Spending almost six months together in the home with your significant other can be a dream for some, but for others, it can bring up all types of emotional stress that you might not expect. Where you had time apart either because of competing schedules or the ability to leave the home to participate in hobbies, now there may not as much to do outside of the home.
Add to that the expectations that partners put on each other to feel connected and spending day-in and day-out can lead to emotions being triggered.
The Pandemic brings its own stress which can lead to short tempers as partners try to cope with all of the new responsibilities and fears.
Some people have discovered deeper levels of intimacy by seeing that they can get through being under extended stress together or they find themselves being forced to have deeper conversations.
However, there must be a balance.
If you didn’t already have an effective manner of handling your own emotional triggers, intimacy or good communication, partners can find themselves challenged in ways they aren’t prepared for.
I’m not spending my Pandemic with a partner, but I am finding the isolation is pushing me to the brink some days in my emotional bandwidth. I can feel drained just from the amount of anxiety of the news and all that is occurring at the same time.
I have been through being in a relationship with someone and both of you being in the house at the same time. At one time during a past long-term relationship, he was injured and unable to work and I was laid off. So, our days were spent together.
At first, it was great. Our schedules didn’t match before so we were often spending just a couple hours before one of us had to go to bed to prepare for work the next day. But, with both of us not having anywhere to go, we were able to spend lots of time together. We stayed up all night as we were both night owls. We had a whole house. I occupied the bedroom and he spent most of his time in the living room. We met up for meals and watched movies before bed at night.
After a while, the days started to blur together and the time we spent apart grew more and more. We started to irritate each other over small things. I can’t even pinpoint one thing that got on my nerves, but I found myself rolling my eyes after he left the room.
But, I think it was the feeling pressured for emotional intimacy all day that eventually started to weigh on me. I am an introvert and he was an extrovert.
I was perfectly happy to relax in the room and could always find some way to entertain myself. I went from watching shows to writing on my laptop to listening to music. I bounced between activities and was content to be in the house where I felt comfortable.
He felt antsy having nothing to do or anywhere to go. He would pop in to check on me and expected me to be climbing the walls too, but I wasn’t. He would try to get some entertainment out of me, but I just didn’t feel the need to do too much. I didn’t understand his energy or his anxiety.
According to the Gottman Institute, a “bid for attention” is a fundamental unit of emotional communication. They are a request from you partner to connect, whether they are verbal or non-verbal. They can big or small. They may seem like nothing to you, but if you miss them they can feel like rejection to your partner.
Acknowledging a bid for attention from your partner builds trust, intimacy and an emotional connection. Similarly, ignoring bids for attention can erode trust, destroy intimacy and create emotional disconnection.
And, bids are subtle because people don’t want to say, “hey, pay attention to me.” It can be a kiss on a shoulder or trying to strike up a conversation.
According to Gottman, when they occur, a partner has 3 choices:
- Acknowledge the bid
- Ignore the bid
- Reject the bid in an argumentative way
They found couples who acknowledge the bid 86% of the time were more successful while couples who did it only 33% were more likely to break-up.
In my case, I missed his bids for attention, but he also missed mine as well. We were both reading the other through our own lens. He would ask me to leave the room to come play video games with him and I would check my internal desire to play the game instead of viewing it as a bid for attention. I would tell him, maybe later and go back to what I preferred to do. I didn’t recognize that it wasn’t about the game. He wanted connection.
I would come down the stairs and invite him to watch a show with me. I was asking for connection. I wanted to lay in bed with him and share some closeness. He would choose to play the videogame.
The more we ignored the others bid for attention, the less we asked until neither of us was seeking the other out. Rejection is hard coming from strangers, but even harder coming from someone you love.
How Can You Acknowledge your Partner’s Bid for Attention?
If they ask you about something, take a moment to stop and respond. If they reach to embrace or touch you, allow it. If they ask you to do something, notice your resistance to it and consider doing it anyway.
Have a conversation with them about bids for attention and empower them to tell you when they need attention. This may make them less hidden and make it easier for them to ask for what they need.