Are you in the black in your relationship bank account?
Last weekend my husband and I went on an adventure to a lake in the nearby mountains; we loaded up our paddle boards with our backpacking gear and paddled to the far side of the lake to camp out overnight.
The following morning, I woke up overlooking the lake, and I felt wonderfully calm, but the night before was a different story.
A bit of a freaky evening
As it got colder in the evening, I put on my layers but it was still cold and as it got darker there was no moon; it was pitch black and a little creepy. He wanted to go out on the lake for a paddle, and I wanted to make an effort to do this with him, even though I was a bit freaked out because tree stumps are looming and lurking in the lake; they feel very spooky!
Anyway, I forced myself to go out, and it was not comfortable or enjoyable at all; I felt kind of bad. My husband had been out here a couple of weeks ago with his buddies, and I can see I am a little higher maintenance than they are.
The sun was shining the next morning
The following day, I said to my husband, “Hey, sorry I kind of ruined it last night,” and he said, “Aw, it’s ok, I just ignored you,” and I laughed.
You are probably thinking, why would you laugh when he says something like that! But you know what, we have got enough credit in our emotional bank account for that to be just fine; why shouldn’t he ignore me in a time when he can’t do anything about it because ultimately, he usually turns towards me 95% of the time.
What does ‘turning toward’ mean?
What do I mean when I say he turns towards me? In the Gottman 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work workshops, we stress the importance of building a solid friendship as a foundation for a successful and happy marriage. The third principle and one of the ways to build a strong friendship is to notice the bids for attention that your partner makes to you. This may be in the form of starting a conversation “Did you hear about…” or making an observation, “Look at the sunset, isn’t it beautiful?” or even reaching out for a hug. Turning towards in response to the bid in these examples would be answering with interest “No, tell me about it”, “Yes that is beautiful, do you remember when we were in Mexico….”, or hugging back.
There are two more ways to respond to bids, turning way – ignoring it or brushing it aside or turning against, where you would respond negatively, “don’t bother me right now, I’m busy”.
Turning towards builds a strong connection
You can see that turning towards your partner often builds a strong connection over time.
When I am putting out a bid for his attention, my husband nearly always turns towards me. Sometimes he might be busy, he might be preoccupied with his thoughts, but he doesn’t turn away, rarely ignores me, listens, and every time he does that, it puts another credit into my emotional bank account for our relationship.
So, when he turns round to me and says something like, “Oh well, I just ignored you,” I know he is half-joking, and he did say afterward that that was a bit flippant, but you know it really didn’t matter or take credit away.