For many years I have thought of myself as a translator of women speak. When I have male clients, I help them understand what she meant. We think differently and that is a good thing, much of the time.
After reading a recent Instagram post by the Gottman Institute, I thought a word of encouragement was in order.
Bids for connection is a Gottman term- these are ways for you and your partner to connect. They may not be as obvious as they are intended.
How do we translate common interactions to mean “ I like you, I want to spend time with you, I want to break the ice.”
I you were to be asked, “ What have you been up to?” you could hear it any number of ways:
Why the interrogation?
Who wants to know?
I feel guilty and I am not sure why.
Uh oh I am in trouble.
S/he is interested in me.
At the risk of being sexist, I have observed this dynamic more when the person being asked the question is male.
A frequent misunderstanding comes when a simple question or request is heard differently than intended. If there has been a rift or an unresolved issued (and who doesn’t have one of those) then the “simple” question is interpreted through the lens of guilt or shame or anger.
Another way the bid for connection can go awry is when the question or request is met with a groan, a grunt or a sigh.
Regularly many of us interpret this negatively. “ He doesn’t like me, he is mad at me, I am bothering him, and maybe he doesn’t love me.” Although this may seem like a stretch, it is common. I cannot count how many female clients come in so relieved to hire a handyman glad to not have to ask their partner for a request or home repair- we don’t want to hear the groan, grunt or sigh. We take it personally. But when the request is an emotional one, and he appears unavailable….You don’t want her to stop asking.
Women shut down and if this pattern continues, she will find a way to cope and it is often without you. When I see a couple for marital therapy and one is checked out this is often why.
Does this mean that he must always be open, available, pleasant and pleasing? That would be nice but not realistic.
If the bid for connection could be viewed and heard as just that, maybe there isn’t a need for defensiveness or dread.
I believe many of us go around the block to request connection even though the direct approach would be quicker. Yet we don’t say “ I want to spend time with you” or “ I am tired and would really like some help.”
If our direct requests have been met with disdain or we are fearful of getting a rebuff, we go around the block instead. We dip our toe in the shallow end of the connection pool- we read the mood- we decide if it’s safe to swim into the deep end of emotional intimacy.
Some things to consider:
Do you want to be emotionally closer to her?
Do you make it easy for her to come to you for connection?
Do you hear her questions, statements as bids for emotional closeness?
A bit of a clue…. When she repeats and repeats and you hate it? Consider if you are responding. Women will say it ad nauseam in a desperate attempt to make connection.
If you are not familiar with John Gottman, I would urge you to consider some reading on the topic. For over thirty years he has researched relationships. There are ways to improve your relationship and it doesn’t require solving all the issues. Take heart.