According to Gottman and Levenson’s research, the success of a relationship isn’t dependent on fancy, grand gestures. Instead, it relies on the daily interactions of the partners and their attentiveness directed towards each other’s bids, wherein bids are the subtle acts one does to request a connection with the other.
John Gottman observed that successful relationships were heavily centered on being attentive towards the bids of each other. If partners ignored the small efforts of the other, their relationship would be bound to fail.
The Love Lab Findings
Being in a relationship may seem like an easy task at first, but it requires meticulous effort in a day-to-day manner to stay in one. The grandiosity of one’s gestures isn’t necessarily one of the prime indicators of the success of a relationship.
American Psychologist John Gottman and colleague Robert Levenson conducted a study at the University of Washington. This study was a contribution to answering Gottman’s question of what separated successful and failed relationships. The research’s subjects were couples. The researchers recorded and studied the couples’ interactions in an observation facility publicly called the Love Lab.
The couples talked about their relationship from their first encounter until their recent fights. Noting the consent of the participants, John Gottman went as far as making some of them dedicate a whole week in a single apartment together to observe their daily interactions.
The researchers continued their study 6 years later with a follow-up of the participants. After the follow-up, the divisions of the partners occurred. Partners were either grouped as relationship masters or relationship disasters. The relationship masters were healthy married couples while the relationship disasters were divorced or stayed together unhappily.
With further investigation of the difference between relationship masters and relationship disasters, Gottman concludes that successful relationships tend to pay more attention to each other, even in small ways.
After many months of watching these tapes with my students, it dawned on me. Maybe it’s not the depth of intimacy in conversations that matters. Maybe it doesn’t even matter whether couples agree or disagree. Maybe the important thing is how these people pay attention to each other, no matter what they’re talking about or doing.John Gottman
(Source: The Gottman Institute)
The Role of Bids in a Relationship
John Gottman’s research made the concept of bids relevant as the findings of his study emphasize the significance of making and accepting bids constantly to maintain a relationship. He described bids as the tiny efforts one makes to seek connections with their partner, stating that bids are essential in emotional communication.
Bids can be nonverbal or verbal. It’s communicated in many ways; it can be through the form of a question, a physical act, or an expression in a light, sexual, or thoughtful manner. Common examples of bids are asking for water, a kiss on the cheek, or planning for the weekend. They’re often subtle acts that convey people’s need to connect.
One can respond to a bid by turning towards it by acknowledging it, turning away from it by ignoring it, or turning against it by turning the request into an argument. Gottman found in his data that relationship masters turned towards each other more than 85% of the time while relationship disasters only turned towards each other 33% of the time.
Gottman’s data emphasizes that the daily effort one exerts to be attentive in a relationship makes or breaks a relationship. He further observed that the most common cause for a break-up was the consistent manner of partners to turn away from bids, consequentially leading to pent-up resentment and an increasing lack of connection between the two. (Source: The Gottman Institute)