The Gottman Method of couples counseling has many interesting concepts that address some of the ways that our behaviors play a role in relationship satisfaction. One of those concepts is called “bids.” Multiple times throughout the day, a partner uses these “bids” with the other partner, and how the other partner responds to these bids plays a key role in how happy both partners feel about each other.
What Are Bids?
“Bids” is shorthand for the need for some type of positive interaction with a partner. When a person makes a “bid,” they are typically asking for something like attention, love, support, affection, or intimacy. Examples might include reaching for a partner’s hand or asking the partner to cook with them. Sometimes, the bids are not necessarily a request, but the beginning of something, like asking a question to them when they walk into a room like “how was work?”
Bids occur many, many times during the day, often by both partners.
What Are “Bid Responses?”
When one partner makes a “Bid,” the other partner is tasked with responding. According to the Gottman Method, bids may receive the following three response types:
Turning Towards – Turning towards the bid is the act of responding to the bid at all. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the person engages with each bid, but it does mean that there is a positive acknowledgment, gesture, or some type of interaction that indicates that the bid has been received.
Turning Away – Turning “away” in this case means ignoring the bid or not responding positively. For example, not moving when someone reaches to hold hands or staring at their phone instead of responding to a question. Turning “away” is not necessarily a hostile gesture, but showing disinterest or not prioritizing the response to a bid.
Turning Against – Turning “against” is actively rejecting the bid. These have a bit of a hostile component, such as purposefully moving a hand away, negatively responding to a question, or pushing someone away when they move in for a kiss.
Turning away or turning against are both potentially damaging to the relationship. But it should be noted that these actions are not always conscious or designed to be hostile. Sometimes, it is an action taken because they do not have an awareness that their partner is making a “Bid.”
How Responding to Bids Can Improve Relationships
When a couple is having problems, the therapist may look at examples of these bids and work with the couple to teach a higher frequency of positive bid responses. The goal is to teach the idea of “turning toward” more often. Couples that “Turn Toward” and respond more positively to bids are more likely to feel positive and more connected in their relationship. By improving this intimacy, the couple is more likely to feel happy and satisfied with their partner.
There are many different couples therapy techniques that we use here at Flourish Psychology. One approach, called the “Gottman Method,” is a popular and well researched couples counseling system that is designed around improving communication, building trust, and identifying ways to change together.
There are many components to the Gottman Method, but today, let’s talk about something called the “Harsh Start Up.” It is a conversational technique that some couples implement that the Gottman Method identifies as essentially “guaranteed to end in negativity.”
Harsh Start Ups and Negative Conversation Outcomes
Harsh startups occur when, within only a few moments of conversation, a partner uses harsh criticism, sarcasm, contempt, or other negative conversational tactics. Some examples of this include:
Always/Never Complaints – “You never ask me how my day is.”
Sarcasm – “Oh yeah, I’m **sure** you were going to get to it.”
Passive Aggressive Complaining – “This house is always a mess when I’m not here.”
Blame – “You are the reason his homework is never completed.”
One Sided – “You are why I am like this.”
Timing also plays a role in a harsh start up. For example, if a person comes home from work happy to see their partner, and the partner responds with saying “as usual, you forgot to take the trash out” in a way that sounds like they have contempt, the conversation immediately goes somewhere negative.
Gottman found that harsh start ups create almost immediate problems:
They lead to defensiveness, shutting down, and frustration.
They escalate, often leading to further fighting and arguments.
They are very unlikely to lead to change or a solution.
Harsh start ups are not always due to some partner’s flaws, or a sign of some ill purpose. Sometimes, harsh start ups are a response to frustration, or because someone feels unheard. Nevertheless, research shows that starting a conversation in this way is essentially doomed to failure, and new ways of conversing are necessary in order to have more productive conversations.
What Are Gentle Start Ups?
Gentle startups are an approach that is far more likely to lead to a successful conversation. Gentle startups tend to utilize “I” statements, avoid contempt, sarcasm, or blame, and are brought on at times that make sense for a conversation. Examples of gentle startups include:
“I’ve been feeling really lonely recently and I would like us to have a date night.”
“I like cooking for the family, but I would really like it if you were able to take on a few nights of cooking, as I’ve been a bit overwhelmed.”
“I saw we were late on the rent this month. Is everything okay?”
“Do you think we could schedule time next weekend to clean the house? I’m feeling like the clutter is starting to get to me.”
Gentle startups are less aggressive and reduce defensiveness. They allow for a more natural conversational flow. That is not to say that every gentle startup will be a successful conversation, but learning to speak to each other in this way can reduce arguments and help promote better and more productive talks in order to work out the problems the couples face.
See a Gottman Therapist Today – Flourish Psychology
Flourish Psychology offers several couples counseling techniques, including Gottman therapy. If you feel like your relationship could improve, give us a call and let’s start a conversation about the best way to help you both thrive as a couple.
Flourish Psychology is a private practice in Brooklyn that offers couples therapy services, available for couples in any stage in their relationship. Part of identifying the best way to heal and grow your relationship is to determine what approach is most likely to provide you with the greatest benefit.
We believe that every couple is unique, and – rather than adhere to one strict and rigid approach – we try to find out what solution makes the most sense for you both in your marriage or partnership.
The Gottman Method
One of the techniques that we may deploy is known as the Gottman Method. It is a popular, extensively researched couples therapy approach that integrates many different techniques to rebuild a relationship.
There are many tenants the Gottman Method, but the simplest way to understand this approach is that it identifies signs of a struggling relationship through specific behaviors (criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt) that are often identified within therapy, and then tries to address those through a series of techniques designed around rebuilding love, affection, trust, and communication – known as the “Sound Relationship House Theory.”
The Gottman Method is also a conflict resolution technique, and designed to help reduce issues with perpetual conflict.
What Are Some Gottman Method Therapy Techniques?
Like most forms of both therapy and couples counseling, the Gottman Method is not one single technique but a series of different strategies that the couple will do together. The Gottman Method is also actionable – meaning, there are specific tasks that the couples are expected to complete. Some forms of couples counseling are more about thoughts, feelings, and understandings, but the Gottman Method has specific tasks for each couple.
Examples of these techniques include:
Creating Love Maps – Love Maps involve creating connections and mental space in your mind for all the details of your partner, like who they are, their life history, their experiences, their traumas, their goals, and even specific things like their opinions and quirks. The goal is to know your partner intimately enough that they are almost like a part of you.
Learning to “Turn Towards” – Within relationships, partners often seek out love and affection from their partner. It’s not uncommon in struggling relationships for the other partner to ignore this need or not realize what is being asked of them. This technique helps the couple respond in a healthier way when their partner needs them.
Share Fondness and Admiration – One unhealthy habit that couples can fall into is forgetting to emphasize and share their positive views of their partner, especially if the relationship has created more toxic communication habits. This technique makes it easier to share positive traits within a setting where the counselor can guide healthy interactions.
The Gottman Method is extensive, and there are far more techniques that may be used, such as conflict resolution strategies, self-soothing, creating shared meaning, and more. What is ultimately used depends on where you are as a couple and what we see is the best way to help you achieve a long lasting relationship.
Gottman Therapists in NYC with Flourish Psychology
The Gottman Method is an outstanding approach to couples therapy, and we have helped many couples find greater strength in their relationship through this methodology. But it is also only one approach of many, and sometimes, it helps to know you as a couple to determine what therapy is best. Please schedule a time to speak about your relationship, and let’s help determine what will be the best way to provide you with a stronger, longer lasting partnership.
Mental health is complicated. Relationships are also complicated. Sometimes, we are able to identify when we need help for one problem or the other. When we struggle with anxiety, we may seek out an anxiety therapist. When our relationships struggle, we may seek out a couples counselor. But, often, we do not always recognize the way that both can affect each other.
Individual or Couples Therapy?
Mental health can affect relationships and vice versa. For example, if someone within a relationship is struggling with issues related to anxiety and depression, it is likely to affect their relationship:
They may be more irritable, and more prone to conversational issues.
They may not lose some of their passion or willingness to try.
They may not be as social, or have trouble socially.
They may get overwhelmed easily or struggle to problem solve in a healthy way.
When one individual in the relationship is struggling with their mental health, the couples is often less intimate, less loving, and less likely to be able to handle conflict.
Similarly, our relationships have a direct effect on our stress levels and mental health. When a relationship is struggling, we may suffer from ongoing and persistent stress that can make us feel more anxious, more depressed, and more overwhelmed by other issues that happen throughout the day.
While we often try to identify as having one issue or the other, both mental health and relationships are not always so easily categorized. That is why it is so important for a therapist to get to know YOU. When someone really sees you and understands you, that’s how they can help you with your quality of life.
Identifying the Cause of a Mental Health Challenge to Treat it
Flourish Psychology, a private practice in NYC, offers both couples counseling and individual therapy to help patients and their partners get the help they need. We can schedule a consult for either one or both of you, talk to you about the struggles you’ve been having, and try to identify what approach to treatment and recovery makes the most sense for helping you improve every component of your life.
We also can treat your relationship issues as an individual. We can talk to you about your struggles within the relationship, see if there are ways we can guide you forward, and ensure that you’re receiving the individual care that you deserve.
It is important to have as healthy a relationship as possible. That is why so many partners seek out therapists that specialize in enhancing and growing relationships. Couples therapists, like our team here at Flourish Psychology, create a comfortable space for both partners to talk about their needs, desires, hopes, and goals, in order to be better understood and put on a path toward strengthening the relationship.
Within this field, you’ll often see several different terms used to describe this process:
You want what is best for your relationship, so it’s not uncommon to find yourself unsure about the differences between these services and which one is best for you.
Language with Distinctive Definitions
Luckily, for the average couple, these terms have no distinctive meaning. They are used interchangeably to describe the same process – a type of therapy that revolves around your relationship in order to help you grow stronger as a couple. Most of the time, couples counseling vs couples therapy (and most variations) refer to the same thing, and you’ll often find them used to describe the same process.
However, it should be noted that the word choice may have implications for the type of therapy and approach, particularly the choice between “counseling” and “therapy.”
Relationship Counseling and Relationship Therapy
When we use a phrase like “couples counseling,” we are talking about the idea of receiving guidance and feedback from a trained therapist that can help you grow your relationship. Couples therapy, while used in similar situations, tends to imply a more structured type of approach, typically provided by an experienced psychologist that has been trained specifically in effective modalities.
However, since all couples are different, a structured approach is not always best for every situation, in which case a less structured couples counseling may be used instead.
Contact Flourish Psychology for Relationship Help and Support
Most of the time, the terms couples therapy and couples counseling are used interchangeably to refer to the same or a similar process. However, relationship therapy has been extensively researched, and there are structured approaches that therapists – especially clinical psychologists – may use to help address your relationship struggles and concerns. No matter the term, our therapists at Flourish Psychology are available to support you and your relationship, helping it grow and giving you the tools you need to move forward. Learn more about our relationship counseling or get started by calling Flourish Psychology, today.
It is stressful to feel like your relationship is struggling. It is even more stressful to not know what you can do to help fix it. Sometimes, that stress leads to desperation. One way that couples try to solve their relationship issues is by choosing to have a baby. The idea is that bringing a child into the world will create something magical that will awaken a shared love as you watch after this new baby.
Will Having a Child Save Your Marriage?
Generally, this is not the type of question that can be given a “Yes/No” answer. There are likely some relationships that have been saved by bringing a child into the world, so a firm “no” is overstating the variability in relationships and personalities.
However, in a general sense, having a child *in order to* save a relationship can be very risky. That is because:
Children Are Stressful – It is true that bringing a child into the world can enhance a strong relationship considerably. It is a joy that many couples share. But if a partnership is already experiencing some very heavy challenges, adding additional stress to those challenges can lead to further problems with less ability to solve them.
Children Are Costly – Finances are the number one cause of stress in a relationship. If your finances are already a source of disconnect, a child is only going to make those challenges worse, which could lead to more arguments.
Coparenting Requires Communication – Both partners are gong to want to parent differently. In order to make sure that there is harmony in the household with how you parent, you will need to make sure that you’re communicating effectively. Typically, a struggling couple is not communicating the way they need to, in which case coparenting can make it worse.
Pregnancy Separates Couples Experiences – Both partners typically struggle to understand each other during pregnancy itself. One partner may not be able to empathize with the experience of the pregnant one or be able to show them they care, and the other may not feel well enough to meet their partner’s needs.
Having a Child Reduces Time for Physical/Emotional Intimacy – If you’re struggling with a lack of physical or emotional intimacy, it is not likely to improve with a child. It becomes more difficult to find time to connect, with a child taking up much of your alone time.
In a marriage, two partners need to be able to talk, show and accept love, communicate in a healthy way, and find ways to overcome obstacles together in order to maintain intimacy and affection. If those are already struggles, bringing a new life into the world is unlikely to help and may make it worse.
Children Are Wonderful – But Not a Miracle Cure
It is possible for a child to reconnect two partners and strengthen their bond. But it also shouldn’t be something you assume will happen, or used to try to save a failing relationship. If you and your partner both want a child, but you also have your struggles, then it is always a good idea to consider couples counseling.
Before having a child, couples counseling can strengthen your relationship and make it easier for you both to withstand the stresses of parenthood. After you have a baby, couples counseling can provide the guidance you need to maintain intimacy, show love, and make sure that you’re responding to each partner’s needs.
If you’re interested in NYC couples counseling, call Flourish Psychology today. We are a Brooklyn based boutique private practice that works with couples throughout New York to strengthen their marriages and support their mutual growth. Learn more or get started by filling out our online form.