Singaporebrides | Relationships

March 2024

The Small Actions that Strengthen Marriages

It’s not the grand gestures that keep the spark alive, but the little, everyday interactions that build a strong and loving marriage.

When you think of love and romance, you might picture a huge bouquet of 99 roses, or a captain crossing country borders through secret underground tunnels. It’s often believed that grand gestures hold the key to a person’s heart. However, according to renowned relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, it’s the smaller, everyday interactions, or “bids” for connection, that truly fortify the bonds of marriage. If you’ve seen the viral #orangepeeltheory or even tried the #birdtest trend going around, you might have heard about Gottman’s bids. Gottman’s groundbreaking research on relationship dynamics has uncovered that these bids and the responses to them are crucial predictors of a couple’s success and longevity. We look at how small, everyday actions can have a profound impact on the health and happiness of your marriage.

What Are Gottman’s Bids?

A “bid” is any gesture made by one partner to another for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection. Bids can be as simple as a smile or touch, a question about one’s day, a request for help with a task, or pointing out something that could be seemingly insignificant but interesting to you (such as the bird in the bird test). Bids are the fundamental building blocks of emotional connection and are present in every interaction, whether verbal or non-verbal.

Grace and David’s Charmingly Candid Pre-Wedding Shoot in the City by Bora from Always Sunday

The Power of Turning Towards

Gottman categorises responses to bids in three ways: turning towards, turning away, and turning against. Turning towards a bid involves acknowledging and responding to the bid in a positive manner. This could mean engaging in a conversation when a question is asked, offering a hug when sought, or simply making eye contact and smiling. Turning away involves ignoring the bid or not recognising it as an attempt to connect, for example, a partner points out, “Hey, check out that ice cream truck!” and the other partner continues tapping at their phone without responding. Turning against means responding negatively, for example, the partner responding, “Aren’t you on a diet?” to the comment on the ice cream truck.

The act of consistently turning towards your partner’s bids strengthens the relationship by building a foundation of trust, emotional connection, and mutual respect. It signals to your partner that you value their needs and desires, fostering a deeper sense of intimacy and understanding. The more you respond positively to their bids, the more secure your partner feels, and the deeper your connection grows.
Conversely, missing bids or responding negatively to bids for connection makes your partner feel rejected or unimportant. They make less and less bids to decrease their vulnerability, leading to both partners feeling disconnected.

Eunice and Daniel’s Intimate Pre-Wedding Shoot in the Romantic and Magical Wilderness by Hey Stranger

Small Actions, Big Impact

Every couple, regardless of the stage of their relationship, can practice turning towards bids with minimal effort but significant impact. Here are a few reasons why these small actions are so powerful:

1. Creates a Culture of Appreciation

Regularly responding positively to your partner’s bids cultivates an atmosphere of gratitude and appreciation. Over time, this can transform the overall tone of the relationship, making it more supportive and loving.

2. Builds Emotional Resilience

Couples who master the art of turning towards are better equipped to handle stress and conflict. When you feel secure in your emotional connection, you are more likely to approach disagreements with empathy and understanding.

3. Enhances Intimacy

Turning towards bids opens up opportunities for deeper emotional and physical intimacy. It encourages you to share more of you thoughts, feelings, and desires, thereby enhancing your emotional bond.

4. Prevents Negative Spiral

Neglecting or negatively responding to bids can lead to a cycle of resentment and disconnection. By actively choosing to turn towards, you can prevent this downward spiral, keeping your relationship strong and healthy.

Khye Theng and Tony’s Romantic and Timeless Destination Wedding with Pops of Blue at Villa Plenilunio, Bali by MomentsbyJeremy

How to Increase the Small Actions to Deepen Your Connection

1. Pay Attention

Start by simply becoming more aware of your partner’s bids for connection. Notice the small gestures, questions, and expressions of need.

2. Prioritise Engagement

Make a conscious effort to engage with your partner’s bids. Even if you’re busy or distracted, a simple acknowledgment can go a long way.

3. Communicate

Talk to your partner about the concept of bids and how you both can work together to respond more positively to each other’s attempts at connection. Let your partner know if you feel that they haven’t been paying attention to you.

4. Apologise

If you miss a bid for connection, acknowledge it and apologise. This lets your partner know that they’re important to you.

5. Build in Rituals of Connection

Instead of waiting for spontaneous bids, build simple rituals of connection into your everyday life. For example, always sending your partner out the door in the morning with a kiss, texting photos of your lunches to each other, or scheduling in a date night once a week.

The magic of marriage often resides in the mundane moments of everyday life. Through understanding and implementing Gottman’s theory of bids, you can unlock a powerful tool for deepening your connection and ensuring the longevity of your relationship. Remember, it’s not the grand declarations of love but the small, consistent acts of turning towards each other that build a lasting and fulfilling marriage.

Credits: Feature image from Sandy and Weilun’s Stunning Pre-Wedding Adventure in Sumba by Kael from Darren and Jade Photography

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The Small Actions that Strengthen Marriages