Do you Turn Towards, Turn Away or Turn Against?

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Have you thought much about what makes some relationships work and others fail? I have been interested in this question, through working with individuals and couples with relationship issues over many years. I am always interested in what helps some couples have loving, respectful and successful relationships and others experience constant pain and heartache.

Dr John Gottman, professor of psychology at the University of Washington has researched couples for close to 40 years. Dr. Gottman has developed a methodolgy that predicts with 90% percent accuracy which newlywed couples will remain married and which will divorce four to six years later. This research also applies to same-sex couples.

One of the important aspects of this research has been noting the behaviours of successful couples. Dr Gottman has concluded that individuals in relationships are constantly making emotional bids for connection with one another. He has noticed that couples that ‘turn towards’ one another in everyday interactions report higher relationship satisfaction and are less likely to separate. Couples that ‘turn away’ or ‘turn against’ are much less happy in their relationships and less likely to stay together.

You might be asking, ‘what does turning towards, away and against mean?’ Here is a simple example to help you understand this. Let’s say if your partner shares something about their day with you i.e. they are making a bid for connection, and you respond with interest, then you are ‘turning towards’. Lets take the same scenario at a different time and you don’t respond, ignore or walk away, then you are ‘turning away’. Perhaps another time, you think your partner is interrupting you and you respond angrily, then you are ‘turning against’

I think the really important aspect of this research, is that it shows how the simple everyday experiences, exchanges and interactions with our partners can make a significant difference to the longevity and satisfaction of any relationship.

This theory can also be transferred to relationships in the workplace, with friends and family. You might want to begin to notice how you are interacting with the significant people in your life. How are you responding to others’ bids for emotional connection? How do you interact with the bids for connection that are made towards you by colleagues at work? What bids for connection do you make with the important people in your life? Do you turn towards, turn away or turn against?

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