“Marriage takes more than love” is the title of a book on marriage that was published years ago. (1978, to be exact.) Back then, I didn’t fully agree with what the author Jack Mayhall was trying to tell couples. But now, knowing better, I do wholeheartedly.
“I love my wife” is a common refrain you will hear in counselling rooms, “but our relationship feels empty somehow.” He senses that the passion is waning, that the romance is drifting away. He is not alone in feeling this way when some time has passed since the wedding. What he doesn’t see are all the opportunities for closeness that surround him. Like so many other distressed, lonely people, he doesn’t mean to ignore or dismiss his spouse’s bids for emotional connection.
First, let me make sure you understand what a bid is. A bid can be a question, a gesture, a look, a touch – any single expression that says, “I want to feel connected to you.”These bids happen in such simple, mundane ways that it is easily missed.
A bid is…any single expression that says, “I want to feel connected to you.”
At the University of Washington, Dr John Gottman and his research team discovered how profoundly this bidding process affects relationships. They learned, for example, that husbands headed for divorce disregard their wives’ bids for connection 82 percent of the time, while husbands in stable relationships disregard their wives’ bids just 19 percent of the time. Wives headed for divorce act preoccupied with other activities when their husbands bid for their attention 50 percent of the time, while happily married wives act preoccupied in response to their husband’s bids just 14 percent of the time.
A response to a bid – a positive or negative answer to somebody’s request for emotional connection – is just as important as the original bid itself. In the next post, I will talk about the different ways you can respond to your partner’s bid and its consequential effects.
Couples who have trouble with the bidding process also have more conflict – conflict that might be prevented if they could simply acknowledge one another’s emotional needs by responding positively to their spouse’s bids. These conflicts can lead to marital discord, divorce, parenting problems, and family feuds.
Marriage indeed takes more than love to keep it alive. It requires constant effort to connect and to grow closer to one another. Without it, the couple will gradually drift apart till they become strangers to one another.
Gottman, John. The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships. Harmony; Reprint edition (June 25, 2002)