Emotional safety is one of the most important elements of any happy and healthy relationship. Yet there are so many ways it can be compromised. Sometimes it happens inadvertently and other times it’s a more direct assault on the foundation of the relationship.
When a couple has a high level of emotional safety they usually have a number of things going for them simultaneously; they feel heard, understood, feel prioritized and trust each other. They ultimately feel deeply loved, secure in the sense that they are there for each other through the twist and turns of life. And they ideally feel relaxed in a way that they can live with authenticity together rather be someone other than who they are.
The more challenged couples with a lack of emotional safety demonstrate their distress in many ways that ultimately can lead to a slowly eroding relationship foundation and disconnection. The longer the issues go unaddressed, the more difficult it can be to create the needed safety to reconnect, chronic tension and resentment having built up.
The reasons why people are challenged establishing emotional safety together are many and unique to their experiences. It’s a complex topic that requires a willingness to look in the mirror a bit. And it becomes more complicated when you factor in different levels of awareness people have and their general interest in making changes in themselves. But if you are in a relationship where you both are invested in improving the emotional safety, you can.
Two ways to improve the emotional safety in your relationship:
1 -> Talk to each other.
Without communication, there is no starting point to figuring out where the relationship is going awry. As obvious as this may sound, many couples don’t talk. There are a lot of reasons for this including conflict avoidant tendencies (sweeping things under the rug to avoid a fight or difficult conversations), fear of trying to talk with a history of communication not going well and ending in conflict with no solution, one or both in the relationship has gone even further down the line and essentially given up on talking. This is more of a position of hopelessness as in, “There’s no point.”
While all relationships are different and each one has its own ups and downs, being able to talk to your partner means that you’ll be able to share your worries, show support for one another, and work together to handle conflict more effectively.
from How to Improve the Communication in Your Relationships via VeryWellMind.com
As important as the ability to talk to your partner is as it relates to emotional safety, it is not a stand alone. There are different aspects of communication that requires the collaboration of both parties.
2 -> Listen well.
Often easier said than done, listening well is just as important as being able to talk to your partner. One of the fundamental aspects of emotionally safety in intimate relationships is feeling heard. One step beyond that is feeling understood. Both of these are not possible if you’re not listening well in the first place.
Listening sometimes requires a deep breath and pause while your partner speaks. This helps to slow down what can be an intense need to get your opinion or viewpoint across. This is especially true when the conversation has escalated and one or both are emotionally activated.
An ability or willingness to talk and listen are two critical aspects of the groundwork needed to build the emotional safety in your relationship. If you are willing to engage and try to express your thoughts and especially hurt feelings, you’re on your way.
But things can get complicated if there are valid reasons why there is pain around talking at all. Unresolved family of origin issues for one or both partners that neither know how to address, or might not even have awareness around. Affairs or other betrayals can make communication very difficult as well. But sometimes it’s simply a matter of identifying problematic behaviors within the relationship and making some changes like more kindness, respect, openness and overall reliability.
A lack of emotional safety is dangerous, creating vulnerabilities for the couple that can spread like a relationship cancer. Whether it was lacking from the start or you lost it along the way, the good news is it can be newly created or found again, with willingness and effort by both partners.