Recently a young married couple told me they’re struggling. I asked them to tell me more and they did. Seems they fight all the time and it seems to both of them to be about nothing. I listened to them for awhile and observed their body language; words, not so much. They have a bidding problem.
According to the Gottman’s research (John & Julie are the leading relationship scientists), unless your positive to negative emotions ratios are at least 4-1, your relationship will not make it. Nothing is more emotional than the bidding process. We all bid to one another all the time – “Would you please take out the trash, Let’s go to a show tonight, Wanna go with me to France, I’d really appreciate it if you would leave your phone in the garage when you come home, honey.” Bids.
When our loved one bids, remember, they don’t care so much about the answer as the attitude. The bidder wants us to turn toward them. Even if the answer isn’t the one we want, we feel so good knowing they heard us, acknowledged our request, and responded. They cared enough to turn toward, meet our eyes with theirs, and give us attention (the more undivided the better, btw). Too often, busy partners don’t even hear the bid. The bidder assumes they’ve been blown off. This is the equivalent of a turn away and sparks all kinds of negative emotions. Worse still is the turn against. Avoid this one like the Black Plague.
The turn against goes something like this:
Bride: “Hey, it would be great to go to the Apple store together and pick out my new phone, Babe. Can we do this later today?”
Groom: Deep sigh, “The Apple store is a nightmare on Saturday and you take forever deciding on anything which makes it feel like the nightmare never ends. Besides, why can’t you do stuff like that on your own?”
This is the turn against and it usually spirals downward from here. I paused and asked the young couple if this made sense. They looked at me and then at each other and started to laugh. It seemed they’ve both been missing a lot of bids because they’re too busy swiping those new phones and looking down instead of toward each other. We laughed a while longer and then I told them they are going to be just fine. You see, friend, this couple has learned to laugh, not loathe. FM, baby.
As we put a bow on our time together, I told them to practice 7 good minutes figuring out what each other wants first and foremost. Give each other some of what they want and get clear on what ain’t happening too. All couples have gridlocked conflict (meaning it isn’t going away ever). This is not a problem once you identify it and make proper peace. So, I encouraged them to love each other by learning to laugh at their uniqueness instead of loathing the differences. We prayed, laughed some more at the simplicity of it all, and went our separate ways. They identified their bidding problem and know how to move toward. All it took was some time to talk eye to eye, heart to heart, and with a slight helping hand from an old friend. You see, friend, most conflict is simply a conversation to be had. Turn toward. Talk. Good.
Live hard. Love harder (Thanks, Teeks)…