Missed Opportunities

Dec 03, 2019

Most relationships are not destroyed by major events. Instead, most of them deteriorate over time because of small missed opportunities for connection. John Gottman calls these opportunities “bids for connection.” Here is an excerpt from his book, “What Makes Love Last”: In a committed relationship, partners constantly ask each other in words and deeds for support and understanding. These are called “bids.” They can be as simple as “could you get me a beer” or as profound as “I need you,” after a scary medical diagnosis. Not all bids are obvious. Many of them get missed, ignored or misinterpreted. One partner may say, “I love you,” expecting the other to turn around and initiate a hug. But the partner, distracted and half-listening, says “I know you do.” Every bid made in a relationship initiates a “sliding door moment.” When one partner expresses a need for connection, the other’s response is either to slide open a door and walk through or keep it shut and turn away.

More times than not, these bids are not obvious. Also, more times than not, the ignoring of bids is not intentional or a conscious act. The fact that missing the bid for connection from your partner may not be intentional does not alleviate the damage it can cause. Over time, after so many missed bids for connection, a partner may simply stop trying to connect in those small ways. Here is an example of how these small bids for connection can be missed. Jim looks out the window and says, “Wow it is a beautiful day outside.” Jill is sitting in the room with Jim but does not acknowledge what he said. Opportunity missed. That one moment will not destroy the relationship, but over time, many of those missed moments will eat away at the trust and intimacy of the relationship.

There are two major things that cause you to miss these opportunities for connection with your partner.

Not Tuned In

When you have not made it a habit in your relationship to be tuned into your partner you are like to miss most of the bids for connection they will make because most of them are not obvious. But while they may not be obvious, they are discernible if you are tuned in. “Tuned in” is another way of saying pay attention to your partner. When you notice a shift in their behavior they may be making a bid or you may have just missed a bid for connection. It is easy to take those small moments of connection for granted. You may not get a big flashing sign that says, “Hey, I need you!” You have to take care of your partner emotionally…it is the most vulnerable place of your relationship. When the emotional epicenter of the marriage is not well, gifts, trips and favors will not matter much.

Distracted By Technology

There are many ways that you can be distracted in your relationship, but in this day and age, nothing seems to be more destructive to relationships than cell phones, the internet, and social media. I believe the reason it is so destructive is because the distraction may not seem obvious to the person that is distracted. You can be sitting with your partner for hours and never connect because you are distracted by your phone. We have lost the sense of being present with our partner. The cell phone is supposed to aid in connection but it actually is the thing that is slowly deteriorating relationships by the thousands. You have to make it your business to maximize the moments of connection with your partner when you are together.

It does not take many missed bids for your partner to start to feel like they are not that important to you or that they do not matter. Unfortunately, this often opens the door for someone or something else to come in and take your partner’s attention. Do not depend on, “They should just do right,” as the means to protect your relationship from outsiders. Great relationships do not just happen…you have to work at it. If you are not willing to truly work at it then you are more than likely only delaying the inevitable failure of your relationship.

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