When I think about safe places, I think about my relationship with my children and how much they instinctively run to me or their dad, when someone scares them, when someone hurts them…even when that someone is either of us. They run to us and expect that we will keep them safe. And they are right. I want to always be their safe place, where they can always run to, where there are no judgements or criticisms…a safe place, which I desire to be for the rest of my life.
How that is going to work out when they are teenagers and young adults, sharing things that will surely scandalise me or making decisions I don’t necessarily agree, I don’t know, but I guess we will deal with that when we get to that bridge.
However, there is someone whose safe place I’m supposed to be, first and foremost. That is my husband’s. I’m supposed to be the shield around him, protecting him from the vicissitudes of life, at least inside our home. Be his sounding board, his lover girl, and everything else as life calls upon me for. Just as I’m supposed to be his safe place, he’s supposed to me mine too. The one person I can be most vulnerable with. But then, are we always each other’s safe places? Do we always meet each other’s expectations? The answer is no. But are we still each other’s safe places? The answer is yes. My husband is still the only one person, apart from God, I can rely on, when life happens.
The truth about being each other’s safe place is that it is a dynamic process. Sometimes, you get it right, and sometimes, you have to work at it. It is not all the time that you want to understand the other person’s point of view. It is not all the time you are able to bite your tongue and stop yourself from criticising your partner or the choices they make. Some things they do don’t make sense at times, and you have that eye-rolling moment, while you try to breathe in, breathe out and reassure yourself it’s the thought that matters, or even that you are still on the same team.
But is it possible to create that eternal safe place, where both partners in a relationship feel that each party can absolutely love the other person in spite of mistakes and intentional wrong doings. A relationship where there is understanding, mutual respect, love and gentle treatment of each other, reigns. It is possible but only one party in a relationship cannot do it. Like it is often said, it takes two to tango.
It took Remi months to realise that the tone of their relationship had changed since they got married, and her new husband, whom she had dated for seven years, was a lot more easily hurt. Things she would gotten away with now led to midnight chats and silent treatment.
Words like “disrespect” and “you don’t care” were frequently flung at her by her husband, and she wondered when how it got like that in less than a year of marriage? Remi was in shock, and in that state, she turned into a husband-pleasing mindless woman. She lived at her husband’s pleasure, and since he wasn’t really pleased with her, she wasn’t a happy woman.
After three months in this unnatural mode, Remi went back to her default mode and her husband’s mood grew worse. It became obvious that the problem wasn’t her; her husband was the one who needed to find out what was happening to him and deal with it.
That was what saved their marriage at the end of the day. Choosing his favourite time of the day for a chat – midnight, she called her husband out on his toxic behaviour and it turned out he was actually afraid of being perceived as a weak man.
Obviously, he had been listening to some friends, who had been sharing some useless marital nuggets that would only make him end up an unhappily married man, and he had been taking these to heart. They told him about how marriage was a lot different from just dating, and how he needed to assert his authority now, more than ever.
And he had been practising on Remi, leaving them both miserable.
After this chat, they both made some very foundational decisions about the future of their marriage, the kind of advice they would listen to or even think of accepting.
Slowly but surely, they were able to repair their relationship. They talked through their hurts and the cracks which had showed up in their relationship over the past months. They would make it and they did, as just days back, they celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary, with a testimony of how rough those first few months of marital life were, and how much they feared if they were going to be part of the stats of marriages, which broke down in the first year.
The truth is, partners cannot be each other’s safe places when they are hurt or angry or feel other painful emotions. They need to heal to move forward.
Some relatively minor feelings can be overlooked and will heal quickly on their own, however, significantly painful feelings cannot. When these deep feelings are ignored, they will definitely resurface later (often in a passive-aggressive way) or affect people’s lives in ways they don’t even realize, as partners may become distant.
Acting in a loving way is key in any healthy relationship, but so is actually being loving and open communication. And that is how to create a safe place in your relationship.
Like a said earlier, it takes two to tango; couples need to work together through negative emotions, to continue to feel positively towards each other.
Stay in love.
Kristine is a member of The Lovelint team. She is a down to earth person, who says it as it is. Having given relationship advice for years in a national daily, she has found out that fear is one of the main reasons holding people back from enjoying a healthy, happy relationship. She is married with kids and is willing to listen to you and help as much as you let her to.