This is the third part in a series on John Gottman’s Sound Relationship house. The first part was about “Building Love Maps” (found *here*) and the second was about “Sharing Fondness and Admiration” (found *here*). The third level of the house is called “Turn Towards Instead of Away.”
“Turning towards” means showing interest in the mundane details of your partner’s life. It means that when she says she hates her boss, he asks why (and probably does not try to offer a solution). When he says he’s been eyeing the new Corvette, she says, “yeah, it’s beautiful,” not, “you know we can’f afford that!” Simply put, when one spouse makes a bid for emotional connection, the other responds in a positive way. This, according to Gottman, is the basis of romance.
Unfortunately, many times when a spouse makes a bid for connection, the other ignores or even attacks. This happens all too commonly, but it erodes a relationship. Each time you respond positively to your spouse’s bid (“Honey did you see this commercial?”… “Oh my gosh, yes, it’s hilarious!), you are making a deposit in your relationship’s “bank account.” Each time you turn away from a bid (“Honey, did you see this commercial?”… “Leave me alone! Can’t you see I’m busy?!”), you make a withdrawal.
Strong relationships have approximately an 80% positive response rate with only 20% rejections. Ailing relationships have 50% or more rejections. A strong relationship has built up a big cushion of deposits, so that when conflict does arise, they have plenty of positives to work with.
Most people do not reject their partner’s bids for connection maliciously. They are simply not being sensitive or mindful of their spouse. Gottman says that, “for many couples, just realizing they shouldn’t take their everyday interactions for granted makes an enormous difference. Remind yourself that being helpful to each other will do more for the strength and passion of your marriage than a two-week Bahamas getaway.”
Read more about Gottman’s Sound Relationship house in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman.