Healthy Relationships: Assessing the Emotional Safety

Couples seek relationship counseling for numerous reasons.  No matter what issues they present to therapy with, it often can be boiled down to a problem with the emotional safety in their relationship.  The most hostile, distant or disengaged couples are not the only ones who can be challenged with a lack of emotional safety.  Those who minimize their feelings or are conflict avoidant can often ultimately be the most at risk.  It can be helpful to occasionally assess the emotional safety in any intimate relationship.

Each person in the relationship ideally feels:

  • respected
  • prioritized
  • heard
  • understood
  • validated
  • empathized with
  • loved

Do a quick mini-assessment on your own relationship.  Ask each other to rate, from zero to ten, (zero being “never” and ten being “always”) how much you both feel each of the seven mentioned aspects of emotional safety in your relationship.

1) Respect: How respected do you feel by each other? People who report low levels of respect often experience criticism, judgment or neglect from the other.

2) Prioritized: How much do you each feel prioritized by each other?  People who don’t feel prioritized can start to wonder if they matter to the other.

3) Feeling Heard: How much do you feel heard by each other? Those who don’t feel heard can feel ignored or minimized.

4) Understood: How much do you feel understood by each other? People with low levels of understanding from the other report frustration around their partner not fully understanding where they are coming from which can lead to loneliness.

5) Validation: How much do you feel validated by each other? Low levels of validation are problematic to any relationship in that one or both don’t experience their partner emotionally understanding and having compassion for what they are saying.

6) Empathy: How much do you feel empathy from each other? A relationship that lacks empathy is one of the more challenging to overcome as it’s experienced as an even lower level of care or concern for the others feelings.

7) Love: How much do you feel loved by each other? This encapsulates and reflects the state of the previous six. Couples who report low levels of feeling loved by the other often have low numbers in the other aspects.

The piece 7 Ways to Create Emotional Safety in Your Relationship in sums it up well:

Emotional safety also goes both ways. When you feel emotionally safe and reveal your true self, it opens the door for your partner to do the same. And when both people in a relationship feel secure, it provides a safe environment where a deeper and more loving connection can form.

If you and your partner found your emotional safety levels to be problematic or this self-assessment is too difficult for you to handle on your own, seek couples counseling. You might benefit from a deeper exploration into your dynamic, why it exists and tools to make changes.

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Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of with emotional and relationship health articles, guides, courses and other tools for individuals and couples. She is a frequent consultant for the media having appeared in,, and others. Lisa has a private practice in Marin County, CA and offers Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations via email, phone or video conference.

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