Meg Luce: Sweethearts or roommates: What’s your relationship status?
Let’s start with a short quiz to figure this out. Answer true or false to the following:
You look not into your partner’s eyes, but lovingly at your phone.
When your partner says, “let’s go on a date!” you think, “And miss NCIS reruns?”
When your partner says, “Honey, can we talk?” you say, “What did I do now?”
When returning home, you rush in to cuddle with the one you missed most—your dog.
If you answered ‘true’ to all of the above, you might have a roommate situation on your hands. That is except for the last item on the quiz because maybe your dog is irresistible.
It’s easy for couples to drift into roommate status and not know how they got there or what to do about it. Extra time stuck hanging around the house together during the pandemic doesn’t help much either. The sweetheart feeling can be lost over time by taking each other for granted and not tending to the relationship. Also, when partners don’t know how to work through differences, a feeling of distance can take hold. It becomes hard to reach across the divide and easy to give up the effort.
If you are passively waiting around for your partner to “wow” you and make you fall head over heels again, it might be a long wait. Fortunately, there is much you can do to get your sweetheart back.
The Love Lab
After many years studying the secrets of happy marriages and those that end in divorce, psychologist marriage researchers, Drs. John and Julie Gottman identified some of the critical factors determining either outcome. The Gottmans did research in their “Love Lab,” a weekend get-away apartment where they studied the interactions of thousands of couples who stayed there and then monitored them over the years to see which ones remained together and which ones got divorced. One of the many findings that came out of Love Lab is something you can begin using right now to turn your relationship around. It’s about understanding something called “the bid.”
The bid is perhaps the most fundamental unit of communication and is an invitation to engage. How partners respond to the bid affects the quality of a relationship. The term describes a verbal gesture, such as a question or comment, or a nonverbal gesture, such as a shrug or a caress. A bid can also be an expression such as a smile, a grimace or a wink. For example, it could be, “I washed the car,” or “I’m pooped,” or “there’s a hummingbird at the feeder,” or even a sigh.
Initially, Love Lab researchers anticipated that happily married couples would display many moments of deep, meaningful eye-locking moments. Instead they were surprised to find that relationships that withstood the test of time revealed something much simpler.
As researchers parsed though the data of relationship behaviors, they found three basic ways of responding to a bid: “turning towards,” “turning against,” and “turning away.” The marriages that thrived were those that were characterized by “turning towards” bids for connection made by each partner. Turning towards means responding in some way to say, “I hear you,” “yes, babe,” “that was cool,” or even, “huh.” Because who does that? Sweethearts do that! They turn towards each other’s bids for connection. OK, not every time, but lots of times.
The less desirable ways of responding to bids for connection, which are “turning against” and “turning away,” respectively, are to say something nasty, or not to bother responding at all.
Responding to your partner’s bids for connection are small ways throughout your days together that say, “you matter” and “I care.” It’s like saying,” I love you.” And who says that? Not roommates.
Meg Luce, M.S., is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Grass Valley specializing in helping couples create satisfying relationships. You can find her contact info at https://NevadaCountyTherapist.com.
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