Welcome back, loves. Today we’re going to talk about bringing some new energy to your relationships, because relationships—if we’re not being mindful, if we’re not being conscious, if we’re being complacent—can become monotonous. I hear people ask all the time: “Why can’t it be like it was in the beginning? Why can’t we have that same spark? Why can’t we have that connection? Why can’t we have that same intimacy?”
Ultimately, this comes down to effort, intentionality, and taking care to notice when your partner is trying to connect with you…even when it’s super subtle.
I often find that when the connection starts to fizzle out, it comes down to people not putting in the same level of effort that they did in the beginning, then blaming their partner for that lack of effort.
I actually believe that you don’t ever really know your partner, because you may have known that version, but people are always changing…even you, right? You’re reading this blog so that you can evolve, become more conscious, have better relationships, all of those things.
We’re always learning and changing, so we never actually know the partner in front of us. Because of that, we need to actually ask questions and strive to understand the other person. We have to be engaged with them and be engaged with their life; not just their external world, but their internal world as well.
I’ve said this before, but I really want to drive home this point: relationships require effort. They require responsibility. And too many people—including me, sometimes—get into relationships and then become extremely complacent. They expect the relationship to run on autopilot, but it doesn’t work that way.
This is why Drew and I have a monthly relationship check-in, because we know that it’s not going to run on autopilot. And even with the relationship check-in, we sometimes default into autopilot status and have to consciously bring more intentionality back into it.
I fully believe that a relationship is made of three parties: you, your partner, and the relationship itself. You and your partner might actually have different needs or desires than the relationship, so you need to take what the relationship needs into account.
For instance, I have been working a lot lately because I feel very strongly that my business needs me right now. I need to be fully plugged in. And that’s not to say that I need to be plugged out of my relationship, but it does mean that my relationship requires me to bring more time, more presence, more love, and more intentionality. That’s what it needs from me right now.
The thing I really want to speak about today is this: people believe that relationships are usually make or break because of big things that happen. They think that divorce happens because of a big argument that they had, or something like that.
I don’t believe that—in fact, it’s been proven that this isn’t the case. I believe that relationships are made up of many little things—so, so many little things. And it’s those little things that stack up over and over and over and over and over again and add up to either a positive outcome or a negative outcome.
I’m currently studying under Dr. John and Julie Gottman under the Gottman Institute, which has been fantastic. I cannot wait to bring my learnings to the podcast and to my courses and my one-to-one coaching, because it’s going to be so powerful, and I want to start right now.
Like I said, it’s these little things that make or break the relationship. The Gottmans speak about this by discussing these things called “bids for connection,” which are these tiny moments in your everyday life when you’re reaching out to your partner for acknowledgement, but it’s not overt.
Rather than saying, “Hey, I really feel like I need some attention right now. I would love for us to connect. I would love for us to have more intimacy,” it’s these little moments where you go, “Gosh, it’s super hot out today,” and then you wait to see how your partner will respond.
This is not a conscious thing, but it’s incredibly important. It’s when you go to the window and comment on a bird outside, or you mention how tired you are, and then your partner either turns toward you or turns away.
When we say, “Wow, I’m exhausted,” we wait for our partner to engage. Either by commiserating—“Oh, me too.”—or by tuning in and asking how they can help.
When you make these bids for connection, your partner has three options: they can turn away, where they ignore your bids for connection and say nothing; they can turn against, where they get defensive; or they can turn toward, which is when they validate your feelings or ask how they can help or whatever it might be.
If you say, “Wow, I’m exhausted,” and they immediately fire back with, “Why the fuck would you be exhausted? You’ve only worked three hours today,” that’s an example of turning against your bids for connection. And turning against those bids for connection repeatedly is actually quite destructive to relationships—in fact, statistically, the amount of times you turn against those bids for connection can actually predict divorce.
Now, turning towards bids for connection doesn’t have to be over-the-top. It doesn’t have to be, “Oh my gosh, you’re exhausted? Tell me about your day. Let’s talk it out. How can I help? How can I support you? Can I get you anything?” It doesn’t have to be all that. You just have to acknowledge that feeling they expressed to you.
That’s what really fascinated me about bids for connection, because you hear about conscious relationships and you think, “Oh my God, I’m going to have to be so conscious a hundred percent of the time. I’m going to have to constantly be on.” But that’s not true; it’s actually about these little moments where someone goes, “Fuck, it’s hot out.” And you say, “It sure is.”
That’s all. It’s like so fucking simple. All we’re all looking for is a little fucking acknowledgement.
Take a moment and think about how many times people are actually bidding for connection with you, and you miss it. It’s pretty sobering when we think about it like that, and vice versa, right? Think about how many times you might do these things where you are actually bidding for someone’s connection in an unconscious way to get your needs met, and other people miss it.
That’s not to make other people wrong, and it’s not to make you wrong; it’s just to notice that you’re doing it, and to understand why you’re doing it.
Listen…nobody is perfect. You absolutely will miss people’s bids for connection. You’re human. But the Gottmans studied couples for twenty years, and here’s what they found: the couples who stayed together picked up on each other’s bids for connection around 86% of the time, while the couples who split up picked up each other’s bids for connection around 33% of the time.
These things really, really do matter. But like I said at the beginning, these things build over time, so if you miss 10% of these bids, you’ve still got a really great relationship. It’s not about being hyper-vigilant to every single word that comes out of your partner’s mouth, but we want to have what I call a gentle awareness. We want a gentle awareness humming in the background that allows for an understanding of this deeper meaning behind the things your partner says.
So you can see how these things really, really do matter. Sure, they’re not huge things like infidelity or an addiction; those are big things in relationships that could determine whether they’re make or break. But usually it’s not the fucking argument about the dishes that ends a marriage or a relationship; it’s the thousands of little moments where you felt ignored, unappreciated, unacknowledged, or whatever else. It’s those little things that stacked up, and then those dishes in the sink were the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Your partner needs to feel understood by you. You want to feel understood by your partner. To me, this is conscious relating—it’s not about doing like tantric breathing or eye gazing together, it’s about building a solid foundation together and both being willing to contribute to the relationship.
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I get it, girl. I’ve been there too. For years, I was going through the same experiences with men over and over again that left me feeling confused, anxious and pissed off.
I silenced myself in dating and relationships because I was terrified of being judged, rejected and abandoned. It all changed when I went through a break-up and thought “enough is enough. I cannot continue to repeat the same relationships with different men! Something HAS to change!”