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Understanding Bids of Connection: Insights from John and Julie Gottman

In the intricate interplay of relationships, small moments of interaction can significantly influence the overall health and longevity of a partnership. John and Julie Gottman, relationship researchers and therapists, introduced the concept of "bids for connection" as a foundational element in building and maintaining strong relationships.

What Are Bids for Connection?

Bids for connection are attempts made by one partner to engage the other and receive positive attention, affection, or affirmation. These bids can be verbal, such as asking a question, or non-verbal, like a smile or a touch. The Gottmans’ extensive research at the Gottman Institute has shown that how couples respond to these bids significantly impacts their relationship’s success and happiness.

The Three Types of Responses to Bids

According to the Gottman's, there are three primary ways people respond to bids for connection:

Turning Toward: This response involves acknowledging and engaging with the bid, showing interest and enthusiasm. For example, if one partner says, “Look at this beautiful sunset,” the other might respond, “Wow, it’s stunning! I love watching sunsets with you.”

Turning Away: This response involves ignoring or missing the bid. It’s often unintentional and can happen due to distractions or preoccupations. For instance, if one partner makes a comment about the sunset and the other partner continues scrolling through their phone without responding, they are turning away.

Turning Against: This response is more overtly negative and dismissive. It can involve criticism or hostility. For example, if one partner remarks on the sunset and the other says, “Can’t you see I’m busy? Stop bothering me,” they are turning against the bid.

The Impact of Responses on Relationships

The Gottman's research indicates that couples who consistently turn toward each other's bids for connection have stronger, more resilient relationships. In fact, they found that in successful marriages, couples turn toward each other’s bids 86% of the time, whereas in marriages that ultimately ended in divorce, this occurred only 33% of the time (Gottman & Gottman, 2015).

Practical Tips for Turning Toward

Be Mindful and Present: Pay attention to your partner’s attempts to connect with you, even if they seem trivial. Being present in the moment can help you notice and respond positively to these bids.

Show Appreciation: Express gratitude and appreciation for your partner’s efforts to connect. Positive reinforcement can encourage more bids for connection.

Engage Actively: Participate in conversations and activities that your partner enjoys. This shows that you value their interests and contributions.

Practice Empathy: Try to understand your partner’s perspective and emotions. Empathizing with their experiences can strengthen your emotional bond.

Bids for connection may seem small, but their cumulative impact on a relationship is profound. By learning to recognize and respond positively to these bids, couples can foster a deeper sense of connection, understanding, and mutual support. John and Julie Gottman’s work underscores the importance of these everyday interactions in building a lasting and fulfilling relationship.


Gottman, J., & Gottman, J. (2015). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Harmony Books.

Gottman Institute. (n.d.). The Research. Retrieved from


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