Creating Safety in a Relationship

Couples have the incredibly important job of communicating their support of their partner and also allowing their partner to support them. In doing so – giving and receiving support in the relationship – a sense of safety and trust is built that will help smooth the difficult times ahead.

We all learn how to be in a relationship – usually from witnessing our parents or other role models. Sometimes we see a full vision of communication in a healthy relationship including loving and nurturing as well as resolution of problems. Sometimes, however, we witness far less.

Often I’ve heard clients remark that they never saw their parents fight (or argue or disagree). If you’re in a relationship, you know that disagreements happen – any two people are going to have different opinions at some point in time. Handling these disagreements through healthy communication while creating safety for your partner makes all the difference in the outcome.

The things we know ruin safety in relationships can be very subtle – manipulation, belittling, rejection of opinions, dismissing feelings, and more.

On the flip side, slowing down, listening to your partner with an open mind and responding AFTER your partner has said what they need to say let’s your partner feel safe, understood and important to you. Isn’t that what we all want?

If you’ve been on the receiving end of poor communication you may understand this. Imagine that you start telling your partner about your day and they respond with something like, “That’s nice but my day was way worse than that…” and they launch into the struggles of their day. You might feel dismissed or unimportant.

Instead, waiting for your partner to complete their story, share with them what you heard them say (in summary), give them empathy (“That sounds really tough.” or “It sounds like you had a great day – I’m happy for you.”), then respond with your story. In this way, you both get to be “seen, heard and understood.”

If healthy communication that creates safety is something you are missing in your relationship, we can help. Changing the way you communicate can be a significant way to create intimacy and safety for both you and your partner.

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About the Author:

Dan Gabbert holds a Masters of Science in Counseling Psychology from Avila University in Kansas City, MO. Dan is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Certified Sex Addictions Therapist (CSAT), a rigorous certification issued by The International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). Dan is also trained in EMDR, a therapeutic technique used for treating trauma and PTSD, and Internal Family Systems (IFS) a very effective approach to therapy and treating trauma and addictions.