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Reading Love: What Do Connection Bids Look Like?

“Love is simple.” “Love is complicated.” Both feel true at different times. If you could make a roadmap of love, what are the stops along the way?

Researchers John and Julie Gottman broke down the gestures of love (and rejection) into small interactions called “bids.” Bids are moments when you ask your partner for connection.

Because of that, we’re just going to call them connection bids.

Noticing Connection Bids Means Getting Good at Subtext

The tricky part is that connection bids are more often indirect rather than direct. When we become stressed and distracted by life, we might miss our partner’s bids. All these small links can add up to a breakdown of your bond – but they can also be used to rebuild it.

Let’s look at some examples of common bids below. This will help you spot bids and make the most of them.

Attentive Listening

This might sound like the most basic of relationship advice. And yet think of how many people in your partner’s life probably don’t listen carefully to what they say: bosses, employees, children, passing acquaintances, busy friends… 

Maybe your partner is a giver who’s always there for other people. If you can be their refuge of listening in a noisy world, this will go a long way to strengthen your connection.

Responding to Requests

Of course, it’s not possible for you to fulfill every request that your partner makes. But you can at least respond in a timely manner. 

Let’s say that she asks you to pick up a few vegetables for dinner. If you can work in a grocery store stop, great. If not, it’s still worth acknowledging: “I’m sorry, I just pulled into the driveway when I saw your text! Let’s figure out what makes sense now.”


Sometimes you can practically help your partner achieve their everyday goals and life dreams. But other times, all they really need is a little encouragement. A few special words can make all the difference.

“I’m really proud of you for working on your degree. You’re almost there.”

“I’m excited to see this kitchen reorganization in person!”

“So happy that you’re getting the recognition you deserve at work!”


Have you ever made a joke that didn’t land? It’s not a good feeling. Joking and playing around and not having that reciprocated can be one of the toughest connection bid “misses.”

However, this also highlights a major gift that you can give your partner. When they toss a ball – literally or figuratively – toss it back!

If your partner is making breakfast, and they crack a joke about the Leaning Tower of Pancakes, make sure they hear your chuckle. And if you can add your own joke about Mona Lisa on the syrup bottle, share your comedic thoughts with your partner. Suddenly, you’re sharing a light moment, even in the midst of a busy morning.

Get Help to Clarify Connection Bids Between the Two of You

When you add layers of your own family trauma, relationship insecurities, emotional challenges, and life stress, it makes sense that connection bids can become buried. Sometimes you and your partner need help sorting things out – that’s exactly what professional counselors are trained to do. Reach out for the support that you need when you need it!



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Copyright @2020 Dana Cole, LMFT