John Gottman, the world renowned researcher of marriage often uses this term, “Bids for Attention”. They are the moments when you reach to your partner and express a need. Maybe it’s a simple need for eye contact or a hug or an ear to listen – but we all do this. Even when we are not consciously aware that we have needs; our behavior might prove otherwise.
According to Gottman, in the beginning of a relationship, couples are doing this (hopefully) with high frequency. They are thinking of their new love interest while they are at work, playing golf, hanging with their buddies. . . If chemistry is right – they are almost obsessed with their partner. If all goes as scheduled, our bids are answered. For many of us (particularly those from any background of abuse or neglect) this is a healing process.
However, over time more and more bids often go unanswered. People get busy with work, weeding, taking out the recycling, parenting, helping their aging parents, etc. and suddenly it can feel like your bids are met by crickets. Some might even start wondering if they are putting too many bids in? Eventually trust and respect erode.
And if there is not the beginning bank of answered bids to draw from – than the relationship crashes and burns. Each partner grows more distant with contempt and searches for bid attempts outside of the marriage.
This is a typical development in a long-term relationship with a simple, but not easy way to fix and heal the relationship. Oftentimes, it takes sharing of vulnerabilities, identifying all of the emotions behind the expressed anger/contempt and a fruitful effort to change that feedback loop for the better. It does take effort.
However, now, according to Gottman, with the ever increasing stress of the world around us and also our social media obsession; couples are not even hearing nor answering bids, right from the get-go. People are seen as more and more dispensable. And vulnerability, truth and needs are suppressed because it leaves people feeling too exposed when there is no prior history of bid meeting from their partner. Thoughts might swirl – ‘She expressed needs? That is unacceptable’. or ‘How dare he complain about his job when mine is so much harder?’
In turn, true relationships are never even formed.
Ghosting and Curbing gain in popularity as people are deemed more and more to be temporary objects vs. human beings with hearts.
Ask yourself these questions:
How do you meet your partner’s needs?
Do you even know what they are?
How does your partner express his or her needs?
How do you express yours?
Grade the bids for attention in your relationship? Are they met half? All of the time?
We are in a crisis of vulnerability people. In order to ace this; you first have to accept that you do in fact have needs. Then, express them. Finally, pay attention to whether your partner is building a bank from the get-go or constantly withdrawing. . . .