Sliding Door Moments


Cara Meredith -Sliding Door Moments3

Years ago, a concept in a relationship book changed me.

It’s called the sliding door moment. According to Dr. John Gottman, a marriage and family expert, sliding door moments happen when we’re in relationship with one another. When something upsets us, or when someone makes us mad, we have the opportunity to open up the sliding glass door—to not shut the other person out, just because they’ve upset us. Likewise, when we’re in relationship with other people–be it girlfriends and soul mates, husbands and spouses and partners, co-workers and friends from the Internet alike–each interaction can be a sliding door moment.

We get to choose:

I’m going to let you in.

I’m going to make the choice to open the door emotionally to you.

I’m going to risk putting myself out there, because I know that the little things really are the big things.

I’m going to bid for your attention, because in this giving action, a door opens relationally.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself at a new friend’s house. Our sons go to preschool together, and even though the end of the school year is upon us, we finally found it in our best interest to arrange a play date.

The concept of play dates altogether can sometimes be weird. But on this particular afternoon, my friend Heidi and I dove right in. We put all play date formalities aside. And for a few minutes, we bared our souls.

Soon Heidi will leave the city she was born and raised in—the area of the Northwest her three children grew up in. Her family will move two hours north, to an area of the state that’s quieter and also closer to extended family. She didn’t have to justify or explain the move to me, even though justification seems to naturally come with a moving truck.

We just want a slower way of life. We just want space for the children to play. We just want to be closer to aging parents. We just want to pursue my partner’s dream, and this is the place to do it.

Now listen: you need not add in every “just” for me, sister. I get it. I don’t need you to explain yourself. I get what it means to pack up and move, to fly 800 miles one way and not know when you’re going to again return to the place that still feels way too much like home. I get what it means to not want to have to prove the need for doing what’s best for the deepest part of you, for your soul.

But I also get what it means to start over in people and place. I know what it means to wander the aisles of a grocery store, searching not for a bag of shredded coconut but for another human–any human–to connect with and engage in conversation. I know what it means to yearn for home in a place that doesn’t quite feel like it fits yet.

“So, how’s your community up there?” I asked her.

Sliding door moment.

“Um, we have my parents, and that’s about it,” she replied. “Our entire community is down here.”

Sliding door moment.

We paused in conversation. The last thing I wanted to do was impose my experience upon her; that may be what you do with someone you’ve known for a long time, but not with another woman on a play date on her turf. Or is it?

This time she broke the silence: “Well, wait a minute. You guys just moved here six months ago. You must know something about gaining and losing community, right?”

So, I accepted her words as an invitation to tell her part of my story. Starting over is hard. Finding your people is hard. Feeling like life’s going on without you in the place that felt so wholly you is hard. And some people say it takes a good two to three years to really establish in a new place.

Sliding door moment, sliding door moment, sliding door moment.

“But I don’t doubt this is where we’re supposed to be, even if it’s hard.” I gulped. She nodded.

Soon, we returned to conversations of water balloons and popsicles and scooters, the stuff play date conversations are made of–but also, the stuff friendships are built on.

Here’s the thing: be it a conversation with another woman, time with my husband, or one-on-one with my boys, I want to search for those sliding glass door moments–both in me and in others. I want to look for and lean into those moments of trust, of leaning into conversations that might hurt or might make us mad or might not make us look like the shiniest human.

In doing so, I think we become the most real and authentic version of ourselves. We lean, just a little tiny bit, into who God wants us to be with one another: into our most gorgeous imago dei selves.