How to (and why you should) Create Emotional Safety in Your Relationship (Right Now)
If a relationship is lacking safety, it has cracks in its foundation and it is a matter of time before it starts to crumble. Continuously left unchecked, this will eventually lead to the relationship incinerating or imploding.
This is why it is so important to create and maintain safety in your relationships right now.
While it is best to establish safety right from the beginning you can start working on this very important quality at anytime and the chances of your relationship surviving becomes exponentially increased.
What is emotional safety?
Emotional safety is when you:
Feel internally relaxed with that person.
You can let your guard down and be your authentic self. When you don’t feel safe you become defensive.
There is little to defend against
There is respect, kindness, and caring
You are able to express sensitive feelings and desires and you do not fear criticism nor rejection
What does it mean to create safety in your relationship?
If you remember back to science class, there was discussion about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. At the base of the pyramid, we have Physiological Needs (i.e. food, water, shelter, air, sleep, clothing). Since most of us in the modern world have the luxury of having these needs met on a regular basis, it frees us up to focus on the top tiers of the pyramid.
The next tier is concerned with Safety Needs. This section is concerned with personal security, employment, resources, health, and property. If needs in this area are not met, you are not likely to have the capacity to focus on top tier things such as love and belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization.
Benefits of creating safety in your relationship:
Deeper state of intimacy and emotional bond (better sex!)
The relationship is more likely to be healthy over the long-term and likely to last
Better health overall (physical, emotional, financial, spiritual)
Better relationships (family, friends, co-workers, community)
Greater sense of joy, peace, and contentment in one’s life
Less threat of infidelity
Sets great example for your children to follow in their own relationships
How to create safety in your relationship (right now)
Use “I” statements - “I feel [emotion] when you [action] because I need [to feel or be].”
Be curious, avoid accusing - ask open-ended questions to truly get to know where your partner is coming from. Avoid telling me how you think what they are thinking and/or feeling is wrong. It’s just different.
Avoid blanket statements - you “always” or you “never” Don’t say this: “You never hold my hand in public anymore.” Do say this: “I really like it when you hold my hand in public. It makes me feel proud to be with you. Would you be open to doing that more often?”
Listen to understand, not to convince - so often when we are listening to our partner, we are simply waiting for them to stop speaking so we can jump in with our interpretations and opinions. Take the time to truly hear what they are saying. Remember - you don’t need to agree with what they are saying, you just simply need to understand that what they are saying is important to them and that you care enough to listen.
Identify when you are getting triggered and take care of yourself - no one in the world triggers us like our family and our partners. When you are feeling flooded with emotion, it’s best to take a step back, temporarily remove yourself from the situation, and return once calm and try again.
Recognize your partner - give them positive feedback, compliments, and validation when they are doing and/or saying something positive. Focus more on reinforcing the positive and less on the negative
Give yourself and your partner compassion - you’re a human and so is your partner which means you both will make mistakes. You’ve likely already made a mistake today already. If we’re all guilty of making mistakes, why be so insistent on judging your partner for being human?
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Blue Sage Counseling and Wellness, and the information provided by Ashley Francis, is solely intended for informational and entertainment purposes and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis, or treatment regarding medical or mental health conditions. Although Ashley Francis is a licensed marriage and family therapist, the views expressed on this site or any related content should not be taken for medical or psychiatric advice. Always consult your physician before making any decisions related to your physical or mental health.