Relationships: make bids in your relationship
My wife and I have been together for five years and are starting to drift apart. It doesn’t seem like there are any major issues, but the smaller daily interactions and disagreements are really starting to build up and take a toll on our connection. Sarcasm and snippy comments seem to be the default mode of our communication. Everything looks great from the outside but I don’t want to wait until it’s too late to ask for help. What can I do?
— Drifting Apart
Lori and Jeff: Early in relationships we’re more patient and compassionate with one another. On a deeper level we’re fantasizing about how this new mate is going to love, accept and empower us to be our best selves and to create the life we most want. Fast forward a few months or years, and a small part of us can be disappointed, frustrated or resentful that our idealized mate is just another human being with flaws, faults and shortcomings. Now that you’ve dropped from the honeymoon cloud, a different type of effort is needed to keep your bond vibrant.
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Lori: We recently worked with a couple pondering separation. Their belief was if they had chosen the right partners, it would be easier to express love and show care to each other. The truth is, even the best-matched partners struggle to love each other at times. The stronger the bond, the easier it is to make efforts. But when fissures grow, as almost every relationship experiences, you each need courage to begin bridging the gap. Sarcasm and snippiness are defense tools, and signs that neither of you feel safe right now expressing what you really feel and need. Many couples want to fix how they fight by trying to change their communication during arguments, but these efforts fall flat when the overall connection in the relationship is strained. Instead, focus on strengthening your bond in between the bickering. Make efforts to date again, to remember what you appreciate about one another and to remind each other why you fell in love in the first place.
Jeff: Learning to navigate the smaller day-to-day interactions is one of the most important elements in maintaining a healthy and sustainable relationship. Each exchange, regardless of how mundane it may seem, has a ripple effect on the overall tone of the relationship. These moments of contact — from a simple “good morning” to deeper, more complex interactions — all begin with a bid. A bid is any attempt to connect with a partner and we often don’t pay attention to them or we take them for granted. How bids are made and responded to has a significant impact on the foundation of the relationship.
It is important to learn how to make a bid from a place of authenticity and courage, being clear about what you need in that moment. A half-baked bid often falls flat and doesn’t convey the real message, leaving the bidder feeling unheard and possibly rejected. It’s equally important to recognize when your partner is making a bid and to respond to them with honesty and compassion. Met bids create a stronger bond while missed ones lead to more detachment and tension. Leading shame and vulnerability expert Brene Brown states, “Disengagement triggers shame and our greatest fears — the fear of being abandoned, unworthy and unlovable.”
Lori and Jeff: The key to reversing the drift is to create connection and re-engagement with your partner. Discover ways to clarify and express your own bids while learning what your partner’s bids look like and practicing to recognize them.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.