Emotional safety in intimate relationships

We all know the importance of safety, at least when it comes to our physical wellbeing. Although there are still some worrying statistics about the high incidence of violence in our community, most of us agree - at least in principle - that it's not OK to use physical or verbal abuse in partner and family relationships. For true intimacy to flourish, though, we need to think much more broadly about safety - to encompass our needs for emotional and psychological safety. If I am asking my partner to show vulnerability, to share feelings, longings and dreams, it's vital that I make it safe for her/him to do so. It's also of vital importance that we deal with all of our issues in a way that ensures that no matter how angry or uncomfortable we are with what the other has to say, we manage to keep our responses respectful,and to honour at all times the unique perspective of our loved ones (which will no doubt be different in some very important ways from our own, at least some of the time). The following things may provide a starting point for thinking about what you need to establish emotional safety in your most important relationships:- avoid swearing or putting down your loved one, no matter what the provocation; never over-rule your loved one's perspective on an issue, nor tell them that you know better than they do what they think or feel; listen carefully to what they are saying and make sure you completely understand where they are coming from (it is immaterial if you completely disagree with the point they are making - the goal here is to understand, listen and respect their position, and that you convey acceptance that it is of vital importance to them). I'm sure there are many more things that may be added to this list. Before you decide that your partner is 'unreasonable' or 'wrong' about an issue, check that you have negotiated the conditions that both of you need in order to feel confident that when you speak freely you won't be shouted down, over-ruled, dismissed or ignored. Intimacy flourishes in a space where we feel deeply heard, where our partner tries their best to accept our position, even where they can't agree with it, and where we find a way to live with what may be deeply held points of difference.

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