A safe relationship. You might not know exactly what I mean by that, but I bet you sure know what an unsafe relationship feels like. Are you already thinking of that person? The person that makes you feel scared, closed off, or even unimportant?
Is that unsafe person your spouse? If so, ok, we have work to do. Hang in there.
If that unsafe person is not your spouse, hang in too. There is a huge opportunity to learn and practice some skills that will help other relationships in your life AND protect your marriage. If you are going to thrive, your marriage must remain as a safe environment.
What do I mean by safety? Obviously physical safety is a component, but what I really want to focus on is emotional and relational safety. The National Institute of Marriage in Branson Missouri has some great ways to look at safety in relationships:
Emotional and relational safety sounds 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 both work to build trust in our relationship.
- I can have space if I need it.
- 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.
Do these things sound like your marriage? If, not, where is the breakdown? Is it the component of care? Is it feeling heard? Is it anger? Where does the safety stop?
Ask yourself some questions…
- What do I do, or not do, that makes MY PARTNER feel unsafe?
- Possibilities: angry outbursts, threats of leaving (separation, divorce), ignoring issues, withdrawal, sarcastic humor without regard for feelings, criticizing, inferring or stating that their feelings are wrong or ridiculous.
- Circumstances that makes ME feel unsafe in the relationship?
- Possibilities: a lack of boundaries, ignoring my own feelings, staying even when I feel unsafe, not controlling my own anger, not following through on my commitments.
- How can I make our relationship a safe place for both of us?
Try doing the above questions with your partner as an exercise: Answer individually and then come together to share your responses. Remember-keep the discussion SAFE.
Leave us a note or some comments below. We want to hear your thoughts on safety.
And, check back in for more on Safety in Relationships. We will explore actual Steps to Safety you can take to flesh out the attitudes, feelings and behaviors to make your relationships safe.