When I was a senior in college, my boyfriend and I committed to picking up all the loose change we found and collecting it in one big jar. This was in 1994 to 1995.
By the summer of 1995, we had collected $128.47. We attended a wedding that summer and paid for the weekend trip with our found money (and at age 22, this felt amazing).
Not surprisingly, much of the change was pennies.
Bending over to pick up a penny, even in 1995 compared to 2022, didn’t always seem worth it. That little expenditure of energy to pause what I was doing and bend over, sometimes felt unnecessary or annoying. But in the long run, those pennies were meaningful and added up.
Why am I writing about taking the time to pick up pennies?
Two of my favorite relationship researchers are the Gottmans, John and Julie Gottman, who have been researching what makes and breaks relationships for the past 40 years.
I recently read this article based on their research about the one most important action to take to maintain a long and happy relationship – responding to bids for connection from your partner.
A bid is when you or your partner initiates some kind of positive connection. This could be verbal like while reading an article on your phone, and saying, “Did you know that ….”, or over dinner saying, “Something exciting happened at work today.”
Bids can also be physical, like reaching out to hold your partner’s hand or opening your arms for a hug. Bids can range from offering a smile to directly asking for help.
To be able to be responsive to your partner’s bids, you need to be attuned to them when you’re in the same vicinity. And you need to be willing to interrupt what you’re doing (or ask for a moment to complete a task) and then focus on them in that moment.
As stated in the article, “The happiest couples are savvy enough to notice when their partner is making a bid, and drop what they’re doing, if necessary, to engage.”
This is a concept that I’ve watched my parents demonstrate over their many years of marriage and have also used in my private coaching practice. But I wanted to reference this specific article because they use pausing to pick up a penny as an analogy for pausing to respond to a bid from your partner.
In any long-term relationship, it can be easier to focus on whatever your task at hand is and not pay attention to your partner’s bids. And in today’s cell phone-oriented world, it can be too easy to miss your partner’s bids for connection, and vice versa.
Pay attention to the pennies. It’s worth picking them up.
It might not feel like much from moment to moment, but the accumulation of these pennies over the years leads to a rich and meaningful relationship.
~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus — Relationship Speaker, Intimacy Coach, & Sociologist