Marriage Stuff: Turning Toward Him

By the time my husband arrived home from work, I was already in sweats, curled up on the couch, blanket draped over my lap, three episodes deep in a Keeping Up with the Kardashians season 1 marathon. I’d planned to order a pizza and relax in that spot for the rest of the evening.

So when Joe got home and asked if I was hungry, I was fully prepared to suggest a medium pepperoni pizza for two. He had other plans, “how about something out of the box?” (No pun intended.) He suggested we go to a local restaurant/bowling alley.

Ugh, I immediately thought to myself, now I have to get dressed. 

I like Rule 3, it’s fun and we used to go a lot when our former bizarre work schedules allowed us to have fun during the day.

At this particular moment though, I didn’t feel like going anywhere. Not only was I comfortable, but it was Friday night. I had to be at work at 5am the next day and therefore needed to go to bed early.

Sensing my hesitation, he promised: “One game. Then we’ll eat dinner and come home.” He seemed so excited and I just couldn’t say no.

In that moment of him looking at me and waiting for an answer, I thought about how lucky I am to have a husband who takes pleasure in hanging out with me.

So I agreed, threw off the blanket, dragged myself off the couch and into my closet to put on a cute, “date night” outfit, complete with extra long earrings and high heels.

When we got there, we realized that we weren’t able to buy just one game, we had to buy an hour.

Joe was on fire, strikes and spares, over and over. It was just the two of us, so we fit 3.5 games in!

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As I watched him bowl and waited my turn, I realized I was happy I nixed my night on the couch with Kim, Kourtney and Khloe for a night out and about with the love of my life.

Then, I thought about the “bids” story that I read a while ago. It comes from The Gottman Institute’s “Turn Towards Instead of Away”.

As part of his research, Dr. Gottman conducted a study with newlyweds and then followed up with them six years later. Many of the couples had remained together. Many had divorced. The couples that stayed married were much better at one thing. At the six-year follow up, couples that had stayed married turned towards one another 86% of the time. Couples that had divorced averaged only 33% of the time. The secret is “turning towards”.

What does it mean to “turn toward”? Dr. Gottman explains:

Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.

People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t—those who turned away—would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.”

On this particular evening, my husband was the bidder and I was the one given the opportunity to turn towards or away. Thankfully I chose to turn toward.

He had a great time that night…and, honestly, so did I!

Bowling at Rule 3

Comment here or tweet me @AlissaHenryTV :)

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