Affection, Intimacy & Connection

Verbal affirmation, validation, and expressions of love are necessary for intimacy, loving and connection to your partner. Depending on what you witnessed and grew up with in your family of origin will determine how you express love, affection, gratitude and appreciation. Some families are direct and conflictual and others are indirect and passive. Of course, you will internalize those same habits, behaviors and ways of expressing yourself. To feel loved, try focusing helping your partner feeling the following: What are you after?  Help you partner feel and experience the following:  Significant, Recognized, Valued, Appreciated,  Secure, Accepted, Important……loved.

Dr. John Gottman has done a great deal of work on communication and helping couples connect via a process he calls “BIDS.” You can turn toward a bid, turn away or turn against a bit. Most successful and happy couples turn toward their partner’s bid 86% of the time. Here are a few examples of possible response types that show interest, motivation and love. How often are you turning away? Do you know what happens if you continue to make bids and your partner turns away or against? They stop bidding. The chasm grows and you begin to live very separate and disconnected lives. Strive to turn toward, most of the time.  (Link to Gottman website) Turning Towrd Your Partner from Gottman.

Dr. Gottman’s definitions for the following behaviors are given below, as well as examples to clarify the ways in which they may be expressed. For the sake of this exercise, we are going to keep the bid (one which you’ve likely made on many occasions) the same in each scenario:

Nearly Passive Responses
These are one or two word comments or mild shifts in behavior with no verbal response – your partner may not stop what they are doing, but you know that you’ve been heard, Sam: “Do you want to go out tonight?”
Mia: [Continuing to get the kids ready for school] “Mmmm”

Low Energy Responses:
These involve a few words or a question to clarify a bid, e.g.

Jamal: “Do you want to go out tonight?”
Ava: “Sounds fine. Where?”

Attentive Responses:
These involve opinions, thoughts, and feelings;.

Gabrielle: “Do you want to go out tonight?”
Liam: “That sounds great. You like that Thai place down the street?”

High Energy Responses: 
These involve full attention with good eye contact. High energy responses may be enthusiastic, include humor or affection, and/or sincere empathy;

Rosie: “Do you want to go out tonight?”
Wiley: “Hooray! Oh, hold on a sec while I cancel my date with the couch…”

In the next few days, try to notice the ways in which you and your partner respond to such bids for attention, empathy, or connection in your interactions. This first step (becoming attuned to the ways in which the two of you interact) will be vital to making the kinds of change you feel are necessary in your relationship: reducing stress, creating an atmosphere of trust, being able to support each other, expressing your mutual love without getting lost in miscommunication. More loving, positive and attentive communication enhances intimacy.

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Dr. Mike Klaybor

Dr. Mike Klaybor

Dr. Mike Klaybor brings thirty years of experience in practicing counseling psychology with individuals and couples. His approach is cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. Specific specialties include; anxiety and stress management, chronic pain & chronic illness management, depression, substance abuse evaluations, employee assistance and executive coaching for workplace performance and leadership.