The small, daily gestures that romantic partners make towards us are what world-renowned relationship therapist John Gottman, co-founder of The Gottman Institute, calls “bids to connect.”
According to Gottman’s research, partners who consistently recognize and turn towards each other’s bids tend to be happiest and the least likely to divorce.
San Francisco dating coach Logan Ury learned the hard way just how important it is to recognize these subtle bids for affection.
For a long time, Ury was ignoring her boyfriend Scott’s bids without realizing it.
“We were still spending time together, but I wasn’t being attentive and I wasn’t making bids or accepting bids, I wasn’t turning towards bids, and that was something that I really needed to work on,” Ury tells NBC News BETTER.
When Scott came home from work, Ury didn’t always greet him with enthusiasm. When he asked “How was your day?” she’d answer without looking away from her laptop. And when they ate meals together, she was always on her phone. In hindsight, she says she was preoccupied with her business and neglecting the relationship.
One night in June, they went out to eat together. Scott, who works in artificial intelligence, complained that she never asked him about his job. He told her how his team was working to improve mammograms to better detect breast cancer. She realized, for the first time, that she knew little about his work and how important it was.
“That was the first time that I really realized that, wow, actually, I needed to change a lot, and the way that I can change is by being a more present partner,” she says.
Ury says she now makes a conscious effort to spot and turn toward Scott’s bids.
“For example, when he comes home from work I’ll always stop what I’m doing and I’ll make sure we spend quality time together, and being really intentional about how I greet him,” she says. “I’m much more intentional about not having my phone with me at the dinner table at any capacity.”
Since she started making an effort to respond to Scott’s bids, Ury says “it’s like a completely new relationship.’
“We’re happier than we’ve ever been, and it’s about these daily, small micro moments in how we treat each other,” Ury says.