Skip to content Skip to footer

Lessons in Marriage Counseling: How to Turn Towards Your Partner

Turning Towards Your Partner

“I don’t even feel like she likes me anymore.”

“When I talk, it’s like I’m invisible.”

“He responds to me as if I don’t even matter to him.”

You know when you say something to your partner, and you have to repeat yourself? You think maybe they just didn’t hear you, but you have the suspicion that you’re being ignored?

 Or, in another example, maybe you reach out to hold their hand and instead of interlocking fingers, they pull away. Did they just not want to hold hands or were they recoiling to your small act of physical affection?

 At times, we can feel as if every attempt we make to connect with our partner is met with harshness or, at best, disinterest. We wonder, “What happened? We used to be best friends!” Now the slightest thing causes questions about the stability of the relationship. Reaching out feels risky. Making a request can feel like a gamble not worth making.

You’re not alone.

 Couples often feel exasperated over bids for connection that are rejected or disregarded.

What is a bid for connection?

A “bid” is anything you present to your partner with the hope of getting something back in return. Conversely, a “proposal” is anything you present to your partner with the desire of receiving something in exchange.

For instance, in poker or blackjack you put out a bid of a sum of money hoping that if you play your cards right, you will get an even larger sum. Likewise, in relationships we are bidding with our energy, emotion, time, physical affection, conversation, dreams, and requests. We bid thousands of times a day – and every time we are hoping that what we put out there is deemed worthy enough for a return. 

In healthy relationships when your partner makes a bid for connection, you communicate the value of that bid by turning towards them. “Turning towards” can be as simple as acknowledging what they have said, but at best it involves a response that lets the other person know that you have their undivided attention. “Turning away” or “turning against” your partner’s bid will leave them feeling rejected, devalued and frustrated. In worst case scenarios, they will begin making bids for connection somewhere else. Turning away is as simple as “missing” the other person. Being preoccupied, ignoring, or even just distracted by your phone can all communicate that your partner’s bid is not worth your time. Turning against, is less destructive, but only because it leaves the door open for further engagement or repair. Even so, it is still experienced by your partner as rejection.

In a research study of newlyweds, John Gottman followed up with couples six years after their weddings. The couples that had remained married all showed that they were better at one thing: turning towards one another instead of away. Couples that had remained married turned towards each other 86% of the time, whereas couples who divorced only turned towards one another an average of 33% of the time.

Turning towards begins with paying attention.

If your emotional antennae are up, you will notice your partner bidding for your connection constantly. Here’s a short list of ways your partner might be making bids:

  • Pay attention to what you are saying
  • Responding when you make a simple request
  • Helping you or working with you
  • Being excited over an accomplishment of yours
  • Answering you when you make a request for information
  • Chatting with you
  • Telling you about what has happened in their day.
  • Responding to your joking
  • Helping you to de-stress.

Fine-tuning your turning-towards skills will happen over time and as you pay more attention. If you and your partner can agree to help one another in this area, you can grow together in your awareness of what is working or not working when it comes to bidding for connection. 

Here are a few questions to discuss to help better understand how you’re doing when it comes to turning towards your partner:

  1. How do I typically make bids for connection?
  2. What could I do to improve the way I make bids?
  3. When I don’t make bids, why not?
  4. What is my motivation for making bids?
  5. Do I recognize when my partner is bidding for my connection?
  6. Do I more often turn towards my partner or away or against?
  7. Am I closer to 33% or 86% on my turning towards rate?
  8. How do I feel when my partner doesn’t turn towards me?

By posing these questions, being candid and sincere with each other, and assisting one another in this area, you can grow together in your understanding of where you are succeeding and where you could use help. If you’d like some help learning how to turn towards your partner in your relationship, schedule a free consultation by completing the Work With Me Questionnaire. We will spend some time getting to know how you and your partner try to connect and what is or isn’t working. After your consultation, we will then chart a course for successfully turning towards each other!


How to Get Started with Couples Counseling and Find Therapists in Belton, TX

For couples in Belton, TX and the surrounding area who are seeking therapy, take the first step today! Simply complete the Work With Me application. Once you do, my assistant will follow up and let you know what to do next!

Josh Kellar is a licensed marriage and family therapist, offering mental health counseling services in Belton, TX. Using evidence-based therapy, Josh offers client-centered, solution focused therapy to help couples and families. Josh enjoys using his extensive experience as a licensed therapist and psychologist to help couples and families thrive in their relationships and feel safe to express their individual needs.

Leave a comment