Safety in Marriage
God created each of us with hearts that desire to be open. It takes emotional energy to keep thoughts and feelings hidden. When we feel frustrated or hurt, a common response is to shut down emotionally—to protect, rather than share our hearts.
At a pivotal point in our marriage, I realized that, although I felt safe to openly share how I felt with my husband, Wayne didn’t feel the same safety with me. Wayne processes his emotions and thoughts internally, and when he doesn’t feel safe, he keeps to himself. Every time I spoke critically of my husband, in effect, I added another brick to the wall that divided us. We had been through a couple of hard years and the bricks were stacking up between us. The taller that protective wall got, the more effectively it hindered our emotional intimacy.
When I accepted the responsibility for my actions and asked for Wayne’s forgiveness, the wall between us immediately began to come down. A newly created environment of emotional safety allowed us to draw together with greater intimacy.
If an emotional brick wall is dividing your relationship, one or both of you are probably experiencing some of the following things:
- Communication is closed or strained.
- It feels as if you’re walking on eggshells in an attempt to avoid confrontation.
- You feel like you have to perform a certain way to please the other person.
- There’s an inability to be fully open and honest. 26
To experience intimacy in marriage, both partners need to feel safe. In addition, one or both of you may feel:
- Misunderstood or rejected
- Mistrusted or mistrusting
- Emotionally shut down
An emotionally safe marriage is one that allows you the freedom to be who you really are. You can trust that your spouse will love you no matter what. You feel unconditional acceptance. You feel safe to share the most valuable part of you—your heart. In an emotionally safe relationship, you are confident your spouse will not crush your hopes, dreams, or deepest desires. And you feel confident that what you share will remain private.
Both spouses need to embrace their responsibility to create an environment of emotional safety in their home. You can start by learning how to handle conflict in a way that builds up, rather than tears down, your partner’s confidence and security.