Little Behaviors With Big Impact on Your Relationship

We know that the way we respond to our partner can impact our partner’s feelings and emotions, but did you know it can impact the longevity and overall satisfaction of the relationship? John Gottman is a researcher who has studied relationships for the past 40 years and developed four scenarios that could make or break the relationship when situations arise, or when we are interacting during daily living. The four scenarios are; we can turn toward our partner, turn happily toward our partner, turn away from our partner, or turn against our partner.

So what do these four scenarios have to do with your relationship? We are going to break it down by providing a common relationship scenario.


You’re on your way home from work  after a day full of meetings, including a disagreement with your boss on the trajectory of a project, and your commute is taking longer than usual; all you want to do is go home and relax for the evening. You get home to an empty house, take your dog out for a short walk, and when you come home, your partner is in the kitchen talking to their friend about getting together and going out for dinner tonight.

Going out to dinner and socializing is the last thing on your mind, and you would prefer to stay in and make dinner.

How do you respond? Do you suck it up and go out to dinner? Do you opt to stay home while your partner goes out with friends? More importantly, how do you communicate your feelings about going out or staying in with your partner?

When your partner makes a comment or asks a question, this is called a bid for attention. When you turn toward your partner it means you have positive response to them.  Even if you don’t want to go out to dinner, you acknowledge the request in a positive way. If you turn happily toward your partner you would have had a better day and would happily respond to going out to dinner. Turning away would mean you walk away or ignore the interaction.  Turning against would mean that you quickly become irritated with your partner for even asking about going out.

According to Gottman, our response to situations like the above scenario can make us or break us. To break it down, you could have ignored your feelings, gone to dinner and not enjoyed yourself and may take that frustration out on your partner after dinner (turning against). Or you could have told your partner you are not feeling up to going out and would prefer to stay home. Or you could have asked to take a raincheck on dinner out. There are a number of scenarios that could have played out in response to going out to dinner (turning toward), but in this case and future situations, even the really small ones, it is imperative to communicate with your partner how you are feeling.

Every time we turn to our partner, we are developing a connection- even when it is something small like going or not going out to dinner. Each interaction with our partner gives us the chance to turn towards or away from our partner, to be heard or not. Focus on how you and your partner respond the same situation, are there similarities? Are you being heard? Are you hearing your partner? Always remember, the little things add up to make a relationship successful or not.




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