“It’s the little things in marriage that make the biggest difference.”
Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – February 13, 2022
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10
Before I finally married at 46, I received a lot of counsel about how to have a great relationship: never go to bed angry; take time away together every week for a date day, and make sure to pray together.
While all of these are great nuggets of wisdom for keeping a marriage strong, there is one piece of advice I never received—and I had never even heard of—until after I tied the knot. I ran across this little bit of advice while perusing the internet to help the singles I coach who want a committed relationship.
This advice came from the Gottman Institute at the University of Washington where John Gottman first opened a couple’s laboratory in 1986. Since the 1980’s more than 3,000 married couples have taken part in Gottman’s “love lab” research. The idea is that if you know which information in a marriage is important and which isn’t, it’s possible to predict if couples will stay together or not.
One very important part of marriage is what Gottman calls relational “bids.” He says bids are “the fundamental unit of emotional communication.” In short, they are requests to connect with your partner. A bid can be a physical touch, a facial expression, a question, a compliment, or something like, “Hey, check out that beautiful bird on the feeder in our backyard!”
According to the Gottman Institute, “Depending on how often bids are ignored, Gottman says he can predict the likelihood of divorce. For example, research shows that happy couples turn toward their partners approximately 20 times more than couples in distress during everyday interactions.” After being married for six years, happy couples turn toward one another 86% of the time, but unhappy couples who divorced later only turned toward their mates 33% of the time.
A couple of years after I married, I initiated a bid for my husband to pay attention to me when I enter his office. Often times when I would open the door, he was understandably on his computer. That’s what he does when he is in his office. However, when I started to speak, sometimes because he was engrossed in what he was doing, he wouldn’t pay attention to me. I told him that when I was a kid, my father would ignore me and that it hurt. So, I asked him, “Will you do me a big favor? It would make me feel very loved.”
He said, “Sure, what?”
I said, “When I come into your office, will you stop for just a minute and pay attention to me?”
Ever since then, whenever I enter his space (unless it’s something that he just can’t do at the time) he turns his chair around, faces me, and waits for me to talk. It makes me feel so very honored, loved, and cherished. It’s just a little thing, but it has made a huge impact on me.
Gottman is right. It’s the little things in marriage that make the biggest difference. In short, it’s noticing your partner and making them feel special.
It’s not surprising that bids make such a big difference in a relationship. Jesus told us that when we put others first, our joy will be full. And He commanded us to love one other, meaning that love is a choice; it’s a decision and it’s what we have been created for.
How are you doing responding to your partner’s bids?
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).
Lord, help me to remember that I strengthen my relationship with my mate, and even with others I love in my life, just through small, consistent actions of making them feel honored. Help me to be present with those around me today.
For the next 24 hours, decide to be attentive to your mate and respond to all their bids. Then, take note of how you feel and how your relationship is impacted.
1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 4:7; Philippians 2:3
Warren Barfield: Love is Not a Fight
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