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Aftermath of Failed Bids

These exercises are a guide for processing and evaluating what happened when one of you felt that the friendship was not working well, when one of you felt alienated or lonely, while the other may have felt a great need for autonomy, independence, or being alone. These exercises are designed to increase understanding between partners. The idea here is there is no absolute reality when two people miss each other in turning towards one another or turning away; there are only two subjective realities. These exercises  are designed to help you get at these and ease these situations in the future.


Part 1: Positive & Negative Feelings

Each of you takes a turn as the speaker, describing what you were feeling during the disagreement. You may either choose from the list below or come up with your own description. Remember to keep your comments simple and keep to the format “I felt…” avoiding statements such as “I felt like you…”.

Speaker: Read down the list of positive and negative feelings and say aloud which feelings you had when there was a failed bid, while partners just listen. Then, trade roles.

Positive feelings: How did you feel this week? “During this week I felt…”

lovingkindin control
like we were making progressconnected to my partneroptimistic


Negative feelings: How did you feel this week? “During this week I felt…”

defensivemy feelings got hurtexcluded
criticizedlike my partner didn’t even like meafraid
worriedout of controlrighteously indignant
unfairly picked onunappreciatedunattractive
morally outragedtaken for grantedlike leaving
overwhelmed with emotionexcludedpowerless
like I had no influencelike my opinions didn’t even matterno feelings at all
no idea what I was feelinglonelylike I was right and my partner was wrong


Part 2: Subjective Realities and Changing the Way You Express Your Wants and Needs

Subjective Realities:

  • Summarize your own subjective reality, how you saw this week, in terms of closeness and autonomy. What was your subjective reality? Share your subjective realities with each other and try to see how your partner’s subjective reality might make sense, given your partner’s perspective. Think of bids and turning towards or away.
  • It is essential that each of you attempt to give some credence to your partner’s subjective reality. Try to communicate your understanding of your partner’s subjective reality about closeness and autonomy during the week.


How can You Change the Way You Express Your Needs and Wants?

It is natural for each of us to make the fundamental attribution error that it is all our partner’s fault. Actually, because it is all a cycle, it is the fault of neither partner. What is necessary is to be able to have each partner move out of the defensiveness or attacking pattern into a more productive pattern. This starts with each of you admitting some role (however slight at first) in creating this distance and loneliness. In finding the right balance for both of you in terms of connection (closeness) and individual autonomy (separateness), there is a need to first understand your part in all of this.

  • What are your needs? How did you express them? Is there a better way to express these needs?
  • How did you  (or your partner) express the needs for closeness or for dealing with loneliness
  • How did you  (or your partner) express the need to be separate, autonomous, or independent; or the feelings of being swamped and overwhelmed by your partner’s needs?
  • What is the conversation that you need to have but did not?

Fundamental attribution error: when we judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions.


Part 3: What Were the Triggers?

Speaker: Say aloud which, if any, of the following items fit for you, while your partner just listens. Then trade roles.

Events Related to Inclusion

  • I felt excluded. A great deal…
  • No one was interested in me.
  • I felt cold towards my partner.
  • My partner was not happy to see me.
  • I was not important to my partner
  • I was being ignored.
  • Others: 

Events Related to Affection

  • I felt no affection towards me.
  • My partner was cold towards me.
  • I definitely felt rejected.
  • I was criticized.
  • I felt no affection towards my partner.
  • I felt that my partner was not attracted to me.
  • Others:

Events Related to Influence

  • I had no power in the discussion.
  • I felt helpless to affect how the conversation went.
  • I felt there was a lack of respect towards me.
  • My sense of dignity was being compromised.
  • My partner was being domineering.
  • I could not persuade my partner at all.
  • Others:


Part 4: Do These Feelings Relate to Your Past?

Some self examination is necessary here to identify where the triggers come from in your own past. When people are under prolonged periods of stress, old patterns of thought and behavior can emerge, old sensitivities can become heightened, and the fighting in the relationship is a symptom of older patterns. This section is designed to help you see what potential past events may have set the conditions for turning away from one another. Take turns answering the following questions:

Question 1: How have I been responding lately when stressed?

Question 2: What sensitivities, thoughts, and feelings have I had lately in my relationship that may have influenced our friendship so it’s not working well this week?

Question 3: What issues am I particularly sensitive about, and what is the origin of these sensitivities?

Example Answers:

  • They come from the way I was treated in my family growing up. (Explain)
  • They come from a previous relationship. (Explain)
  • They come from past injuries I have suffered. (Explain)
  • They come from really hard times I endured. (Explain)
  • They come from traumas I experienced. (Explain)
  • They come from basic fears and insecurities I have. (Explain)
  • They come from things and events I have not yet resolved or put aside. (Explain)
  • They come from unrealized hopes I have. (Explain)
  • They relate to ways I was treated in the past by other people. (Explain)
  • They relate to things I have always thought about myself. (Explain)
  • They relate to old nightmares or catastrophes I have worried about. (Explain)
  • Other (Please explain):

Have any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or comments on this article? Wondering how to this can be applied, modified, or adapted to your polyamorous, swinging, kink/ BDSM, or otherwise interesting relationship? Feel free to reach out to us here.