What is it that makes a relationship stand the test of time? I wish I had an easy answer for that one! But I can share that strong relationships have one thing in common, and that is trust. According to relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, trust is one of the most important things to make love last.
Often the conflicts that couples have are related to questions of trust. Can I trust that you will be here for me? Will you will put our relationship first? Can I trust that you will be faithful to me? Can I trust that you will take care of our kids? Will you take my side? Can I trust you to comfort me when I've had a bad day? Will you be emotionally available? Can I trust you to love me for who I am?
So how do you build and nurture trust? According to Gottman, trust is built in the small every day moments. He calls them sliding door moments, based on the movie Sliding Doors. In these moments you are paying attention to your partner and their emotional needs, and you make the choice to connect with your partner. Sliding door moments happen quick and they happen all the time. You have a choice how to respond.
An example of a sliding door moment that I like to share with my clients in therapy, is one that Dr. Gottman talks about from his own relationship. One night he was tired and wanted to get into bed to read a book. But as he passed by the bathroom, he noticed that his wife looked sad. In that moment, she didn't see him so he had a choice. Does he go into the bathroom and ask her what's wrong? Or does he get in bed and read the book he was excited to get back to? She would never know the difference. Spoiler alert-- he went into the bathroom. By responding in that way, he turned towards his wife and built trust.
In the video below, Dr. Gottman talks more about sliding door moments.
In couples therapy, a lot of the work we do is learning how to strengthen trust and intimacy. We focus on how the couple can recognize those sliding door moments and how to respond in a way that that brings them closer to one another.