What Are 'Relationship Bids' And Why Are They Important?

When you've been in a relationship for a while, it's easy to get so used to having your partner around that you might not even notice their presence in the house sometimes. And while there's comfort and security in that prospect, there could be downsides too. Any relationship expert would tell you that for your relationship to last a lifetime, there's got to be an intentional effort to connect. 

Think about a time when you and your significant other were watching a movie together. One of the characters in the movie reminded you of how one of your relatives behaved, and you brought this up during the movie. Your partner grunted an acknowledgment and continued watching the film. They didn't stop to ask what you meant. They didn't want to hear a funny story or a snippet from down memory lane. How did that make you feel? Ignored? Hurt? 

What you were doing, according to psychologist John Gottman of The Gottman Institute, was putting out a "relationship bid" to your partner. As dating coach and author Logan Ury shared via The Gottman Institute, "Bids can be small or big, verbal or nonverbal. They're requests to connect. They might take the form of an expression, question, or physical outreach. They can be funny, serious, or sexual in nature." With that said, you may be wondering why relationship bids are important. Well, there are a few reasons. 

It can foster a deeper connection

The interesting thing about these bids we make within our relationship is that they are an opportunity for a vulnerable connection. And we all know how being more vulnerable with your partner is essential in a healthy relationship. The sad part is that we often miss these opportunities. 

As Ury elaborated for The Gottman Institute, "Bids are often purposely subtle because people are afraid to be vulnerable and put themselves out there. It's scary to say, 'Hey! I want to connect! Pay attention to me!' so instead, we ask a question or tell a story or offer our hand for connection. We hope we'll receive connection in return, but if not, it's less scary than pleading, 'Connect with me, please!'" 

There are three ways in which you can respond to a relationship bid: you can ignore them (either unwittingly or wittingly), you can turn toward them and acknowledge them, or you can turn against them and respond in a negative way. When you do notice them and ask follow-up questions or return the gentle hug your partner gave you in the kitchen while you were doing the dishes, you're opening an important door toward a deeper connection. You're basically saying, "Hey, I'm interested in hearing more about what you have to say. I want to share this experience with you. I love you." 

How to harness the power of relationship bids to build a stronger union

For a relationship to thrive, it's important to notice the little things. If you're naturally prone to missing the bids, you may have to start by asking yourself why this is. Why is it difficult to notice your partner's subtle body language changes? Why do you avoid asking them why they sighed after sitting on the couch next to you? Are you afraid of being vulnerable? Is connection an area you struggle with? Speaking with someone about this could help uncover your own emotions surrounding it all.  

Train yourself to notice the little things. It might take some time, but the more you do it, the more natural it will become. Respond positively when you do. According to dating expert for Match, Hayley Quinn (via Metro U.K.), this could look like "returning someone's embrace, putting your phone away and listening, or joining in the conversation when your partner shares an observation."  

Plus, you can learn to notice your bids — those small moments in which you're trying to reach out to your significant other. After all, strong relationship bonds are built on everyday habits. As Ury wrote for The Gottman Institute, "Some people think they can put their relationship on ice and then thaw it out with the occasional romantic date night. But relationships are built and maintained with daily attention, not grand gestures." Relationship bids are all about the small gestures that sustain everything.