Building Your Sound Relationship House: Part 3- Turn Towards Instead of Away
The next step in building your own sound relationship house is turning towards instead of away from your partner. This means learning to recognize little day-to-day attempts made by your partner to connect with you. In the Gottman training, they described a couple they researched in the famous love lab and what they saw as bids for attention. They witnessed a wife watching out the window while her husband was reading the paper. She commented on a boat sailing by and he continued on reading the paper and not acknowledging what she said. What she was doing was making a bid for attention, which her husband did not respond to. Gottman’s research predicting successful relationships and divorce are largely based on this concept. The more times we accept the bids for attention and do what is called “turning towards” our partner, the more successful our relationship is. The more we do not recognize or respond to these bids “turning away”, the less connected we feel to our partner.
Life often gets in the way, and we may not always have time to turn towards our partner when we are dealing with children who need our attention, or work. We do not have to do it all of the time, but we should do it whenever we have the chance. These little moments of connection can be anything from a quick touch, to asking a question, to saying “I love you,” but they are sometimes not apparent to our partner or ourselves even as an attempt to connect. Every couple has their own way. Upon telling my partner about this concept, he decided to make it really easy for me, and just say “pay attention to me” when he is trying to get my attention to connect. It sounds odd, but it works if I am not picking up on more subtle cues! This also includes learning to state our needs in a way our partner can hear them. Turning towards your partner takes open communication and practice to find a way to let your partner know when you are reaching out, and for them to learn to recognize it.
If you and your partner would like to learn more about enhancing your relationship through scientifically based Gottman’s couples therapy. Or you would like to build a stronger sound relationship house by learning how to turn towards your partner, call Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to set up an appointment with a counselor.