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Much like a bid at an auction being an offer for an item, a bid within a relationship is an offer for connection. It is a reach for acknowledgment, reassurance, or validation. For this article, I will focus on partners, however, bids also relate to families, friends, and our communities.

What do bids look or sound like?

Bids can be verbal or nonverbal; small or grand; direct or indirect. A bid could be a touch of the shoulder while passing in the hallway or a comment like “wow, look at that goat!” while driving by a farm. Other bids may be asking to go on a date or giving a gift. They may not seem like much, but they are what actually make up most of our interactions with others. And it is these tiny moments that boost our emotional bank accounts in order to aid us during our times of need or conflict. It turns out that, for every one negative interaction, five are needed with that same person to maintain a secure and content relationship. This is especially true when working through tough conversations.

The question bids invite from the receiver is along the lines of “do you see me?” The second piece of a bid is how or if it is received. There are 3 ways a bid can be responded to: turning toward, turning away, and turning against.

Turning toward, away or against

Turning toward involves accepting bids offered by our partners. This could be verbal or nonverbal, but some kind of positive or even neutral response that indicates “I hear you and I see you.” Turning away may look like ignoring a reach for connection or a mildly negative interaction that lessens the chance of the interaction continuing in some way. Turning against tends to be more hostile, often paired with contempt or put-downs to the receiver. This almost definitely ensures a halt to ongoing interaction. Though examples of bids are infinite, here are some possible ways they could be received.

Example: Partner A in the car says: “Oh I like this song!”

Partner B can either:

  • Turn toward: “Let’s turn it up!” or even “huh, cool.” 
  • Turn away: Ignore the comment or respond “Ugh, I hate this song, can we skip it?”
  • Turn against: “You have terrible taste in music.”

Example: Partner A offers a touch on the shoulder when passing each other in the hallway.

Partner B can either: 

  • Turn toward: a smile in return or a touch back
  • Turn away: Ignore the touch and keep walking
  • Turn against: “Don’t touch me, I’m in a hurry!”

Responses to bids can range, but they matter a great deal. A bid requires vulnerability. It takes courage to reach out to someone at the risk of not feeling heard. And we have a choice in whether or not we meet their reach.

Why do bids matter?

Bids are seemingly small but the gains and losses can be immense. When turning away or against happens more than turning toward overtime, the bids may lessen resulting in limited or no interaction at all. This damages the bonds between partners. Successful couples turn towards each other 86% of the time. Couples who turned toward bids only 33% of the time were found to be divorced within 5 years. This is an immense correlation between the interactions and the longevity and happiness of a relationship overall.

In the case of bids, the aim is to have consistency rather than grandeur. The more often they are offered and received, the more trust and satisfaction you will experience in your relationship. 

What to do next?

The first step to increasing bids is acknowledging them in the first place. Some questions to consider might be:

  1. What bids do I offer my partner?
  2. Of those bids, which ones do they respond to and which ones are missed? Consider letting them know of these bids.
  3. What bids does my partner offer me? Parhaps ask your partner this question to hear their own reaches for connection with you that you may not have known.
  4. What can we do if or when a bid is missed by one of us so that it doesn’t fester?

By increasing awareness of the bids we offer and the bids our partners offer us, they become habitual over time, requiring less effort in the long run and more relationship happiness.

In the wise words of Gandalf, “it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” Not only shall we offer more bids, but hopefully notice them from others, too.