In an age when you can find your potential partner with just a swipe on an app, why are so many people still single and searching? Finding a mate is easy, but finding love is hard. And as we all know, relationships don’t always work out. But why are so many couples breaking up after being together for 1 to 2 years? Is it all due to incompatibility? In a study done by psychologist John M. Gottman, he found that couples who stay together for over 6 years do this 86% of the time, and couples who don’t only do it 33% of the time.
Sounds intriguing, right? While it would be nice if it was just something you could do that would magically make all your relationship problems go away, like all relationships, it requires work. The habit in question is called “Turning Towards”. This can be physically turning towards your partner, or turning towards “bids for connection”.
Turning Towards… What?
To keep it simple, “Turning Towards” means acknowledging when your partner is talking to you, or responding in some way to show that you heard what they’re saying to you. It comes in different ways, and it could be when you hear them saying “ouch!” because they hurt themselves, asking them if they’re OK, or just any simple acknowledgement that they spoke to you and trying to connect to you. It means reciprocating their attempts at affection.
However, it can mean different things for different people. For some, it can mean engaging with them when they’re talking about their hobbies. By doing this, you show your partner that you respect what they have to say, and it’s important to you that they receive a response. Turning towards essentially shows your partner that you care, and that their feelings are reciprocated.
What Does “Turning Away” Look Like?
In contrast with turning towards, turning away occurs when one partner tries to make a connection and the other does not accept it. Just like turning towards, turning away can happen in different ways. To give an example, one partner might try to start up a conversation by asking their partner about their day, but the partner shuts it down with a one-word answer; or one partner might initiate physical intimacy while the other does not respond.
Unsurprisingly, these small instances build up, and it will slowly chip away at the relationship. Partners whose bids of connection are consistently not accepted are much less likely to do it again due to the feeling of rejection. When one person stops reaching out for connection, it can have a negative impact on the relationship.
It’s Not Just For Romantic Relationships
While the research was based on romantic relationships, it applies to all kinds of relationships. Let’s say you’re hanging out with a friend, and you want to talk about your new job that you just got, but instead of being genuinely interested in what you have to say, and asking questions like “how’s the environment?”, “how are your coworkers?”, they reply with something short that immediately shuts down the conversation.
You’d probably feel a bit rejected because you’re attempting to bond with someone about a topic you’d think might be interesting to them, but instead you’re met with something like “Yeah, whatever.” Unfortunately, people do this ALL the time! They do it to their kids, their grandparents, their friends, etc., and it’s only a matter of time until it affects those relationships!
The Bottom Line
Look, nobody’s perfect, and no one is expected to be the most attentive person to their partner at all times. However, if you find yourself turning away in situations, it might be time for you to practice “turning towards” in ALL your relationships. The more often you do it, chances are, you’ll be in the 86% of long lasting relationships.
On the other hand, if there’s someone in your life who’s constantly turning away from your “bids for connection”, it may be time to start talking to them about it, or thinking about removing yourself from the situation before the hurt and resentment starts to build up. There’s only so many times a person can “turn away” until the other person decides that they’ve had enough of it.
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