Bridging Hope Counseling provides individual, couples and marriage, teen and parent, group, and DBT skills groups, therapy and counseling for those in the Minnesota Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Bridging Hope Counseling Blog

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Let's be real: we are in the coldest months of the Minnesota winter, and the Coronavirus has extended its welcome. Whether we have managed to keep ourselves busier than ever or have found boredom among the repetition, we need connection now more than ever in our intimate partner relationships. The pandemic has changed the way we live our daily lives, but the one thing that hasn't changed is our desire to have a satisfying relationship.

Couples come into therapy for all kinds of reasons. No matter why the couple finds themselves sitting on my therapy couch, they will at some point hear me say, "Connection is the glue that holds you together." When couples find themselves in relationship distress or frequently passing each other in opposite directions on a regular basis, couples find themselves with emotional distance and feeling disconnected. We long for security and safety with our partner, and the connection is at the core of our need to feel the love we desire.

When working with couples, I often hear, "where do we even start to find connection again? The answer is a combination of the little everyday simple things and the extraordinary gestures that standout: both matter. It is not only a special night out or a weekend getaway, but also the small interactions of the day, a good hug, a small gesture, which all say, "I'm thinking about you, and I love you."

In Dr. John Gottman's research on couples, he identified an essential dynamic that healthy and emotionally intelligent couples exercise: turning toward one another. Turning toward is a subtle or brief positive exchange that deepens a couple's emotional connection. As partners turn toward each other, they place what Gottman calls a "bid" for connection with their partner. These bids for connection can be verbal or non-verbal: reaching out for affection, offering support, using humor, giving affirmations, showing interest, expressing concerns, or giving undivided attention. We might not even be aware that our partner is bidding for a connection, so it is crucial to understand and recognize your partner is turning toward you desiring a connection. It is equally important that you reciprocate by turning toward them as well.

Here are two examples of a partners bid for connection:

Bid: "How was your day? Guess what happened today at work...."

Meaning: I enjoy talking with you. I need to talk about my day as well.

Bid: "I've always wanted to go hiking up north. Wouldn't it be fun to enjoy the trails and take in the views?"

Meaning: I like doing new things with you. Let's go on an adventure together!

 

Examples of turning toward versus turning away:

Turning Toward Response: "My day was good! It sounds like you might need to talk about your day and take off some stress..."

Turning Away Response: "My day was good." (Continues to read the paper as a non-verbal cue, misses the chance to connect).

 

The bottom line is to become aware and be curious about how your partner is making an

attempt to bid for a connection with you and don’t miss or turn away from the opportunity to form the connection.

 

One last thing to offer you a little connection superglue during the pandemic: here are a few examples for turning toward your partner in everyday experiences:

  • - Greeting each other at the end of the day to check in.
  • - Cooking a meal together at home or, better yet, dessert!
  • - Setting the dinner table to create space for a romantic dinner at home with take out from your favorite restaurant.
  • - Enjoy a new tv series together (hint: get close on the couch; disconnect from phones!)
  • - During the workday, send your partner a text to let them know you are thinking of them.  
  • - Enjoy a walk to connect about the day or start a winter sport together and get outside!

 

My hope for you is this sparks excitement and inspires creativity into those small and big moments to connect in your relationship. If you feel your relationship is on edge and you are having trouble reaching an emotional connection, you are not alone, and there is always hope you can find your way back to each other. Seeking help from a marriage counselor can give you the help you need to get started toward a meaningful, satisfying relationship you both desire.

Here are some of my favorite books for relationships:

"Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love"

Drs. John and Julie Gottman

"What Makes Love Last" -Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver

"Attached. The New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help you Find- and Keep- Love."- Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel S.F. Heller, M.A

"Hold Me Tight" -Dr. Sue Johnson

"Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work" - Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver

Jeana Wescott, MA, Psychotherapist - Rogers