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How to Connect With Your Partner

How to Connect With Your Partner

Strengthen Your Bond: Turning Towards Each Other, Instead of Away

Are you missing opportunities to connect with your partner? Do you feel your relationship could use an emotional connection spark? It is common for partners to go through waves of feeling more or less connected during the span of a relationship. As a couples therapist and marriage counselor, I often hear from my couples that they don’t feel as connected as they used to. They talk about feeling like roommates more than feeling like a partner.

What if I told you there is a simple way to remain connected throughout the ups and downs of your relationship? Something that you or your partner are probably already doing, but not paying close attention to? Would you want to the simple way to stay connected? Of course you would! A simple way to feel connected with your partner is what we in the therapy world call “bids for attention.”

Marriage and Family Therapy researcher Dr. John Gottman (founder of “The Gottman Method” of marriage counseling) is well-known for his contribution in the couples counseling world. He’s known for studying and observing premarital couples and newlyweds, to long-term couples years later, in order to find what keeps couples married and what leads to divorce. [Check out: How to Stop a Divorce, and Save Your Marriage].

One of Dr. Gottman’s studies found that couples who remained married after 6 years together, recognized bids for attention and turned towards their partner 86% of the time. Couples who divorced after 6 years turned towards each other only 33% of the time. So I guess the question is, do you fall closer to 86% or 33%? In order to answer this question, you probably need more information about what bids for attention are, and how you can respond to them. Let’s talk about them!

What Are “Bids For Attention?”

Bids for attention are much more than questions or statements made by our partner. Bids for attention are attempts to connect with our partner when we are seeking attention, affirmation, or affection. A bid for attention is a way of saying “please pay attention to me”, “please talk with me”, “please lay with me”, or “please help me de-stress after the day I’ve had”, without actually asking explicitly.

I know what you might be thinking, shouldn’t our partner just tell us they want to talk about something or lay together? Am I really supposed to just know what my partner needs? Those are great questions! While explicitly asking your partner for something in order to meet your needs is important, bids for attention are just as important. Bids for attention aren’t intentionally asking your partner to read between the lines, they are the ways we reach out for connection that are less vulnerable than saying “I need you, please talk with me.” [Read: Vulnerability- The Biggest Risk, and Greatest Reward]

How to Spot Bids For Attention

The secret to recognizing your partner’s bids, is to read the subtext underneath what your partner is actually saying. This requires paying attention to not only your partner, but also yourself and your responses. Here are some examples:

Bid for Attention vs. What Your Partner is Needing

“There was so much traffic on my drive home.” Really means, “I want to chat with you.

“I ran into Rachel at the store today.” Really means, “I want you to hear about my day.

“Will you watch this movie with me?” Really means, “Can we spend time together?”

“How was dinner tonight?” Really means, “I want your affirmation that you liked the dinner I made for you.

“I need a hug after today.” Really means, “Can I have your affection?”

“Wow, check out the sunset!” Really means, “Can I have your attention?

These are just a few examples of what your partner may really be asking for when they mention something about their day, ask to do something, or ask for you attention.

How To Respond to Bids For Attention

You can respond to a bid in three ways.

First, you can “turn away”, meaning ignoring or not recognizing the bid completely. This is the most hurtful response, as it tells your partner that you are not interested, and it shuts down connection altogether.

Another way to respond is by “turning against,” which means to reject the bid. While this is not necessarily helpful either, it at least lets your partner know that you’ve recognized their bid, and acknowledges them. It is okay to reject a bid, because we cannot expect our partner to be able to respond 100% of the time.

A positive way to reject a bid is to let your partner know that you’ve heard them, and that you want to check in with them later when you’re up for it. You can simply say, “It sounds like you’ve had a hard day. I really want to hear about it, but I’m not feeling up for it at this moment. Can we wait 30 minutes and then I’ll be ready to give you my attention?” This is still considered rejecting a bid but not as destructive as ignoring it!

The last way you can respond to a bid is by “turning towards” your partner, and meeting the need they are asking for. This lets them know you’ve recognized their bid, you’re acknowledging it, and you’re giving your partner what they’re needing from you in that moment. This is where the connection comes from!

How to Practice Turning Towards Your Partner

Now that we know what bids are, and the different responses to them, let’s talk about how you can practice turning towards.

How do you ask for connection? Both you and your partner should reflect on your own ways of bidding for attention. You
can also share with each other your reflections in order to start recognizing them when they happen. For example, one of the main bids I use is sharing a small piece of my day, which is my way of asking my partner to engage in a conversation with me to connect. It’s helpful to know how you and your partner bid for attention.

Dig a little deeper: Next, practice reading into the subtext of each bid. The next time your partner reaches out to you for anything, think about what they may really be needing or wanting from you? The more you practice, the better you’ll get!

Just remember, bidding for attention is common in relationships, and the best thing we can do for our relationship — and for our partner — is to turn towards them, rather than turn away. Building connection doesn’t always mean big gestures or long talks, it can simply mean recognizing your partner’s needs for connection and meeting them.

The data is clear: Turning towards your partner 86% leads to a long and happy marriage… 33% can spell real trouble for your relationship. I hope that this discussion gave you some ideas about how to increase your connection, and strengthen your relationship.

Premarital Counseling: Set Your Marriage Up For Success

Premarital Counseling: Set Your Marriage Up For Success

On The Fence About Premarital Counseling?

Wedding season is upon us, so I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the benefits of premarital counseling, and why so many marriage counselors and couples believe it’s such a good investment for a relationship. Here are some FAQs that couples often have when deciding if premarital counseling is right for them:

We have a great relationship and don’t have any issues. How can premarital counseling help us?

Even the best relationships could use improvements in conflict resolution and communication. There may be “blind spots” that you’re unaware of that could potentially become an issue later on in your relationship. Premarital counseling allows couples to be proactive about these issues before they even arise.

How does premarital counseling differ from couples therapy?

In general, premarital counseling is much more structured than traditional couples therapy, particularly if you do a structured premarital program or a premarital class. Many couples enter into premarital counseling without an agenda, or unsure of even what to talk about. An experienced marriage therapist will be able to structure sessions around topics that are common issues that couples tend to come to marriage counseling for later. Typically premarital counseling is less in depth than couples therapy.

What can I expect in a typical session?

Sessions can be as structured as needed, depending upon the couple. Some couples come into premarital counseling already with an idea of what they would like to focus on, while others enter into the process without an agenda. Premarital counseling can be effective in both of these situations. A good therapist will tailor your sessions to your unique needs.

How many sessions do you recommend?

I’ve found the average number of sessions for premarital couples to be 5-7; sometimes more, sometimes less. This totally depends on what couples would like to focus on, and how in depth they’d like to go.

There is a lot of information and talking points that we’ve found on the internet on what to talk about before getting married. Why should I pay for premarital counseling?

Private coaching or therapy gives couples the opportunity to focus on the unique needs of their relationship, and to practice new ways of interacting with each other. Additionally, having an objective marriage expert by your side could help you prevent some pitfalls that you may not even be aware of.

Many couples find it helpful to develop a relationship with a therapist so that they can easily come in for maintenance. Similar to finding a good mechanic for your car, having a trusted person to go to for a “tune up” of your relationship is a great benefit.

More questions about pre-marital counseling? We have answers…

What to expect in premarital counseling?

How much does premarital counseling cost?

Can we do premarital counseling online?

Is premarital counseling really necessary?

I hope this information about pre-marital counseling helps you both decide if it’s the right decision for you.

 

Premarital Couples: Is There a “Best” Age To Get Married?

Premarital Couples: Is There a “Best” Age To Get Married?

Does How Old You Are When You Marry Matter?

We do a lot of premarital counseling at Growing Self, and so I’m always interested in sharing information about all matters related to creating a happy marriage, and a lifetime of love. I recently had the privilege of speaking with Kristen Skovira of Denver 7 about a topic that I find fascinating: Recent research suggesting that there is an “ideal age” to get married — and lower your chance of divorce. I thought I’d share the highlights of our interview with you.

The “Sweet Spot” For a Successful Marriage

Nicholas H. Wolfinger, a sociologist at the University of Utah, has compiled data in family research which suggests that there is in fact a “sweet spot” for getting married. People who get married between the ages of 27 to about 31 have a lower likely-hood of divorcing than younger couples, OR couples who marry in their later thirties and forties.

 

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Why Do Older or Younger Couples Seem To Have More Problems

No one knows for sure, but I have a few theories:

1) Couples who marry in their late twenties may have personality factors and life circumstances that support happy marriages. 

There is lots of research documenting factors that support successful marriages. These include higher levels of education, higher socio-economic status, as well as personal factors such as strong commitment, values around marriage and family, responsibility, and conscientiousness.

People who get married in their late twenties have given themselves time to get through college and / or graduate school, and get established in a career — evidence of personal responsibility and conscientiousness. However, they have also prioritized finding a mate, and cultivating a relationship. (As opposed to spending six years hiking through Eurasia, messing around in the Peace Corps, or spending 80 hours a week clawing themselves up some corporate ladder).

Their life decisions may reflect their core values, which is “marriage and family is very important to me.” Having that core value may help sustain their commitment to the inevitable ups and downs of marriage during years to come, as well as seek out support that will help them nourish their relationship during hard times.

In contrast, people who delay marriage until later life may not have the same priorities around marriage and family. (Although many older adults absolutely do — they just haven’t found the one yet).

2) People who marry later may be carrying “relationship baggage” into their new marriages. 

Swapping out one relationship for another doesn’t necessarily change you. People who have had a string of relationships through their twenties and thirties may be repeating the same negative relationship patterns with a succession of new partners. If they don’t do some work to identify and fix their rigid and unhelpful ways of relating in relationships, they are likely to carry those destructive patterns with them when they finally do marry. This is particularly true if marriages are fueled by anxiety as well as love. (As in, “I’m thirty-seven and I really need to get married — stat.”)

Furthermore, all of us usually learn how to “do relationships” from our families of origin. The fact is that people in their 30’s and 40’s are children of the 70’s and 80’s — decades when divorce rates were at an all-time high.  Many Gen Xers and Gen Yers often did not have good models for how to repair and nourish healthy, happy marriages.  Their parents chucked it when it got hard, and chose to look elsewhere for their happiness. People who did not have good role models in the relationship department often need to get some guidance on “How To Do Relationships” — particularly if repeated relationship disappointments suggest that they may have room for improvement. Without using failed relationships as an opportunity for learning and growth, they’re likely to repeat negative patterns in new ones.

3) Blended family situations are very difficult.

The info-graphic we’re discussing is specific to first-time marriages. But I feel that it would be irresponsible for me to not touch upon a major factor impacting people who marry when they are older: Blended family situations.

Many older couples-with-kids (even those who love each other very much, and are extremely excited about getting married to each other) are absolutely shocked by how difficult negotiating blended families can be. The higher divorce rates for second and third marriages reflect the grim reality: Blended families are uniquely challenging.

There are many reasons why blended families and step-families are hard. Most couples attempting step-parenting require support and guidance as they work through the turbulent first years of creating new family roles, figuring out boundaries with each other’s kids, and supporting each other as parents — while establishing a strong marriage. It can be emotionally harrowing. Couples who successfully establish happy blended families do so through a great deal of intentional effort. I believe that statistics on divorce rates for older couples reflect the challenge that many blended families face.

Statistics Are Not YOUR Reality

But here’s the truth — MOST couples have lovely, happy marriages no matter what age they marry. Divorce rates are falling, and half of what they were at their peak in the 1980s. Furthermore, statistics don’t account for personal factors. I personally have been with my husband since I was nineteen years old, and got married when I was twenty-two. According to this nifty chart, I should have gotten divorced a long time ago. Twenty years on, we’re happier than ever.

One way to ensure that you have a happy, satisfying, and secure marriage — no matter what age you are — is to get involved in high quality premarital counseling before you get married. Premarital counseling allows you to get on the same page going in to your marriage, and to solve potential problems before they even become a thing. It’s the responsible thing to do.

All the best,

— Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

P.S. Growing Self Counseling and Coaching offers both private premarital counseling sessions in Denver, as well as our wildly popular premarital class, “A Lifetime of Love,” taught by Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists Meagan Terry and Brenda Fahn. Learn more about our premarital counseling and premarital class opportunities, and let us help you create a lifetime of happiness together…

Planning a Wedding? Ask a Wedding Expert!

Getting Married? WIN Your Wedding!

Getting Married? WIN Your Wedding!

WIN Your Wedding!

If you are getting hitched this year, you don’t want to miss the “Wedding Wars” Bridal Show on January 12th. Top wedding vendors from all over Denver will be competing with each other to see who can create the most inspirational wedding magic.

There will be four style corners, showcasing the current trends in décor, floral, fashions, food and more. Mix, mingle, partake in tastings, and prepare to be awed by gorgeousness.

Free Premarital Counseling

As part of the evening’s entertainment and education, Denver premarital counselors Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, LMFT and Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT will be giving an exclusive presentation about premarital counseling.

You’ll learn about the top “friction points” for most couples in the first years of marriage, and how you can get on the same page and avoid potential problems. You’ll also receive a fun “relationship check up” premarital assessment that will tell you if your relationship is ready for the challenges of marriage, or if you have some opportunities for growth.

You will also be entered to win incredibly valuable prizes, including $375 dollars worth of private premarital counseling or a spot in our Lifetime of Love Premarital & Relationship Class (worth $260).

Best yet, ONE lucky couple who will win the grand prize: A $15,000 dream wedding in Breckenridge Colorado planned by L Elizabeth Events!!

If you are planning a wedding in 2017, you must come to Wedding Wars.

What: Wedding Wars Bridal Show
When: Thursday January 12, 2017
Where: Falls Event Center, 8199 Southpark Circle, Littleton CO 80120
Time: 5:30pm – 8:30pm

Click here to get your tickets! Use this special offer code for a discount on your tickets – WW2017 – as a special “Thank You” from Growing Self!

Planning a Wedding? Ask a Wedding Expert!

Create a Lifetime of Love

Expert Premarital Counseling in Denver, across the US, and Internationally.

Have More Wedding Dazzle, Less Wedding Frazzle

Have More Wedding Dazzle, Less Wedding Frazzle

Getting Married is a Big Deal. Do it Right.

Are you planning a Colorado Wedding? There are soooo many things to think about when you’re getting married: Venue, food, music, the ceremony, the dress. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind and feel overwhelmed — so much, that the relationship you want to celebrate can start to feel the stress.

So many choices are ahead of you, and there are so many possibilities to designing your dream wedding in Denver. It can be hard to know where to begin. Stress levels go up and what should be a joyful time can begin to feel a little out of control.

I’m here to offer you some advice, and also some help:

Free Advice From Denver Wedding Experts

I know how overwhelming it can be to plan a wedding. Here is my wedding gift to you — a FREE “Ask A Wedding Expert Event” I’m hosting with L Elizabeth Wedding Planners. We are getting a group of some of Denver’s best and top rated wedding experts — a caterer, an officiant, a wedding stylist, a musician, and a photographer — in the same room for you to just talk and ask questions in an informal, non-promotional atmosphere.

I want to do this for you because, amidst the overwhelm and chaos, the most important and essential things to do before you get married — like premarital counseling — can seem less relevant than centerpieces and cake flavors. My hope is that by getting guidance in the wedding planning process you are able to lower your stress, have the wedding you want, AND have time and energy left over to invest in premarital counseling. Because the point of all of this is to have a fantastic marriage.


 

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Ask the Denver Wedding Experts on 3/16: Learn More


 

Another Wedding Present For You:

Free Relationship Advice

(From a marriage counselor who has also been married for a long time).

Get professional premarital counseling, or take a premarital class. (And talking to your church pastor a couple of times doesn’t count). Please. Your children will thank you for it.

I have been married for nearly 20 years now, and I can barely remember my own wedding. What I do know is that the relationship I have with my husband is the cornerstone of my life. The fabric of our marriage, like everyone else’s, is made up of the way we talk to each other, they way we support each other emotionally, and the agreements we have made as a couple about the way we handle our shared life.

We are in a great place now. AND, like many young couples, we had many dramatic,  intense, and stupid arguments about how we talk to each other, how we needed to be supported emotionally, and stuff-of-life like housework and money before we figured it all out. The first few years we were married there were times I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it, because it seemed like we had so many differences.

What I know now, after so many years of marriage (and becoming a marriage counselor) is that it simply doesn’t need to be that hard. We would have been saved a lot of aggravation and heartache if we’d gotten involved in high quality premarital counseling before getting married. Learning how relationships actually work, how to communicate with each other, and creating agreements in advance would have made all the difference.

Thankfully, in our case it worked out. Many couples are not so lucky. We see many couples in marriage counseling 3, 4 and 5 years after the wedding still trying to hash all these things out. But unfortunately, fighting about it for years has created hurt feelings, resentment and mistrust that eroded their bond. Many times we can help these couples grow back together again. But sometimes it’s too late.

So come to the “Ask The Denver Wedding Experts” event on March 16th to get free wedding planning advice, and also meet the premarital counselors on my team, Jessica Small, M.A., and Meagan Terry, M.A. (I’ll be there too.) On top of everything else, you’ll also leave with our “Five Essential Skills For Every Couple” mini training.

Hope to see you there,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. If you know you want premarital counseling and want a easy, convenient and inexpensive way to do it, check out our six week “Lifetime of Love” Premarital Class. The next session starts on Monday March 30, at 6pm!


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Planning a Wedding? Ask a Wedding Expert!

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