The subtle art of ‘bridge building’ is a key to a happy relationship

By Liz Paul, Psychotherapist & Counsellor

‘Bridge building’ is, simply, reaching out to your partner to connect emotionally as life partners.  It’s one of the keys to an intimate relationship because it’s usually something the two of you share only with each other.

Bridge building can be verbal or nonverbal, it can be funny, serious or sexual, and it can be verbal or physical.  

For example, you might want to connect with your partner by giving them a hug out of the blue.  Or by giving them a wink and a smile when you walk past them in the hall.  Or by following up on a conversation you had with them earlier e.g. ‘So how did your phone call with your mum go?’.  Or by saying ‘You look great’ when they walk into a room.  Or by sending a good luck text before they make a presentation at work.  Or by sending them a ‘I’m thinking of you’ email.  And so on.

Bridge building shows you care about your partner, you think about them when they aren’t with you, and you pay attention to them and what’s happening in their life.  

In many respects, bridge building is the oil that greases the wheels of a relationship.  And that’s why this subtle art needs to be employed many times during each day.  The more the better as it will help you make regular deposits in your partner’s emotional bank account.  

It’s nice to be on the receiving end of your partner’s attempts to bridge build.  When your partner is attentive it makes you feel special. 

But you, as the recipient, have an obligation to acknowledge each attempt your partner makes to bridge build.  Do not dismiss or ignore it.  If you do, your partner will, over time, start to think that bridge building with you is a waste of time.

And that may lead to your partner feeling frustrated, minimalised and resentful.

So, when your partner attempts to bridge build, you should be attentive in return.  For example:

  •  Put your phone away
  •  Look your partner in the eye
  •  Return the affection
  •  Really listen
  •  Turn towards them and lean in
  •  Engage with them
  •  Respond with your own bridge building.

What are the issues for which most people seek assistance?

  • Relationship break-ups
  • Constantly fighting with your partner
  • Loss of intimacy with your partner
  • Communication problems with your partner or child
  • Difficulty parenting toddlers or teens
  • Pre-marriage counselling
  • A child misbehaving
  • Eating disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Family counselling
  • Wanting to separate from their partner amicably
  • Helping the children cope after a relationship break-up
  • Trouble staying in relationships
  • HSC stress for students and their families
  • Relationship commitment issues
  • Problems at work
  • Couple counselling
  • Difficulties with step-children
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Problems with in-laws
  • Substance addiction
  • Facing major life changes
  • Making new life choices
  • Relationship counselling