The reality is that many couples don’t really feel safe, especially emotionally safe, inside of the relationship. When we don’t feel safe, we react to protect ourselves. At times, that’s the right thing to do.
Different people react in different ways. Some wall themselves off and shut down. Others try to control and manipulate their spouse. Some try to stamp out the behavior that they think is hurting them by reacting with harsh words or critical statements.
How do we add safety into the dialog to create something that is open, vulnerable, relaxed, comfortable and soothing? That’s the relationship and the marriage bond that we all want.
What’s Safety Look Like to You?
Here’s my list:
- I want someone who listens to me.
- I want them to validate me and try to understand me.
- I want them to treat me as someone who is very valuable and precious.
- I want them to give me the benefit of the doubt. When I act poorly, they’ll try to understand.
- I don’t want to be judged. If my motives aren’t understood, I would rather that they ask me about my thinking than assume the worst.
- I want someone who honors my opinion, even if they disagree. (Sometimes, I’m even wrong and I do need to hear other people’s opinions.)
- When I’m hurt by something they’ve done, I want them to try to work it out with me.
When my wife treats me like this, I feel honored. I’m more likely to be vulnerable and open. My defenses drop.
The relationship feels relaxed and safe. Things go well. I am not as likely to resort to poor behaviors.
Are You a Safe Person?
This is the second question. That’s sobering. I don’t usually think of that in regards to my own behavior. As I’ve made this more of a focus with couples, I’ve had to think about my own safety.
“In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you.” Matthew 7:12 (NET)
Am I treating my partner the way that I would like to be treated?
- Do I listen to my spouse?
- Do I try to understand?
- Do I treat my wife as someone who is valuable and precious?
- Do I give her the benefit of the doubt when I see something that I don’t like?
- Do I honor her opinion, even if I disagree?
- Do I judge her motives?
- Do I work out disagreements with her?
In reality, when I look at this list, I’m not always a safe person.
This is something that I need to work at.
I want her to be open and vulnerable with me. I want her to be relaxed and have fun with me. I want her to be connected to me.