Starting a relationship with someone can be easy and spontaneous, but the challenge is in keeping that close connection strong and intact throughout the years. With claims that almost 50% of marriages in America end in divorce, you can clearly see that building a meaningful relationship takes hard work and serious commitment.
For this reason, people are usually in awe upon seeing couples who manage to keep their union happy and fulfilling throughout the years. And no one starts a relationship with the intention for it to fail. With guidebooks and numerous studies suggesting various ways on how to have a happy marriage, you can even conclude that our society is obsessed with building and maintaining relationships.
So why do many relationships fail to survive the test of time? What is the reason some marriages or partnerships last while others don’t? An American psychologist, John Gottman attempted to answer this perennial question with the introduction of emotional bids.
What are emotional bids?
The concept of emotional bids is the result of a longitudinal study where Gottman observed newly-married couples and followed up with them six years later to see who among them were able to keep their vows. Gottman claimed that by observing the couples whose status remain unchanged after several years of marriage, he has unraveling the secret formula to a healthy and rewarding relationship.
According to him, one main difference between a successful and failed marriage is the ability of the couples to recognize and positively respond to each other’s call for connection. Gottman called the signals that people send out to those they want to form a connection with – emotional bids. Apparently, we all send and receive these signals (they can be verbal or nonverbal) in everyday situations to people we interact with. The way we choose to respond to these emotional bids are like steps we take in relationship building. A negative response turns you away from someone, while a positive response leads you towards a person.
How can you use the concept of emotional bids to improve relationships?
In a relationship, both parties constantly make emotional bids to each other in various ways. It happens whenever someone attempts to reach out to his or her partner. An emotional bid is easy to miss because it can be as simple as a wife asking her spouse about his day wherein a husband can either give a short standard reply or enthusiastically narrate the events of the day. In another scenario, the husband may try to suggest to his spouse a new place they can hang out and the wife can either accept or reject the idea.
Whenever we make emotional bids, we are unconsciously conveying a hidden message to one another. For example, the simple questions above can actually be a plea for your partner’s attention or affection. In the first example, the wife asking her husband a question is actually saying that she cares about her partner’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, the husband suggesting a new place is saying that he wants to spend more time with his wife.
If you know how to detect the hidden meaning to the messages that someone relays through emotional bids, you can discern the proper answer or response that will address the needs of your partner. Consistently hearing or receiving negative responses to emotional bids will weaken, and may ultimately break, the relationship. On the other hand, regular positive responses nurture and strengthen the relationship. If you closely delve into it, the key to lasting relationships is simply choosing to be kinder to your partner. Gottman’s research centers on romantic relationships, but the idea behind emotional bids can be applied in all types of relationships.
The quality of the relationships you have in your life affect your overall happiness and wellbeing. Successful relationships, though, take real effort. If you wish to nurture relationships, be more thoughtful and attentive to fulfill the needs of others. If you fully understand the idea of emotional bids and consciously apply it to your everyday life, you may soon discover that you have found the key to lasting relationships.