A Bid to Love

John Gottman knows what makes a marriage succeed. He can even predict which young marriages will last with 91 percent accuracy. He has studied marriage and the challenging and delightful dynamics between spouses for years. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, he discusses a host of behaviors that fortify or threaten this all-important relationship.

One such marriage sustaining practice is bidding, an effort to capture the spouse’s attention, affection, humor, or support. Gottman writes: “Bids can be as minor as asking for a backrub or as seeking help in carrying the burden when an aging parent is ill. The partner responds to each bid either by turning toward the spouse or turning away” (p. 88).

The critical nature of bids rests in their centrality to the third of the seven principles in making marriages work: Turn toward each other instead of away. Gottman outlines how spouses need to turn toward each other repeatedly to strengthen their marriage; the turning is a crucial and necessarily repeated movement throughout the life of the relationship. Turning away quickly becomes tuning out and will soon become checking out.

As marriage is a sacrament, it is meant to mirror the love that God has for each of us. The nuptial blessing in the Rite of Marriage impels the groom to love the bride as “Christ loves his bride, the church.” It is understood that the bride will do the same for the groom. We know that the only possible way for any relationship, especially marriage, to last is through the sacred action of forgiveness, for if missteps and sins are not forgiven, bitterness ensues and evolves into corrosive marriage-ending feelings.

St. Francis de Sales used the Song of Songs with its love poetry to illustrate the relationship that God has with each of us. In the love story that the Spirit is writing with our lives, do we cooperate with amazing grace to fall more deeply in love with God. This Lenten season began with an exhortation to turn away from sin. With more than half of Lent gone, do we now turn toward God with his offer to love us just as we are.

How do we, as disciples, respond to God who is always bidding for our attention, affection, and love by giving us his own attention, affection, and love? Do we turn away or turn toward God?

May our answer be simple: “I do!”