“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
Would you consider your marriage to be safe?
What does it mean to be in a relationship that is emotionally safe? Generally when we talk about safety in marriage, physical safety first comes to mind; but few couples consciously think about creating a safe environment emotionally for one another. What are we talking about, and why is it important?
First, let’s talk about what it means to feel emotionally safe. Emotional or relational safety means feeling accepted; there is no judgment or criticism. A person can communicate honestly, be themselves and know their deepest thoughts, feelings, hurts and experiences will be honored and treated with care. When you feel safe, you do not need to prove, or impress. It allows you and your partner to be real and genuine with one another without fear; fear of being rejected, criticized, misunderstood, and feeling inadequate or insignificant. You feel free to be open and honest, true to yourself and without regrets.
When a person feels emotional or relational safety they:
- Feel their partner cares for them
- Know what they feel and think matters
- Can be different and yet still accepted
- Have a good balance of time alone and as a couple
- Are comfortable that unhealthy words and actions will not be present
- Feel free to be open and vulnerable
- Feel they are partners in the relationship and can make decisions together
- Can equally be heard and understood
Compassion and understanding create safety!
Why is establishing safety essential for great relationships? We were created for relationship and we all desire to be close, connected and have intimacy with others; it’s in our genes. When we feel safe, we can be open and vulnerable with others. When we feel threatened emotionally, we have a natural, physiological reaction of “fight or flight.” We feel insecure, unsafe and our heart and soul become closed off, defensive and disconnected from our spouse. Ultimately, intimacy in relationships depends on emotional and relational safety. When we feel well cared for by our spouse, it is safe for us to be fully ourselves and makes it easier to communicate and solve problems. Safety and feeling you are cared for come before problem solving takes place.
Creating safety is also central for healthy marriages because security and safety are principles initiated by God himself for our benefit. Over and over we see God characterized as our rock, a fortress, and a stronghold; the one where we can go to find refuge, find protection and be delivered (2 Thess 3:3; Isa 19:20; Ps 18:2). He obviously is concerned enough for our security and safety to become the provider for it. And why would he do this for us? Because he sees the people he has created in his own image as valuable and as a treasure! The value of who we are comes from God. He says we are precious and honored in His sight and he loves us (Isa 43:4). When we recognize and accept our spouse as a valuable treasure, just as God does, we will demonstrate by our words and actions that they are worth protecting.
Creating a safe marriage involves both attitude and action. So, how do we create the emotional safety we all desire and need? Here are a few suggestions:
- View your spouse as God does: valuable, precious, a treasure; created in His image.
- Treat your spouse in words and actions with care, compassion and sensitivity.
- Be a trustworthy person-follow through on your promises, keep your word.
- Do not judge or criticize (You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Rom 2:1)
- Learn to respect and embrace your differences and make them work for the relationship.
- Be committed to demonstrating your love and support with consistency (words of affirmation, affection, time together, romance, etc.).
- Listen with your heart: be “in tune” with your spouse’s emotions.
- Ask yourself some questions: When does my marriage feel safe? When does it feel unsafe? What is happening when the relationship feels safe, unsafe? How do I contribute to an unsafe emotional environment? What words or behaviors do I use that are unsafe? What could I change that would impact the safety of my marriage?
Have you considered making your marriage a totally safe place emotionally and relationally? When we focus on being safe for our spouse, we are inviting them to open their heart and soul to us so we can have the open, loving relationship we desire and were created to have. See your spouse as a person of great worth and value, and then treat them accordingly.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18