Dr John Gottman, the world renowned relationship and family researcher found that successful couples, those he referred to as Masters of Relationships, ‘turned towards’ each other at least 70% of the time. What this meant was that when one partner made, often very subtle, ‘bids for connection’, their partner responded in positive ways that demonstrated that no matter what the context, “I’m here for you”.
This started me thinking about all ways of ‘being there’ for others. For example, when my husband is feeling stressed and tired from his day, am I there for him? Do I give 10 minutes of my time to just listen and support him? Or do I turn away because I have my own stresses to worry about?
When my son is struggling with the complexities of raising a young family and being a young husband, am I there for him’? Do I tell him how proud I am of him, tell him what a wonderful father, husband and son I think he is? Or do I tell him how to do it better?
When my granddaughter is throwing a tantrum because she is overwhelmed by her feelings, am I there for her? Do I validate her feelings and soothe her so she learns she and her feelings are important? Or do I scold her and dismiss her and her feelings?
When my neighbor is struggling with loss or sickness, am I there for them? Do I put myself out to check on them, to fix them a meal, to listen to their sadness? Or do I avoid them because I don’t want to feel the discomfort?
When my colleague needs a shoulder to lean on, or words of advice and encouragement, am I there for them? Do I let go of my ego to share my own professional insecurities, my experience and knowledge, and let them know they aren’t alone? Or do I scorn them as being less than me?
When my community calls for volunteers to help in some way, am I there for them? Do I share my time, my resources, my good fortune for the good of others? Strangers? Or do I turn a blind eye and tell myself “I’m all right Jack”?
What about you? Are you there for them – whoever and wherever they are?
John Gottman contends that there are ‘sliding door’ moments every day in our lives where we can either turn towards others in our lives and create moments of connection, closeness, support, love, or we can turn away and leave our loved ones, neighbours and community feeling alone, unsupported and unloved. Which sliding door are you prepared to step through at least 70% of the time?