We've all been there - your partner shares some exciting news with you, but you're distracted and barely respond.

Though it seems insignificant, failing to notice these "bids for attention" can slowly chip away at your relationship.

Dr. Gottman's research revealed a stark difference between couples who thrived and those who didn't. The key? Their responses to "bids" - requests for attention, affection, or any positive connection.

Thriving couples turned towards these bids 86% of the time, while divorced couples only managed 33%. This suggests a simple yet crucial turning point in any relationship: responding positively to bids fosters connection, while ignoring them can lead to its demise.

So, let's explore what are these "bids for attention" and find out how paying attention to bids, though small, saves relationships in big ways!

What Are Bids for Attention?

Before we dive in, let's define the key player: a "bid."

Psychologist John Gottman calls them "bids," subtle attempts to make an emotional connection. It serves as the cornerstone of emotional communication. This any attempt, big or small, to seek a connection from your partner could be a smile, pointing at something you find interesting, showing them a funny video, or even a request for advice or help. Essentially, it's reaching out for attention, affirmation, or any positive interaction.

Here are some examples of bids for attention:

  • Sharing good news ("I finished my puzzle!")
  • Telling a story or joke
  • Suggesting an activity to do together ("We should check out that new movie this weekend")
  • Updating your partner about your day ("The meeting was so boring")
  • Making affectionate physical contact (resting a hand on your partner's arm, giving a hug or kiss)
  • Asking for advice or input ("What do you think I should wear to the party?")
  • Responding enthusiastically to your partner's news or stories
  • Noticing and complimenting a change in appearance ("I love your new haircut!")
  • Asking questions to show interest ("How was lunch with your mom today?")

Responding to them thoughtfully keeps intimacy alive, while ignoring too many bids distances partners over time. Ignoring or missing someone's bid is equivalent to "turning away," which is bad for any relationship. Recognizing and reacting to an offer, on the other hand, represents "turning towards," which is the ideal we should all strive for.

Responding to Bids for Attention

How you respond to "bids" can make a big difference.

Research identified 3 ways partners respond to these "bids":

  • Turning towards: The ideal response, acknowledging and engaging with your bid shows you care and strengthens the bond.
  • Turning away: Ignoring, dismissing, or being too busy can leave you feeling unseen and unheard.
  • Turning against: Criticizing, blaming, or becoming hostile creates conflict and pushes you further apart

Examples of bids and responses:

Examples of bids for attention and responses

Bids can be tricky because they frequently involve both literal and implied messages. When our partner makes a bid, there is typically a straightforward, textual component - the overt story, question, gesture, etc. But there is usually also a deeper subtextual component, revealing emotional needs, insecurities, values, or simply their desire for connection.

For example, if your partner offhandedly shares a work failure, the superficial bid is just to update you about their day. But often implicit bids reveal vulnerability, asking for your reassurance, empathy, or even strategic advice. Or your partner may bid for touch, ostensibly to show affection but with the underlying bid-seeking reminder that you find them attractive or to feel emotionally safe when anxious.

The key is to develop empathy and emotional intelligence to interpret bids at both textual and subtextual levels. This means not just registering the surface-level words or behavior but actively listening for emotional undertones revealing connection desires too. Exercising this mindfulness around understanding layered bids and responding sensitively to fulfill both overt and covert needs is what keeps intimacy strong. Misreading or ignoring subtextual bids risks emotional distance and breakdowns. Understanding both content and emotional context is essential for healthy relationships.

What Happens When You Ignore Bids for Attention?

Gottman’s research makes clear that couples who consistently fail to notice bids for connection or treat them dismissively are far more likely to slowly grow apart over time. By ignoring too many bids, you send implicit signals: I don’t value what you have to share, I’m not interested in connecting with you, or I’m unwilling to be there for you emotionally.

When bids are chronically disregarded, the bidder feels hurt and begins to see less purpose in reaching out. This can also breed resentment on one side and apathy on the other in a toxic loop, as disinterest meets withdrawal meets more disinterest. Both partners stop making emotional investments and the relationship withers for lack of nourishment through positive expressiveness and responsiveness.

Additionally, the bidder whose attempts go routinely unnoticed or rebuffed often struggles with self-esteem over time, interpreting the lack of engagement as rejection or a sign their thoughts/feelings don’t matter to their partner. People start to feel insecure about their worth when bids consistently get brushed aside.

In all cases, emotional walls slowly rise as repeated bids hit dead ends, trust breaks down, and partners grow more disconnected. What suffers most is the profound empathy and sensitivity two people can offer each other when bids get embraced rather than ignored or dismissed. The feeling of being “known” can fade over time from bid neglect.

Tips on Recognizing and Responding to Bids for Attention

Since emotional connection thrives when bids are enthusiastically received, how can we nurture this bid-response awareness?

Recognizing Bids

  • Tune in fully when your partner is speaking - avoid distractions and make eye contact.
  • Listen for subtleties like tone shifts revealing vulnerabilities or desires.
  • Ask curious questions to uncover underlying emotional needs.
  • Don’t assume you always grasp indirect/vague bids - seek clarification.

Thoughtfully Responding Towards

  • Offer reassurance if bids reveal anxieties or insecurities.
  • Match the bid’s emotional energy - if lighthearted, respond playfully.
  • Discuss ways to help if advice-seeking bids relate to stresses.
  • With loving touch bids, reciprocate affection.
  • If unable to fully engage a bid at the moment, explain kindly and make time later.
  • Never mock, criticize, or escalate conflict in response to a bid.

The overarching strategies are mindfulness, empathy, and respect. Seek to understand and then meet bids in their full spirit - text and subtext. This consistent emotional attentiveness cements bonds over decades.

Overcoming Challenges

While the importance of turning toward bids seems clear, doing so meaningfully amid the chaos of life can certainly prove challenging. We all face distractions, stressors, and competing demands that make thoughtful bid responses difficult.

When we feel overwhelmed, exhausted, or preoccupied, truly tuning in to our partner’s bids for empathy, advice, playfulness, or affection may feel impossible in the moment. We may intend to be present but struggle with bid fatigue, lacking the capacity for emotional availability when bids feel incessant. Additionally, bids sometimes arise at inconvenient moments when we’re completely focused elsewhere.

The key is acknowledging these challenges while still reinforcing that bids matter. When unable to properly engage a bid, kindly explain why along with a simple reassurance: “I want to hear all about this, but I’m completely swamped meeting this deadline. Can we pick this up over dinner?” Or “I’m sorry I can’t focus right now but I want you to know I’m here for you.”

Additionally, discuss bid challenges outside of strained moments. Mutually share what circumstances make responsiveness hard yet also hear each other’s need to connect. Discover ways to help bids feel less taxing while upholding their importance. A little goodwill goes a long way.

Here are other actionable steps you can do:

  • Communicate openly when certain bids feel overwhelming for some reason, while still validating their importance. Set expectations.
  • Discuss a signal when one partner reaches bid capacity yet reassure you want to reconnect later.
  • Set tech-free times or zones in your home to reduce device interference with bids.
  • Share schedules so you understand each other's demanding days and don't take bid fatigue personally.
  • Promise to pause and fully listen when either says: "I have a bid - can you take a minute?" Use this timeout to show bids matter.
  • Plan regular check-ins as a couple to share feelings around bidding and receiving.
  • Praise each other's bid efforts to reinforce attentiveness even during exhaustion or stress.
  • Seek counseling if chronically struggling to understand bids, set boundaries, communicate empathetically, and supportively respond. Professionals can guide communication tactics.

The goal is to balance self-care, honesty, and priority around emotional needs - no matter what life demands. Make bids a steady drumbeat of connection.

Bids for attention are the beating heart of healthy relationships. They may be subtle, but they are definitely vital moments of emotional connection. Responding with empathy and care builds cumulative trust and understanding over years together. However, allowing bids to be chronically disregarded slowly starves relationships as partners feel increasingly dismissed and disconnected.

Attentiveness to both surface bids as well as their layered emotional subtext keeps intimacy thriving. Mindfulness around recognizing and validating bids prevents resentment, apathy, and emotional isolation. Though life’s demands often distract from bids, treating them as sacred helps cement bonds even through exhaustion or challenges. Mutual reassurance makes weathering storms easier.

As you move forward, I think this is the right time to reflect deeply on bids in your own relationships. Do you pour consistent positive energy into bids? Or reflexively ignore subtle chances at connection? Ensure wholeness through awareness. Listen more intently, offer comfort, and laugh together. Fulfill bids and feel closeness flourish exponentially. The little moments are everything - develop bid gratitude now.

About the Author

Sheravi Mae Galang

Sheravi Mae Galang is a Content Coordinator for the Couply app. Couply was created to help couples improve their relationships. Couply has over 300,000 words of relationship quizzes, questions, couples games, and date ideas and helps over 400,000 people.

Sheravi enjoys writing and is currently studying at the Cebu Institute of Technology - University for her current pursuit of a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology. You can connect with her through email here.