It’s easy to fall in love. Too easy.
Our biochemicals make it such that we can fall head over heels, get physical and feel attached to someone who is a virtual stranger. Commitments are made. Lives are rearranged.
And then comes reality to bite you in the ass. You wake up one day and wonder who you’re with! I’ve been there. It’s hell.
Regardless of how you go about getting into a relationship, making it fulfilling for the long-term requires something that most of us completely miss during the early stages: a thorough compatibility evaluation.
However, there is one fundamental piece that must be in place prior to doing an effective evaluation.
Here it is: You must feel safe.
Physically safe, yes. But there’s a lot more to feeling safe in a relationship. If you don’t feel safe emotionally, you won’t be able to fully function as a partner. You won’t even be able to honestly evaluate your relationship together. Yes, even compatibility is trumped by the need for emotional safety.
Check out my struggle with feeling safe:
When Hope and I first got together, I hard one hell of a time expressing my feelings to her. A lifetime of holding back emotionally had formed a hard outer shell that protected my inner feelings. I couldn’t make myself vulnerable.
It didn’t feel safe, not because Hope was unsafe, but because I had never been with someone who was genuinely interested in how I felt. So, expressing my feelings was a foreign idea to me.
When I felt love for her, somehow the feelings would get lost in translation as they made their way into words. On one occasion, she said to me, “You’re looking at me as if you’re having good feelings about me. What are you feeling right now?”
I tightened up and replied. “Umm, you take really good care of your clothes.”
But that was me. When put on the spot to express myself, I diverted my attention and would somehow came up with silly responses.
This, of course, hurt her feelings, which made me feel worse about my prospects for an emotionally intimate relationship.
I was 38 years old at the time. Ten years later, I let my feelings out pretty much as I experience them. With the help of a great coach, I managed to break through my hard, outer shell and take some emotional risks. Now, the is issue is history.
I succeeded because Hope and I consciously created emotional safety in our relationship. When this kind of very personal safety doesn’t exist, say goodbye to your dream of a fulfilling connection. When safety is an issue, consider it priority number one to fix.
No safety. No progress.
Why address issues that require honest communication when it doesn’t feel safe to communicate honestly in the first place? You can know the most sophisticated relationship enhancement protocols in the world, but you’ll never succeed with these if you don’t feel safe.
Do you feel emotionally safe with your partner? Or, if you were to open up, do you believe your partner would:
• Criticize or condemn you
• Think you’re an idiot, a fool or pathetic
• Use the information you share against you at some point
• Talk to extended family, friends or colleagues about you
• Not be able to handle your emotions
• Not be able to listen well or even get it
• Not care enough to take you seriously
• Loyal to the agreements you’ve made: physical, social, financial, and behavioral. When you agree to anything, follow through. Safety begins and ends with these kinds of boundaries.
Personally, I consider keeping agreements to be sacred.
Even when it concerns little things like taking out the trash or getting the laundry out of the dryer. When I agree to do it, I follow through. Flaking out on the little things, over and over, creates distance between you and your partner. Why do that?
• Non-critical, for the most part, of each other. When you speak, you cannot be in fear of being judged or criticized. Otherwise, you won’t speak your truth. If you speak your feelings at all, you’ll be coming from a defensive place, which only fuels the fire of conflict.
This, in turn, creates an atmosphere in which it is impossible to feel safe.
Do you feel safe opening up to your partner?
If the answer is anything other than, “Yes, absolutely,” then you should probably address your lack of feeling emotionally safe in your relationship. This is the first step of many toward creating the relationship you’ve always wanted.