completely unrelated to the topic at hand.

Turning Against: Turning against a person’s bid means to greet it with a negative response. You might act angry or respond with sarcasm or put-downs. Non-verbal examples of turning against a bid include making threatening gestures, rolling your eyes, or glaring at the other person.

While it’s pretty apparent to most that turning against a bid causes problems, we often don’t recognize the damage that turning away from bids can cause to our relationships. To put this into perspective for you, here are some statistics: men who ultimately ended up divorced disregarded their partners’ bids 82% of the time, while men in stable relationships only turned away 19% of the time. Additionally, women who later divorced ignored their husbands’ bids 50% of the time versus a rate of 14%.

Of course, it isn’t natural to turn towards every single one of your partner’s bids, and we don’t expect you to do that. But whenever you can avoid turning away or against, do! This Valentine’s Day, we encourage you to take an active role in deciding how you respond to your partner’s invitations for connection. Try to work on consciously responding to the bids you receive, and to turn towards them as often as possible.

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