What Separates the Relationship Masters from the Relationship Disasters? It’s Not What You Think…

True story: I used to huff and puff really loudly when I wanted my fiancé’s attention and wasn’t getting it.

Maybe he’d be checking his work emails. Maybe he’d be on his phone texting his buddies to bet on the next football game. Maybe he’d be watching the news and minding his own business.

But whatever it was—if I needed to connect and he wasn’t being “attentive” enough, I’d get “huffy.” I’d breathe really heavily which, to me, was his queue to drop everything and give me some love.

And when he didn’t, I’d get really pissy. Then, I’d storm off like I was five, which would ultimately ruin our night.

What I wanted was some attention, and in my mind, he should’ve known that.

But what I was really doing was making a bid for his love. I was trying to connect (albeit, in a passive-aggressive way). And when he didn’t pay attention to that bid, I’d get my big girl panties in a huge wad.

Sound familiar to you?

Every day, all day, we make these things called bids to our partner. And, believe it or not, these little attempts to connect with them separate the relationship masters from the relationship disasters.

The History Lesson

John Gottman is an American psychological researcher and clinician who did extensive work over four decades on divorce prediction and marital stability.

Translation? He’s the ultimate relationship guru.

With the help of his colleague, Robert Levenson, Gottman conducted his research on bids at the University of Washington, where he recorded couples discussing their relationship—how they met, their most recent fight, and how they interact on a day-to-day basis.

Years later, Gottman and Levenson followed up with the couples and divided them into two groups: the ones who were still happily married and the ones who were unhappy, or worse, not together anymore. After they studied the tapes of these two groups, Gottman had a revelation:

But after many months of watching these tapes with my students, it dawned on me. Maybe it’s not the depth of intimacy in conversations that matters. Maybe it doesn’t even matter whether couples agree or disagree. Maybe the important thing is how these people pay attention to each other, no matter what they’re talking about or doing.

John Gottman

The secret to a successful relationship isn’t buying your spouse a yacht or travelling to exotic lands together. In fact, the answer has been smacking you in the face every damn day, and you didn’t even realize it.

Successful couples LISTEN.

They put away their phones when the other person is talking. They turn off the TV when they’re eating dinner together after a long day of work. They ask “how are you doing?” and actually want to know the full answer—not just “fine” or “it was good, how was yours?”

Healthy, drama-free couples are constantly making and responding to each other’s bids to connect and create depth in their relationship.

Okay, But What the Heck Is a Bid, Lisa?

So glad you asked.

Remember my story from earlier? You know—the one where I got all huffy when my fiancé wasn’t paying attention to me? Well, my passive-aggressive response came from the crash and burn of my attempted bid (aka, my request to connect with my partner).

Bids come in all shapes and sizes; they can be big or small, verbal or nonverbal. Let’s take a look at some examples for each:

Big Bids

Big bids tend to be more serious in nature, but they don’t always have to be. Maybe your husband books a romantic getaway in Napa Valley. Or perhaps your boyfriend of five years pops the question. These are both examples of big, romantic bids—but they’re not always so positive. An example of a big, negative bid might look like a wife threatening divorce.

Small Bids

On the other hand, bids don’t always have to be so big and bold. In fact, bids are almost always subtle, because many of us are afraid to be vulnerable. It’s nerve wracking to put yourself out there with the chance of someone shutting us down. So, we might crack a joke or tell a story from our day as an attempt to connect.

Verbal Bids

Verbal bids can be big or small, but many times, they come in the form of a question. For example, I may turn to my fiance at dinner and ask, “Hey, whatever happened with that frustrating client of yours?” or, “What would you like to do this weekend?” That being said, verbal bids don’t always have to take the form of a question. You could always huff and puff like I used to do (but maybe steer clear of that, just to be safe…).

Nonverbal Bids

A flirtatious squeeze, a tussle of your hair, or a big hug—nonverbal bids can say A LOT without saying anything at all! Sometimes they can be sexual in nature, but they don’t always have to be a physical outreach. While it may seem contradictory, you may make a bid to connect by doing the exact opposite—giving your spouse the cold shoulder.

You may have noticed that bids have a tendency to be positive or negative, toxic or healthy. True, you can choose the passive-aggressive route, but it’ll more than likely lead to the opposite of connection: fighting.

With Great Bidding Comes Great Responsibility

When making a bid to your partner, you have a choice: you can either take the passive-aggressive route, or you can choose a healthy way to connect.

However, it takes two to tango.

In other words, it’s up to the other person to respond positively to the bid in order to create a healthy, satisfying relationship. When we turn towards our partner in response to their bid, we build trust, emotional connection, and more.

Take a look at this chart I put together called “Why Relationships Derail” to see what I mean:

Sometimes we’re going to suck at accepting our partners bids (and vice-versa). You’re not perfect, and your spouse isn’t perfect, either. So, go easy on yourself.

That being said, the masters of relationships are far better at accepting bids than the disasters—a good-luck text before an interview, a lingering kiss after coming home from a long day at work, or putting your phone down when the other person is talking.

Sadly, an occasional date night won’t solve your marriage—relationships thrive with daily attention. So, bid often, even if it’s small, and show that you care.

I’m super lucky to do the job I do, because I get to research ways to make relationships better for my clients—but in turn, it also benefits my own relationship. I like to call it a win-win!

Well, because of this, I’ve learned that it’s actually the little, itty-bitty things that make or break the status of our relationship. So, the next time you feel like you’re not doing enough for your relationship, ditch the grand gesture. A simple “how’ve you been?” could hold the key to a lifetime of happiness together.


Speaking of a lifetime of happiness together, I’ve got a few more tricks up my sleeve…

Imagine what it would be like to have more intimacy and more connection with your spouse. Imagine coming home at the end of the day, actually excited to catch up with your partner. What would it look like to go to bed feeling both happy and fulfilled?

No matter which stage you’re in, maintaining and improving a healthy relationship with your partner takes a lot of effort.

But I have some amazing news…

You, alone, have the power to achieve more happiness, more intimacy, and less drama RIGHT NOW.

THE POWER OF ONE will teach you the secrets to end fighting, ditch blame, break destructive patterns and finally feel a connection again. Over the course of six weeks, we’ll focus on a) who YOU are and what you want in your life and relationship, b) discovering what’s holding you back, and c) learning tried + true successful methods to create the relationship you crave.

This program offers proven techniques and secrets to help you create the fulfilling, true love you desire. Think of this as an actionable plan for fixing your relationship. In other words, I’m not just teaching you what to do—but how to do it.

The best part? You can do it from the comfort of your own home!

Click here to schedule you FREE 30-minute call to see if we’re a good fit for each other!

Lisa Panos

Lisa Panos is a Certified Life Coach and Author who helps people stop struggling and start thriving in their personal and professional relationships. Trained by Dr. Martha Beck (aka, Oprah’s Life Coach), Lisa helps her clients create new, healthy relationships, mend those that are broken, or say goodbye to ones that no longer serve them. She combines highly effective coaching tactics with an explosive arsenal of personal experience that swiftly moves people out of dysfunction and into a place of deep inner strength.

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