How to Create an Emotional Safe Space in Marriage
How to create an emotional safe space in marriage is not always easy. However, creating an emotional safe space in a marriage is crucial for fostering trust, open communication, understanding, and validation for each partner. Your home and your relationship should be a “safe place to fall” for each of you. Not having this type of environment creates anxiety and insecurity and may even lead one or both spouses to look elsewhere for that emotional safety.
Dr. Gary Smalley of Focus on the Family says, “I define emotional safety as feeling free to open up and reveal who you really are while trusting that the other person will still love, value and unconditionally accept you.” Below are some ways that you can create a place of emotional safety for each other.
Prioritize Open Communication
Encourage open and honest communication between you and your spouse. Ensure that both of you feel comfortable expressing your thoughts, feelings, and concerns without fear of judgment or retaliation. The vulnerability required for open and honest communication may seem frightening to one or both of you because of past emotional wounds that you may have suffered. Try being open or lowering your walls just a little bit at a time. That way you can begin to build the trust required for you to feel safe. Communication is the foundation on which all areas of a relationship are built, so, if you get stuck here, seek out marriage help from an experienced marriage counselor or coach.
Practice Active Listening
Practice active listening by giving your spouse your full attention when they are speaking. Avoid interrupting, criticizing, or belittling their thoughts or feelings. Show empathy and understanding and validate their emotions.
Set and Keep Boundaries
Even in marriage, each person needs their own space and protection for their thoughts and feelings. Discuss and establish boundaries within your marriage. For instance, set sexual boundaries with your partner by telling them what expressions of sexuality are always okay with you, never okay with you, and okay with you – but only if you initiate. Respect each other’s personal space, privacy, and individual needs. Boundaries are not an offensive tool. In other words, you shouldn’t use boundaries to control or hurt the other person. Boundaries are for self-protection and emotional health.
Avoid Blame and Criticism
Blame and criticism will elicit a defensive response from your spouse. Emotional walls will go up and meaningful conversation will stop. Instead of blaming or criticizing each other, focus on finding solutions and addressing issues as a team. Use “I” statements to express your concerns rather than blaming “you” statements, which can create defensiveness and hostility.
· Practice Forgiveness
Forgiveness is critical to creating a safe space in your marriage. Every partner is guilty of saying or doing things that hurt their spouse and the relationship. It is, therefore, essential that you free yourself from anger and bitterness by forgiving your spouse. It’s true- forgiveness frees you from the offense and moves you past it. If each of you refuses to forgive, then your marriage will be stuck and will become unsafe. Holding onto grudges or unresolved conflicts can erode the safety in a marriage. Forgiveness allows for healing and growth. It is often the case that, once you have forgiven, you will need to set and enforce boundaries so that you or your spouse does not become a repeat offender.
· Practice Empathy and Understanding
Try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and understand their perspective. Express empathy by acknowledging and validating their emotions, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. Make sure that they feel heard and understood and know that you value them and their thoughts and feelings. Validation doesn’t mean, “ I agree with you”, but “I hear you and you are important to me.”
· Establish Trust
Trust is the foundation of any strong relationship. Be reliable and consistent in your words and actions, not just for a few days, but over time. This is true, especially if trust has been broken. Trust, once broken, must be earned. Trust is earned over time through honesty, transparency, and keeping your word.
Respect and Equality
Treat each other with respect and equality. You are equal, but you are not the same, and therein lies the challenge! Domination of passive aggressiveness by either partner shows a lack of appreciation for the other person. Avoid any form of emotional, verbal, or physical abuse. Recognize and value each other’s opinions, needs, and desires.
Create Rituals of Connection
Establish rituals or routines that foster connection and intimacy in your marriage. This could include daily check-ins, date nights, or shared activities that allow you to bond and strengthen your emotional connection. Set aside regular quality time for each other, where you can connect, bond, and enjoy each other’s company. Ask your spouse how they would like to spend time with you, i.e., what quality time looks like to them. It may be as simple as talking a walk and talking to each other. Spending and enjoying time with each other helps strengthen the emotional bond and build trust.
· Be Mindful of Your Words and Actions
Be mindful of how your words and actions impact your partner. Choose your words carefully, avoiding harsh or hurtful language. Tone makes all the difference. Treat each other with kindness, respect, and love. This can be summed up in two words: Be gentle!
· Celebrate Each Other’s Successes
Celebrate and support each other’s accomplishments and successes. By acknowledging and celebrating each other’s achievements or “just because”, you create a positive and uplifting environment in your marriage.
Remember, creating a safe space in a marriage is an ongoing process that requires effort and commitment from both partners. It’s essential to be patient, understanding, and willing to work together to maintain a safe and loving environment. If you encounter challenges in creating a safe space or addressing deeper issues, consider getting marriage help through a marriage retreat or marriage coach or counselor. Love Recon was formed to help all couples navigate the challenges of life and marriage, so tell us how we can help you!