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‘Sliding Door’ Moments

Sliding door moments are the seemingly inconsequential everyday moments that make or break the most important relationships in our lives.

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Sliding Door Moments

Following more than 40 years of research, Dr. John Gottman discovered something surprising and counter-intuitive to many. Even those who are aware of its occurrence rarely pay it any attention. Dr. John Gottman calls it the sliding door” moment, referencing the 1998 Gwyneth Paltrow film “Sliding Doors,” in which a woman lives two alternative lives after missing a train. Here “sliding door” moments are the seemingly inconsequential everyday incidents or decisions that affect relationships negatively or positively.

Many couples focus on the blow-outs, like shouting matches, door slamming, and worse. According to Dr. John Gottman’s studies, this is both totally understandable, yet only gets to part of the issue.

Bids for attention and emotional connection create “sliding door” moments. When you say “I love you” or complain about your boss, you want a response from your partner that both acknowledges and/or validates your bid.  How your partner responds can set your relationship on a few different trajectories (hence the “Sliding Doors” reference). When your partner does not respond or they turn away from the bid, you naturally begin to lose trust in them. The reasons for failed connection are often the result of mindlessness, not malice; however, they add up over time, creating complex and all-encompassing systems of Positive or Negative Sentiment Override.

In “What Makes Love Last“, Dr. Gottman gives readers the tools to help couples recognize bids and turn towards them, not away.

Watch Dr. Gottman explain “sliding door” moments:

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Ellie Lisitsa is a former staff writer at The Gottman Institute. She holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology.

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