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An Introduction to Emotional Bidding

Human's are innately social creatures, and at some level we are all vying for a sense of connectedness.

Every day, people will engage in behaviours with the intention of gaining the attention of those around them - in what is known as "emotional bidding". Whist the concept of emotional bidding is most commonly discussed in the context of intimate relationships, it also applies to friendships and parent-child relationships.

Although we all want the same thing - a sense of connection - most of us feel a sense of shame for directly asking for it. So we make these small, blink-and-you'll-miss-it bids to establish it instead. To outsiders these behaviours don't usually resemble typical grabs for attention at all, instead presenting as something entirely different. So what are some of the ways we engage in emotional biding?

Emotional bidding can present as attempts to share an experience. For example, has your partner ever said "Oh wow, did you see that dog?" If so, it was never really about the dog. The aim here to to create a shared experience between the couple, and for the bidder to feel that the other party is interested in sharing something with them. Another common emotional bid is sharing accomplishments. The bidder wants to be validated, and for us to see what they did, and on a deeper level - see them. Emotional bidding even exists in the digital world. By sending even the most trivial posts and links we are really saying "I saw this and thought of you, and I'd like to share it and" with an aim of starting a conversation and ultimately, connection. Finally, sharing stories is a way we can seek to feel heard, understood and supported.

When emotional bidding shows up, we can either: turn towards it (respond to it and connect, for example, stopping what you're doing to go and see the dog); we can turn against it (respond with aggression, for example, "not now! I'm busy!); or we can turn away (totally ignore it). When we turn towards the bids, the person doing the bidding hears "I'm interested", "I'm with you", "I want to be with you", and "I understand you (or at least, I want to)". The more we can turn towards emotional bids, the more we can build up an emotional bank account, which helps to remind us how we feel about our partner and to determine the success of the relationship. It pays to be mindful of our partners emotional bids, and when we see them, practice turning towards them!

If you are interested in discussing any of the points further, we would be more than happy to hear from you. Feel free to send an email to and we will answer any questions you may have.


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