Imagine sitting on the couch after a long day, mindlessly scrolling on your phone while something plays on the tv in the background. Your partner comes home and says, “Hi, Honey. How was your day?”. You look up for a moment – mumble a quick greeting and say, “Dinner is on the stove”, then focus your attention back on to your phone. We’ve all been there, but what’s wrong with this situation? You’ve missed your partner’s bid for connection.
Let’s imagine a different scenario where you’re instead in the kitchen. You’ve got music playing in the background, and your cooking dinner while humming along to your favorite tune. Your partner comes in and says the same greeting. “Hi, Honey. How was your day?” You stop and turn toward them, giving a gentle smile. “Hey! My day was exhausting. How was yours? I’m making dinner, can you help me?” They give you a quick peck on the cheek before taking off their jacket and returning to help you with dinner.
What is the fundamental difference between these two scenarios? Connection. Bids for connection are little messages we send to our partner throughout our day that say, “Hey, I enjoy doing life with you!” They can be as simple as asking about their day, or reaching for their hand while sitting next to each other on the couch.
Has there ever been a time when you’ve wanted to tell your partner something that really excited you, but felt as though when you told them that they weren’t truly listening? I’m guessing that likely made you feel angry, hurt, or maybe rejected. That is often how we feel when we send out a bid for connection to our partner, only to have it missed. On the flip side, have you ever found yourself too distracted to notice your partner had reached out and touched you? It may seem small, or even sometimes unintentional, but the resulting feelings of hurt or rejection are all too real.
Describe your feelings.
In order to connect with our partner, we have to be willing to communicate with them. This means being able to identify exactly how we’re feeling and also being able to express that. A simple “I feel” statement can be all you need to help describe your emotions to your other half. The next time you want to connect with your partner, try saying the following, “I feel _________, because ____________. I need _____________.” Remember, keep the focus on yourself here and describe your feelings using emotion words. Make sure you’re specific enough so that your partner can really understand what you’re experiencing without feeling blamed or attacked.
Power down technology.
We live in a world where we can instantly connect with others through technology all while being simultaneously disconnected with the people around us. A bid for connection can be as simple as putting down your cell phone while having a conversation with your partner. Try and establish a timeframe in which you and your partner disconnect from all electronic devices. This can be as easy as putting aside your phone, shutting off the television, and enjoying a meal together.
“Honey, our therapist says we should get physical… hint, hint.”
Well, you should! But not quite in the way you’re thinking. Research shows that our brains are wired for physical connection. As humans, we need physical touch in order to feel safe, supported, and loved. One thing I always tell my clients is that with emotional intimacy comes physical intimacy. When we feel safe and secure in our relationship, physical intimacy is soon to follow. But how do we foster this? Remember that not all touch has to be sexual in nature when it comes to establishing connection with your partner. Keeping a close physical proximity while doing day to day tasks is an easy way to establish physical connection. Cook a meal together, sit near each other in the evening after work, reach out and touch them on the arm, or by all means – give your partner a quick kiss. And sure, if you’re both feeling like it, take it a step further to establish that close physical bond.
Are you often crossing your arms or placing some sort of physical barrier in front of you while talking to your partner? Do you find your tone to be irritable or perhaps condescending at times? Have you found yourself using negative or attacking language in times of distress? Softening your approach can make all the difference in establishing connection with your partner. Being gentle means becoming aware of your own body language, tone, and use of language. If we are constantly communicating in a manner that expresses negativity it can interfere with emotional intimacy. Becoming aware of our own internal experience can help us recognize when we can soften our approach toward our partner, and establish a deeper connection.
Why do we miss bids for connection? It comes down to one main issue; we don’t know how to slow down. Being present with our partner is a fundamental part of sending and receiving bids for connection. By being with our partner in the moment, we are better able to turn out attention on giving and receiving love. This allows us to focus on increasing trust, vulnerability, and intimacy within our relationship. Establish boundaries around your time together. This means reducing distractions in your environment so that you can really connect with your partner, even if it’s just for a short time each night.
In conclusion: Do What Feels Best.
Only you know what truly makes you feel connected to another person. Doing what feels best for the two of you is so important in terms of bonding with your partner. Make time for the things that feel good in your relationship, and the rest will flow naturally.
Tiffany received her graduate degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Whitworth University. She has additional training and experience using a variety of evidence-based therapy interventions including Emotion Focused Therapy, Gottman Method Couples Therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Tiffany embodies an eclectic framework that often draws upon creative art therapy and positive discipline parenting in working with families and youth. She is a Prepare Enrich facilitator and offers premarital and couples’ therapy. Tiffany holds dual credential as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate in the state of Washington.