Marital research guru John Gottman is the author of the popular book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. As the title suggests, Gottman identifies principles that healthy marriages embody. One of those principles is the idea of turning toward rather than turning away from your partner.
Every day in relationships we make small bids - bids for attention (“Oof, what a day…”), bids for connection (“Want to play a game tonight?”), bids for affection (reaching to hold hands), bids for humor (making a joke or laughing at something funny you see), etc. These moments are small and routine, but the responses are important building blocks for relationships. Turning towards looks like responding or accepting those bids from your partner. For example if your partner laughs at something they’ve just seen, turning toward may look like sharing in that joy and asking “What’s so funny?” Turning towards a bid for attention may be responding to a long sigh or other non-verbals, “You seem stressed, want to talk about it?” Gottman argues that these small moments are much more important for the relationship than the occasional extravagant trips and gifts.
Gottman likens the idea of turning toward to an emotional bank account shared between you and your partner. For each moment you turn toward one another, you make a small deposit into the emotional bank account. For each moment you turn away, ignoring the bids for connection, you make a small withdrawal. The more deposits you make by turning toward, the more emotional capital you have in your savings, strengthening your relationship for when crises and challenges come in the future. If a crisis arises and there isn’t enough relational capital saved up, the relationship can feel bankrupt by challenges.
How can you invest in your relationship today?