What Is Emotional Safety, and How to Create It in Your Relationships?
Being in a perfect relationship means different things for different people. However, most of us can agree that one of the most important things about any relationship is safety.
Sometimes, we may love someone while being unable to feel completely relaxed and at ease. Many couples experience a lack of trust, and it can negatively affect the development of their relationships.
Problems in relationships are often caused by problems with communication, and this is one of the main reasons why many couples decide to go to therapy. Sometimes, partners realize that they no longer hear and understand each other so a therapist may act as a mediator, helping them find common ground.
Without proper communication, couples cannot discuss their expectations and explain their needs. However, if someone doesn’t feel emotionally safe in a relationship, effective communication becomes impossible.
Emotional safety means being able to trust your partner with your emotional well-being. Partners in emotionally safe relationships care about each other’s emotional experiences and feel comfortable when being vulnerable around each other.
Emotional safety enables couples to share their hopes, fears, and pain, without being afraid of judgment and negative reactions.
Here’s what you should know about emotional safety in relationships.
What Is Emotional Safety?
When we feel emotionally safe, we feel relaxed and don’t need to get defensive. We can be authentic and share everything with another person, including our weaknesses, fears, and vulnerabilities.
Perhaps, the most important thing about emotional safety is that when we feel it, we don’t need to act defensively, as defensiveness is one of the main factors that lead to misunderstandings and problems in relationships.
While there’s nothing wrong with defending ourselves against wrongdoing, when people don’t feel emotionally safe, they may also switch to the defensive mode to protect themselves from possible rejections, criticism, or blaming, even when these things haven’t occurred yet.
Defensiveness can make you question the sincerity of your partner’s words and the importance of their needs. When you’re acting defensively, you may also be overly critical of your partner. According to research, defensive behavior can make the other person feel like an outcast, therefore causing even more damage to relationships.
However, there’s no need to act defensively when you’re feeling safe in a relationship. When you’re treated with respect and your partner cares about you, you can relax and be open to genuine communication.
What Emotional Safety Looks Like
Here are the main features of emotionally safe relationships.
Partners can see things from each other’s perspectives and relate to each other’s experiences.
Partners understand and accept the legitimacy of each other’s worries and problems.
Partners prioritize each other’s needs and feelings when one of them seeks support or wants to be understood.
Partners demonstrate support both verbally and non-verbally, creating a comfortable environment for open and sincere conversations.
Couples often experience misunderstandings when one of the partners expresses concerns regarding the other partner’s actions. It can be difficult to hear your partner complain about you and to see their frustration. However, as long as those complaints don’t turn into emotional abuse, try to listen to your partner and understand their concerns.
- Don’t act defensively unless it’s actually necessary. Let your partner share all of their concerns with you. Even if they blame you for what you haven’t done, focus on what they say, and don’t rush with your response.
- Validate their emotions and tell them how you feel after hearing them. You can share your own perspective and explain what you think, but first, make sure that your partner feels completely understood. Understanding is crucial for emotional safety.
- If you're going to discuss your disappointment or frustration with your partner, you may want to take some time and calm down. Try to avoid defensive behavior and be careful with your conclusions.
- Consider giving your partner the benefit of the doubt, and focus on explaining your feelings rather than blaming. Try to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements.
How to Improve Emotional Safety in Relationships
1. Respect personal boundaries
Healthy boundaries are necessary for emotional safety in relationships. By communicating your limitations, you can help your partner understand your expectations and encourage them to share their limitations with you. Personal boundaries can protect not only one of the partners but also the relationship itself.
There are physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and intellectual boundaries, and everyone has different boundaries so couples should communicate their boundaries to each other to create emotional safety. For example, partners can agree to respect what’s important to them and ask for certain personal space.
2. Talk about emotional safety
No matter what challenges and conflicts you face in your relationship, there is always some space for dialogue. It’s important to talk about emotional safety and things that are or aren’t appropriate for each of the partners.
Let your partner know if something they do or say makes you feel emotionally unsafe. Tell them what you feel guilty about or what you’d like to change in your relationship. Even though talking about sensitive subjects might make you feel uncomfortable, authentic conversations will help you build trust and benefit your relationship in the long term.
3. Practice transparency
Transparency is an important aspect of emotional safety because it directly impacts trust. For instance, many people are trying to figure out, is jealousy healthy in a relationship? In this case, the answer depends on whether or not partners hide something from each other.
There’s no need to share each minor detail about your life with your partner, but if you want your partner to feel emotionally safe, you should be generally open about your activities, feelings, and thoughts.
4. Encourage and support each other
Celebrate your partner’s achievements and encourage them. Provide emotional support when they are feeling down and don’t leave them alone with their problems. Emotionally safe relationships are impossible without support and acceptance.
Don’t hesitate to praise your partner’s achievements in public. Let others know how proud you are of your partner.
In contrast, if something bothers you, speak to your partner directly instead of discussing it with the people both of you know to avoid spreading gossip.
5. Be curious rather than judgmental
If you disagree with your partner, that doesn’t necessarily make them a bad person. You can discuss the subject of your concerns without making it personal. Try not to criticize your partner for their opinions, beliefs, and thoughts because a judgmental position can negatively affect your relationship, without helping you find a common ground.
Be curious and ask your partner questions to better understand why they hold on to certain opinions. Consider your partner’s perspective and don’t jump to conclusions before you make sure that both of you understand each other.
6. Be consistent
A relationship with a person who acts unpredictably and impulsively can be exhausting. It’s difficult to have emotional safety in relationships when partners don’t know what to expect from each other.
Be straightforward, say what you mean, and put some effort into making sure that both of you can rely on each other. Keep your promises even if it’s inconvenient for you because when you make a promise, your partner expects you to keep it.
7. Consider therapy
If you and your partner experience difficulties with emotional safety in your relationship, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A licensed therapist can help you understand what causes disagreements, understand each other’s needs, and improve your sex life.
If you’ve never visited a therapist before, you can learn more about relationship therapy so that you will know what to expect from your first session. Couples therapy can help you improve communication and trust, which is what emotionally safe relationships are based on.
Emotionally safe relationships are based on trust, transparency, and authentic communication. Couples in emotionally safe relationships have a deep sense of connection, respect each other’s needs and boundaries, and support each other.
We hope that our tips will help you create emotional safety in your relationship. Developing it can be a challenging task so be patient and don’t be afraid to be honest, even if it requires you to show your vulnerability.
If you don’t feel emotionally safe in your relationship, don’t hesitate to go to couples therapy. While in-person therapy might be inconvenient for couples with conflicting work schedules, there are also online therapy platforms like Calmerry, which enable you and your partner to talk to a therapist remotely, even when you’re far from each other.