Having your heart broken because of a bad relationship is something all of us can relate to, right? Few experiences hurt more or last as long — especially when it happens more than once. And as much as we want to sit in a dark room and cry our eyes out while eating a tub of cookie dough…it does little to ease the pain. So what we end up doing is building these invisible emotional walls to protect our hearts. And sometimes, we carry those barriers into a marriage.
Protecting ourselves from unsafe relationships is natural, but God created us to be open and intimate with each other. We must remove walls so that we can have a safe and connected marriage rather than one that is disconnected and unsafe.
Here are a few signs of an unsafe relationship that may sound familiar:
- I’m not sure if my partner cares about or loves me
- Constant angry outbursts and demands
- Harmful words and threats
- One or both spouses ignoring key issues
- Withholding love, affection, time, and humor
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Unwarranted criticism
- Disconnection and a lack of closeness
Our emotional walls can get in the way of a safe and connected marriage
The need to feel emotionally safe is the key ingredient in the development of a closely connected marriage. When we don’t feel safe, our hearts and spirits feel disconnected and closed — and that’s what leads to some of the bullet items above. When we have walls, it is difficult for us to be open and almost impossible for us to show understanding and deal with stress and conflict effectively.
Conversely, the safer our marriage is, and the more we let down our walls, the better partners we are. Below is how the National Institute of Marriage defines
What a safe and connected marriage looks like:
- I know my partner cares about me
- My feelings, ideas, and concerns matter
- We honor one another
- Our differences are allowed and valued
- We each do our part to build trust in our relationship
- I can have space if I need it
- I feel effective
- Anger is not out of control
- I don’t feel judgment, but understanding and compassion
- We really feel like partners, not enemies
- I can be open and vulnerable with my spouse
5 ways to have a safe and connected marriage
When we focus on creating safe environments, closeness and connection are the results.
- Honor the walls — Walls are obstacles that stand in our way of connection and intimacy. So it only seems natural and reasonable to try to forcefully break down the walls. The problem is that this will only trigger you or your spouse’s core fears and lead to unhealthy words or actions. You cannot bulldoze boundaries in the name of vulnerability and connection. Instead, honor the walls. Choose to care for their feelings and focus on creating a safe relationship for your spouse. Eventually, their emotional walls will come down.
- Honor your partner — Treat them as the valuable, treasured person that they are. Remember, honor is a choice. Even when you don’t feel like it or think that the other person deserves it, you can always choose to honor someone.
- Suspend judgment — Negativity and criticism are the quickest way to tank vulnerability and authentic sharing. Meet your spouse with compassion and understanding. There’s an extremely wise phrase that says when we judge others, we are really condemning ourselves because the things we judge, we usually see in ourselves.
- Value differences — Differences can work FOR your relationship when you learn to value them. Differences are generally not about right and wrong! They are about our preferences, perceptions, likes and dislikes, and even personalities.
- Be trustworthy — To the extent that you treat the person as precious and irreplaceable, you are trustworthy. And to the extent that you don’t, you are not. Trust must be continually established and maintained.
Our heart is devoted to caring about people and marriages!
Our heart is and always has been devoted to caring about people and ensuring they have a safe and connected marriage. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people about MikeandSusanDawson.com and let them know that we are here.
What do you think? Do you have a safe and connected marriage? Send us a quick email and let us know one thing that needs to be better in your marriage. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.