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We Study Relationships For A Living: Lifelong Couples Do This 85% Of The Time

Natalie Goldberg
mbg Editorial Intern By Natalie Goldberg
mbg Editorial Intern
Natalie Goldberg is the Editorial Intern at mindbodygreen. She is a rising senior pursuing a B.S. in health and fitness from the University of Michigan.
We Study Relationships For A Living: Successful Couples Do This 85% Of The Time

Relationships take work: No one knows this better than psychologists John Gottman, Ph.D., and Julie Gottman, Ph.D., founders of the Gottman Institute, who have dedicated their careers to studying what makes a relationship triumph—and, consequently, what makes it deteriorate over time.

And listen, all relationships have challenges and issues, but according to the world's leading relationship experts, one valuable (and surprisingly simple!) question can determine whether or not the love will last. It's simple: "How do you respond to your partner's bid for connection?" Julie poses on the mindbodygreen podcast. Here's what makes it so crucial for long-lasting relationships.

Why bids for connection are so important for relationships.

A bid for connection is just that—your partner offers (or bids) a piece of communication and connection without asking you a direct question. It's simply a statement or musing that attempts to garner a reaction, and it signifies a yearning for connection.

Here's an example: Imagine your partner points out that it started to rain on their walk home from work. This may seem like a small and minor comment; however, you have a decision at this moment: turn toward or turn away from your partner's bid to communicate with you. 

According to the Gottmans, "turning toward" is an important marker for successful relationships. In fact, they studied it directly in their research: They created an apartment lab and studied couples who stayed there for 24 hours. "[Couples who] would respond to each other's bids for connection 85% of the time were successful down the road," says Julie. The couples that weren't successful? Well, they only responded to their partner 33% of the time.

In terms of what this looks like in practice, let's circle back to the example above: When your partner comments on the rain, you could perhaps ask a follow-up question with the intention of better understanding how this event affected their day. Or, you could disregard the comment, turning away from your partner's bid for connection. Or you could even lash out with a who cares?

Of course, it's important to emphasize that 85% metric: You don't have to respond to every single statement your partner makes to have a successful relationship—that would be unrealistic and, quite frankly, exhausting. Sometimes you don't want to engage, and that's totally fine! The kicker here is to turn toward your partner the majority of the time—that's where the Gottmans saw the most success.


The takeaway.

Let's review: Every relationship is different, but it's important to make a conscious effort to notice your partner's desires to connect and, better yet, acknowledge those desires with understanding and respect. You don't need to constantly engage with your partner—that's not what the Gottmans are saying at all—but perhaps become more conscious of their bids for connection and reflect on whether you turn toward (or turn away) the majority of the time.


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