by Jenny Shain BASW
How to ensure your marriage is accepting, warm and supportive.
How does it feel to be in a safe relationship, one that is accepting, warm and supportive?
It feels like:
I trust that my partner wants what’s best for me
He is on my side and is not my adversary
He is concerned for my well being
He is emotionally available, present.
He is able to see or at least try to see beyond himself.
He is not going to use my weakness/vulnerabilities against me.
He is not shaming, blaming, critical or judgmental.
He is appreciative, warm, supportive.
He is willing to share his vulnerable feelings.
He is genuinely interested in my world, my emotions, my day.
He is reliable, consistent.
Reading this list may feel affirming and clarifying. But it may also highlight what is lacking in one’s relationship, thereby creating greater dissatisfaction. Perhaps one could reframe the list. Instead of reading it as what I do or don’t have, it could be visualized as a set of goals or a relationship vision. I am conscious of and grateful for what I do have. Regarding what is lacking, I will formulate as goals to work towards or challenges to overcome.
A relationship is a two way street where we constantly try to balance each of ourselves as two parts of a complex whole. While it is essential to be aware of one’s own needs in our relationship, in equal measure, we strive to be aware of and attempt to meet the needs of our partner.
So ask yourself: How can I create a safe relationship for my partner?
Creating a safe relationship means that I:
Listen, not just in order to respond but to try and understand.
I don’t judge or analyze.
I don’t give advice unless specifically asked to do so.
I am curious, interested to understand and know my partner more fully.
I look for the good, give the benefit of the doubt, show appreciation.
I take his feelings seriously.
I share my own feelings and ask for what I need; I don’t assume he is a mind reader.
I accept imperfection.
I explain my own mood, irritability, unavailability.
I try to share my difficulties in a non-attacking, critical way.
I take responsibility for my own emotions
I take initiative to build the relationship.
I am emotionally present.
I try to see beyond myself.
Yes, this is a lot of work, but it’s not about achieving perfection in all these areas. Rather it is about setting goals, creating an awareness, working on weak areas, and growing step by step.
Being in a safe relationship means that one can risk bringing up difficult issues without being scared of the outcome. It means one can say no sometimes without being afraid of the consequence. It means one can share difficult feelings and not be ridiculed or taken lightly. It means one can talk and trust that it will be heard. It is a feeling of and security. It means one can make mistakes or get things wrong and it won’t be the end of the world. It means that there can be conflict but we can get through it. There can be differences but they don’t break the bond. It means we want the connection even when it’s imperfect and we can hold the connection when stress and problems threaten it.
Sometimes a third party is needed to facilitate the creating of a safe space and to help understand what is preventing safety in the relationship.
It is not enough to feel the need to be in a safe relationship; it’s up to both husband and wife to continuously work on creating this kind of relationship.