I love to read about marriage; marriage research, marriage blogs, marriage tips. I especially like to look at how couples make their relationships last a lifetime and use that information to build that same future with my husband.
Recently, I was reading articles from my favorite marriage expert, Dr. John Gottman. He pointed out that one of the indicators of lifelong marital success is when couples turn toward one another more often than they turn away. This means that when one spouse make a “bid” for the other spouse’s attention (which could mean smiling at them, asking them a question, or telling them something interesting to us), their reaction to that bid can either build, or break down, the relationship.
The more we turn toward each other in those moments – the more we smile back, answer questions, and comment to each other – the better off the marriage is going to be. However, the more we turn away from each other, the more separation we create between us, the lonelier we’ll feel, and the more we fight about nothing.
Of course, Spencer ends up being my guinea pig for all sorts of marriage do’s and don’ts. This one was no exception. I started to notice instances when Spencer wasn’t turning toward me as much as I wanted him too. I would ask a question and he wouldn’t look up from his phone. I’d ask him to do something and he’d forget. I’d say something to him, and he’d interrupt me to mention something else.
Poor me! Always getting turned away from, but never toward! Something had to change.
I Would Have Missed the Dance
One morning, I was running around trying to get as much done as I could before we had to leave for the rest of the day. I was angry at how messy our house was and was becoming more and more frustrated with each second I cleaned it up. Spencer saw me fluttering around like an angry bee and came over. I was just about to put something away when a new song came on, and he took my hands. He put down the thing I was trying to throw away and just started to dance.
“Please don’t interrupt me right now,” I said, feeling more tense.
“Just don’t worry about all this right now sweetie. It’ll get done.”
Not wanting to start a fight, I didn’t say anything. Instead I stiffly started to dance with him, my mind everywhere else in the house. I hate when he does this, I thought. I’ll be RIGHT in the middle of trying to get something done and he just HAS to hug me, or kiss me, or just get in the way of what I’m trying to do!
“Stop thinking about all the stuff that you have to get done,” he said again.
“BUT I HAVE A LOT OF STUFF TO DO,” I lamented.
“Just dance with me.”
And then it hit me. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Every time Spencer was stopping me in the middle of something, he was bidding for my attention. And I was really good at (nastily) turning away.
Still feeling anxious, I tried to refocus on turning toward him. I didn’t want him to give up on this bid. I love it when he dances with me. But how could I calm down? That’s when a thought popped into my head.
What if this was the last dance you ever get to have? Would you care about how much you had to clean then?
It sobered me immediately. Why was I caring so much about putting boxes away when the love of my life was trying to DANCE WITH ME. A lot of women would kill to have their husbands spontaneously dance with them. Why was I worried about a clean house when my marriage should always be my top priority? It completely changed my attitude, and it calmed me down.
Practice Turning Toward
It’s obvious that I was being a grump in the story. But how often do we tell ourselves something different? How often do we make ourselves the hero in our own scenarios, when we’re actually the problem. I thought I was the only one getting the short end of the stick on bids, but Spencer was only asking for the length of a song from me. Was that really so hard? Wouldn’t I trade a thousand moments if that was the last one we ever got? Of course I would.
So now, whenever Spencer stops me in the middle of something, no matter how much it irritates me, I think to myself, what if this is the last one I ever get? It puts things into perspective immediately, and I get to cherish it so much more. If I say that my marriage is a top priority, I have to treat it like one!
I would encourage you to think about how you are prioritizing your spouse’s bids for your attention. How often do you turn away? How often do you turn toward? Does your spouse bid for your attention without you realizing it?
I’d like to challenge everyone to practice turning toward more bids. Sure, I could’ve just kept going, and he probably would have moved on. Maybe, I would have gotten more done. Maybe, I wouldn’t have felt as irritated or frustrated at him for stopping me. But I’d have had to miss my chance to turn toward a bid. And I’d have had to miss the dance.