A couple of weeks ago, I was catching up on some of the latest news surrounding the Gottman Institute (I’m a Gottman Certified Therapist & Trainer). There’s been a ton of buzz lately about their most recent book, The Love Prescription: 7 Days to More Intimacy, Connection and Joy, which “distills the Gottmans’ work into a bite-size, seven-day action plan with easy, immediately actionable steps.”
One element of that plan is what’s been described as the Gottmans’ No. 1 relationship hack: turning toward what they call bids for connection.
If you read my last post about the familiar post-holiday slump, you’ll be glad to know that turning toward your partner when you’re in that place of the “blahs” is one great way to recharge your batteries and connect.
But I’ll be honest, when you’re experiencing these lows, it can be tough to do that. And yes, I’m speaking from experience!
A few weeks back, Eric and I were winding down for the night, and I had this feeling that he wanted more time with me. I could sense the pull of his desire to be close and intimate.
I, on the other hand, just wanted to be by myself — in the bathtub, into my PJ’s, and straight into bed — in my own little bubble, thankyouverymuch.
Eric could tell something wasn’t quite right, so he asked, “So what are you thinking?”
“I just wish that I had the least bit of desire to be connected and intimate because I know you want that closeness,” I told him. “But I just want to hole up. I don’t want anyone to ask anything of me, and I feel guilty and bad about that.”
And do you know what he said? “Let me turn toward you. Let me come into your space and just hold you and not require anything of you.”
That response was incredibly generous and gracious. Eric has emotional and physical needs just like I do, but he also understands that I was feeling tapped out. That he wasn’t resentful or judgmental about this definitely helped me to overcome the shame of not wanting to be connected.
There are times in every partnership when one partner has nothing to give. The other partner, in their ability to turn toward that and be gracious and kind instead of judgmental or resentful but to be gracious and kind, makes space for connection, helping their partner to feel loved, seen, and appreciated.
If you notice your partner experiencing similar struggles, especially this time of year, consider turning toward them with empathy and care, not frustration.
Here are some things you can say to your partner to build them up:
- “Let me be what you need in this space.”
- “I require nothing of you.”
- “Let’s take some space away from being intimate, and we’ll work back to that.” (Note: this needs to be agreed upon by both partners in order for it to be effective; it does not look like one partner withholding intimacy.)
- “Let’s take a step back and reevaluate how we connect and come together.”
- “Let’s look at what this year could be as we rebuild our rituals of connection like date nights or getaways that may have slipped off the calendar.” (This one is especially relevant to me and Eric this year as we’ve been caring for so many other people — kids, grandkids, friends…)
- “Let’s plan the next few months of slowly reintroducing those rituals of connection.”
Eric and I will be working our way through The Love Prescription soon, and we’d love to invite you to do the same.
And if you’d like to take a deeper dive into assessing and rebuilding your relationship, The Art and Science of Love is a terrific place to start. Our February 4-5, 2023 workshop is filling quickly, but we’ll also be leading another one on April 22-23, 2023. You can register here to save your place.
We hope to see you there! In the meantime, enjoy diving into the Gottmans’ book!