What matters in a relationship is how partners respond to each other. Using data from a six-year follow-up study of newlywed couples, those who remained married turned toward their partner’s bids for emotional connection 86% of the time in the lab, while those who divorced averaged 33%.

But what exactly is a bid? A bid is a request for attention or affection. A bid can be answered in either a positive or negative way. An act of turning towards the requesting partner, no matter how small or subtle, is a positive interaction. An act of turning away is a negative interaction.

Every interaction we have with our partner is collected into an Emotional Bank Account. The balance (happiness of the relationship) depends on the ratio of deposits and withdrawals.

Emotional Bank Account

The difference between happy and unhappy couples is how they manage their Emotional Bank Account.

If you think of your relationship happiness as a bank account, it makes sense that you would need to keep a positive balance in the account. Deposits are made when a partner creates a positive interaction or answers a bid from their partner in a positive way.

Easy ways to deposit into your partner’s emotional bank account:

  • • Put down your phone and listen when they talk
  • • Give physical affection
  • • Pay them a compliment
  • • Express appreciation for them
  • • Share an activity you both enjoy
  • • Do a chore they usually manage
  • • Fix them a snack
  • • Take a walk together

Withdrawals are made when a partner creates a negative interaction or answers a bid from their partner in a negative way.

Examples of withdrawals from your partner’s emotional bank account:

  • • Neglecting to do a task you had agreed to do
  • • Focusing more on your phone than your partner
  • • Withholding physical affection
  • • Criticizing or complaining
  • • Taking their efforts for granted
  • • Not spending any time together
  • • Turning away from a bid

It’s important to remember that the balance is determined by the sum of the interactions over time.

Turn a Negative into a Positive

By learning to manage conflict in productive ways, couples can approach situations with an open mind. This will strengthen their bond and increase their understanding of one another, deepening their trust in each other leading to closer emotional connection in the relationship.

It takes time and a lot of care and empathy to be able to navigate these everyday relationship challenges – but they are vital to a healthy relationship. Failure to answer your partner’s bids for connection will wear away at the foundation of your relationship and leave it vulnerable to collapse.

These seemingly small interactions and bids for your partner’s attention and affection are good predictors of success in a relationship.

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