When Do You Prioritise Your Partner?
One of my favourite stories is a story Dr. John Gottman, one of the global authorities on relationships, shared during one of his lectures about how he experienced a sliding-doors moment with his wife which had the opportunity to bring them closer together or push them apart.
It was nearly bed-time and Dr. Gottman was getting ready to sleep by reading a favourite book which was quite a page-turner.
Determined to finish the chapter before he would put the book aside for the night, he allowed himself one interruption, the urgent call of nature ushering him to the bathroom.
With the intention of not letting anything else distract him - he would just pop to the loo and come back quickly - he dashed to the door, only to get a glimpse of his wife sitting in front of the bedroom mirror brushing her hair and looking sad.
This is what Dr. Gottman calls a sliding-door moment.
In a split second, he could ignore the sad look in his wife's eyes and pretend he did not see it, do what he had set his mind to do, come back, finish the book, and all would end well.
In theory, because if he had chosen this option, his wife would have remained sad, gotten into bed with her thoughts interfering with her ability to relax, he would have attempted to initiate sex, she would refuse not feeling herself and still feeling sad, he would probably not understand why she would say no as he would have been in a good mood because of managing to finish his reading at the exact point he wanted, they would have turned their backs to each other both feeling rejected and 'evidently' misunderstood, and the night would have ended with some emotional distance.
Instead, he could choose to stop on his tracks, turn to his wife and make eye-contact with her, take her brush, start to comb her hair, and just ask her softly, 'what is it baby?', while giving her time to feel calm enough, safe and supported to tell him what was on her mind.
Thankfully, the second option is what happened.
At first glance, it was a trivial, every day moment, which most of us think so little of.
How much meaning could a sad look carry and how much support should one give to their spouse?
I mean, come on, they are adults, right? They can sort out their feelings and we can get on with our day.
Yes, if you are single and live by yourself.
Yet by choosing in that split second to prioritise his wife and his relationship with her, by choosing to put his strong wants on hold to be there for her in the way she needed it, he was able to help her share about the difficulty she was experiencing, and he was able to strengthen their bond and emotional connection.
That little talk that night helped them both feel closer to each other, understood, connected, supported (as by receiving his attention, his wife was showing him that his approach is welcome, too) and a trivial moment became a teaching story that carries the essence of connection; prioritising our person - especially when they need it - our relationship, their emotional well-being, prioritising communication and sharing, and accepting, welcoming, and respecting vulnerability no matter when it shows up.
Our feelings might be fleeting but our feelings also matter.
In a world that does its best to control, deny and suppress emotion as opposed to learning how to interpret it, how to use its information, and how to help our body and mind be with our emotions in helpful ways, learning to spot sliding-door moments and choosing the option that brings us closer to our partner most importantly when it matters to them is one of the ways that can shift our reality and help us create the world which gives us more of what we truly wish for and desire.
If you would like to improve the way you connect with your partner and you are unsure how, I offer a 45mins Complementary Clarity Session to help you get clarity and form a plan of action. To arrange your session, you can email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org or choose your time from my online calendar by visiting http://TheLantern.as.me/relationships
Constantina Stamou is a certified Life & Relationship Coach, has trained with the Robbins-Madanes coaching school and Strategic Intervention, is an NLP Master Practitioner, has attended Tony Robbins’ Business Mastery, and has a PhD in how we change the way we put sentences together as we grow older. Her work experience includes university tutoring, charity research, and entrepreneurship which has so far translated into the TNT Dance Salsa Club in London, her Reformer Pilates Studio at Kensington Olympia, London, and The Lantern.