Creating Safety in Your Relationship
Several years into their relationship, Matt and Nancy came for a counseling session. Nancy complained that she didn’t feel safe enough with Matt. Although she felt that he could be extremely sensitive to her feelings, at other times she felt violated without warning by his insensitivity, criticism or sarcasm. Her history of childhood sexual molestation by her father made her even more sensitive to her need for safety. Matt, on the other hand, felt frustrated by the lack of sexual activity. At one point in the session, with tears in his eyes, he desperately asked us for help, “How can I create more safety for Nancy. I just don’t know how!”
We directed Matt to hold Nancy in his arms with the feeling of a safe father holding a young daughter. Emphasizing a safe father was important because Nancy was needing nurturing from a father without the energy of sex. She needed time to simply be comforted, to receive pure fathering. While being held in this way, the pain and sadness of her childhood came to the surface. We saw that Matt was struggling for the right thing to say, some wisdom to take away her suffering.
Instead, we encouraged him to simply be present and compassionate with Nancy’s feelings, telling her he was there to hold her, and that she was a beautiful child, worthy of love. Through this simple process, Nancy’s heart opened to Matt. She was feeling safe. And Matt’s heart opened to Nancy. He was receiving the intimacy he needed, the closeness and harmony which are the basic prerequisites for healthy, fulfilling sexuality.
Both men and women need to feel safe within their relationships. It is a basic physical as well as emotional need. For far too long, the emphasis was placed upon physical safety. Now we understand that emotional safety is the next step in the soul’s spiritual evolution. Both men and women have misconceptions about how to create more emotional safety both for themselves and for their partner.
Here are some important ways to build more safety into your relationships:
1. Allow space for your own and your partner’s feelings. Avoid the temptation to “fix” or solve feelings. You’re not dealing with a leaky faucet here, where the usual problem-solving methods can be employed. Rather, it is important to acknowledge, accept, and make room for feelings to be felt and, if need be, expressed.
2. Take turns creating a “safety nest.” This is what we had Matt do for Nancy. Later in the session, we had Nancy do this for Matt. Being held as a child by a loving, compassionate parent (in the form of your partner), is a powerful technique for creating more trust and safety. It is extremely important that this “safety nest” be a time of non-sexual holding.
3. Remember that you are both on the same team. Seeing one another as opponents builds fear and even paranoia. Rather, see your partner as wanting to feel more in love with you. You, too, want this same thing with your partner.
4. Allow for regular quality time. In this time, appreciate one another, share with your partner your deeper thoughts and feelings, and genuinely listen to your partner’s words and feelings. This creates vulnerability, and vulnerability creates safety.
5. Ask for help from your partner. It’s easy to forget that God (love, spirit, universal truth) comes through people to help us. It’s great to pray for love and help from a non-human source, or directly from within yourself. But it’s also important to go to the ones we love and let them know of our needs, our pain and our fears. To do so is to empower those we love, and create more safety for everyone.
At the end of John-Nuriel’s, our eight-year-old son’s, soccer camp, the head coach stood in front of all the campers and their parents. His first words were about safety. This is what he said, “Safety is the most important thing we strive for. When children feel safe, they are free to grow.” Although he was talking mostly about physical safety, the same applies to our soul growth. When the child within feels safe, we feel free to open our hearts to the deepest spiritual lessons and truths.