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Turn Towards Instead of Away


Reprinted by Permission, the Gottman Institute
Ellie Lisitsa

The strongest relationships (and homes) are built from the ground up. According to Dr. Gottman’s 40+ years of research, one of the greatest predictors of your relationship’s success is your ability to turn towards each other, constantly developing your bond by making an effort every day to reach out to your partner and accept their bids for emotional connection. We have found that the majority of fights in relationships are the result of turning away from and against these bids. Turning away and against are related to both suppressed negativity (sadness, whining, stonewalling) and being in the attack-defend mode (anger, criticism, contempt, defensiveness, belligerence). Playful bids and enthusiastic efforts to turn towards each other result in heightened levels of positivity during conflict discussions. They also help you to build up your emotional bank account, maintain a strong and healthy bond, and bring the fire back into your romance.

When Dr. Gottman asked couples what they thought made their relationships feel more romantic, he heard the following examples: candle-lit dinners, soft music, lovely drives in the country, picnics, and moonlit walks. According to his research on relationships, none of these things alone will make your love life better if you are not first connected emotionally.

Here we will provide some easy but very effective ways in which you can make a deep and lasting emotional connection with your loved one and show them your commitment and attention throughout the day:

  • You have just woken up and your partner is lying next to you. Roll over, put your arm around them, and tell them how thankful you are that you get to wake up next to them every day.
  • You are reading the paper over breakfast and your partner makes a passing comment about a meeting they have at work that day. Follow up on what they said (put down that paper!) and give them your attention for a minute.
  • You are walking together and you see that your partner looks cold. Stop into the nearest coffee shop and get them a warm beverage!
  • Your partner is leaving to go somewhere. Tell them to come see you before they go. When they come to see you, give them a six-second kiss.
  • You see that your partner looks stressed. Let them know you’ve noticed, and ask them if they’d like to talk about what they are feeling.
  • Your partner sends you a text message about something, anything. Send them one back that lets them know how irresistible they are to you.
  • Compliment your partner about something they did. Compliment your partner about their appearance. Thank them for something they’ve recently done that you appreciate.
  • Your partner is back from their errand and is doing some housework. Without saying a word, join in and start helping them.
  • Your partner tells you that they are getting hungry. You tell them that you are too, and that you are going to take them out for dinner.
  • Your partner and you are talking after dinner, and they say how much they miss going out and dancing like you used to back in the day. Agree and recommend that you go out right now and dance.
  • Your partner is looking tired, but you are still having fun. You know that they have to be up early tomorrow to prepare for a meeting. Recommend that you go home so that they can get some rest.
  • You are in the bedroom and things are getting hot. Light some candles, and tell them that you want to re-discover their body for an hour.

See the video below to hear an excerpt from one of Dr. Gottman’s lectures on the building of attunement in your relationship – the things that you can do in the smallest moments that strengthen your connection and your trust in each other.

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