Lifelong couples do this simple thing 85% of the time

The secret to long-lasting relationships is an easy communication trick

couple laughing and drinking coffee
Validating your partner's bid for connection is one secret to a long-lasting relationship
(Image credit: Getty)

Couples who want to make their relationships last a lifetime should pay attention to “bids for communication,” according to John Gottmann, Ph.D., and Julie Gottman, Ph.D., founders of the Gottman Institute.

They have spent their careers looking at what makes relationships work or fail, and found that couples who tune into each other’s communication needs are more successful. 

A bid for connection is when your partner says or does something but does not ask a direct question. For example, if your partner comments on a mural while out for a walk, or makes an observation about the weather. It may seem like these comments don’t need a response, but that’s not necessarily the case. 

"How do you respond to your partner's bid for connection?" Julie asked on the mindbodygreen podcast

She says in each instance like this, you have the opportunity to turn toward or away from your partner, and turning toward is the better relationship choice. 

couple laughing

(Image credit: Getty)

The Gottmans studied newlyweds in a lab for 24 hours, and found that couples who responded to each other’s bids for connection at least 85% of the time had more successful relationships six years later. The least successful couples only responded to their partner’s bid for connection 33% of the time. 

The Gottmans say asking a follow-up question or acknowledging your partner's observation is a good way for them to feel heard and validated. 

The Gottman Institute has a list of bids for communication, including responding to simple requests, sharing events of the day, showing interest in your partners accomplishments, and more. 

The institute also recommends making “bid” part of your lingo. You can say, “I’m making a bid for attention now” so your partner understands that what you’re saying is important. 

On the opposite side, a “miss” is when you choose to turn away from your partner and not acknowledge their bid. This is inevitable sometimes in all relationships, but for a long-lasting love try to turn toward the bid the majority of the time. 

Rebecca Holland is a travel and food writer based in Chicago. She has written for the Guardian, New York Times, Architectural Digest, Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast and more. She is currently a graduate student at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. When not working, you can find her eating her way through Chicago's neighborhoods, or in non-pandemic times, traveling around the world.