Bids: The Secret To A More Connected Relationship (& To Making You A Better Partner)

When we think of what makes a successful relationship, there's a lot to consider. What looks like a success to one couple, might look like a relationship that needs a lot of work to another couple. Relationships are two people trying to forge their way in the world as a unit and doing so in a positive and healthy way that makes their lives better together than if they were apart.


While relationships come with a lot of rules for making them successful, like learning how to communicate effectively, being open and honest about feelings and emotions, and understanding that time apart is a good thing, success doesn't always need to rely on rules. Instead, there are some tricks to pulling off a perfect relationship — well, as perfect as one can be. One of those tips are bids — and not the ones you make at a blackjack table in Vegas. These bids have to do with keeping your relationship intact long after the honeymoon phase wears off.

What's a bid?

When it comes to relationships, world-renowned therapist John Gottman, Ph.D. has seemingly endless theories on how to strengthen relationships so they truly thrive and reach their full potential. One of his theories is bids. When one or both partners make an active attempt to connect with their partner, that's a bid.


Bids can be verbal or nonverbal. For example, a verbal bid could be asking your partner to tell you about their day or asking them if they want to talk about your upcoming vacation together. Verbal bids are essentially observations as to what's going on with your partner and inviting them to talk about it. Nonverbal bids could be kissing your partner's forehead, winking at them, giving them a love tap, opening the car door for them, or responding to something they say with a little laugh. Although verbal bids tend to be more obvious, all bids invite an interaction because you've shown your partner you're interested in them.

Bids are ultimately about turning toward each other and paying attention. Gottman researched newlyweds and where their relationship was six years later. The couples that were still married had made it a point to turn toward each other 86% of the time, whereas those who had divorced before the six-year mark, only turned toward each other 33% of the time. Turning toward acknowledges and responds to the bid, but turning away is to either miss the bid or ignore it.


When to use bids

There's really no wrong time to bid, nor is there a cap on how often you can bid. And because a bid can look like anything from giving your partner a kiss when they get home at the end of the day, to having a little giggle at something that they say, there's really no shortage of bids out there. You may think that these small gestures aren't enough to make an impact, but they do. Unless there's been some sort of argument that you and your partner have yet to resolve, even the tiniest bids will be noticed and will have a powerful impact on your relationship, as well as on you as a partner.


If you start to wonder if you're overdoing it with the bids, then take a breather because there's no such thing! As Gottman discovered in his research, those who have definitely mastered the art of bids — all forms of them — will bid at least 100 times in ten minutes. In relationships where bids weren't being used regularly (65 times in 10 minutes) or, if they were being used but the partner on the receiving end was ignoring them, then not only was bidding not mastered, but there was no point to the bids. If it falls on deaf ears, it can't be counted because it doesn't provide the connection that bids are supposed to deliver when they're used.

Why bids are important

Although for decades — if not since the beginning of time — experts have tried to figure out what makes a relationship officially a success, the question has only recently been answered. According to a 2020 landmark study that was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, relationship satisfaction comes from how people perceive their relationship more than anything else. It doesn't matter the personality quirks of the two partners, the occasional arguments, or even fantastic sex. It's all about the perception that the relationship is great and the perception that both partners are in it to win it. Using bids is a way to solidify this thinking because you're not likely to bid if your opinion of the relationship and your thoughts on your partner's commitment aren't clear in your mind. Bids are made to connect and the desire to feel that connection is something that isn't often sought out if the relationship is perceived to be rocky by one or both partners.


Granted, bids aren't going to save every relationship on their own. But if you see them as an additional trick to toss into the usual effort that is necessary to maintain your relationship, then you'll feel better about yourself, and your partnership. You may actually wake up one morning believing you have the best and happiest relationship in town. And maybe you'll be right.