Emotional Safety – A Relationship ‘MUST’


Emotional Safety – A Relationship ‘MUST’


You might believe that you are in love when you can’t keep your eyes off the object of your desire, when your heart beats twice as fast each time you think of him or her, when you feel like a thousand dollars in his or her presence and when you simply can’t wait for the first intimate encounter.

But is this really love?

Dr. Rosie King, a lady who is renowned for her studies in sexual health, calls this experience ‘limerance’ and describes it as a hormonally induced state that occurs when ‘boy meets girl’.  There is no doubt that this is a wonderful and exciting condition that feels awfully good, but is it love?

Relationship experts say ‘no’.

It’s an experience that leaves almost as quickly as it comes. As the hormones settle, as we start to get to know the other person warts and all, as life continues to relentlessly pound us with its challenges and wears us down with its daily grind, the state of ‘limerance’ quickly gives way to stark reality, which can turn our feelings into rapid disillusionment.

This is usually the point at which the question arises:

Why did I fall in love with this person?”

What happens next will largely depend on the answer to this question. If the couple feel connected by something deeper and of greater substance than ‘limerance‘, they then have the opportunity to step up to a different and far more meaningful level – commitment. Commitment means making an internal vow to stay with the program, to resist the desire to give up when the going gets tough, to make the decision to work at the relationship and to give it one’s best.

Commitment is the foundation for emotional safety.


Emotional safety is a relationship climate in which it is possible to show all of yourself – the good, the bad and the ugly – to another person. It is a climate in which you know that it’s okay to be open and honest, to share your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, ideas, hopes, dreams, expectations and fears. It’s a climate that enables you to be who you are whilst allowing you, at the same time, to develop, grow and change into the person you desire to be. It’s a climate of unconditional support.

Emotional safety is a two-way street that requires willingness and effort from both parties. It’s something that can only be developed over time and is made up of a number of ingredients.


  • Acceptance means accepting the other person for who they are. It means not being threatened by the partner’s individuality and/or their differences.
  • Honesty means speaking the truth whether it is comfortable or not, whether it is convenient or not, whether it feels good or not.
  • Openness means being able to ‘hear’ the truth even if we’d rather remain ignorant and to consistently make the choice not to react defensively.
  • Trust is something that develops as a result of feeling safe in the knowledge of the partner’s honesty, dependability and integrity.
  • Communication is the channel through which we connect with another person. It’s the means by which we discover who our partner really is, share your thoughts and feelings, our personal likes, dislikes, ideas, values, beliefs and interests as well as what we will and won’t accept – in other words, show the other person who wereally are.
  • Conflict resolution skills. How safe do you feel with someone who seems to be in constant competition with you, who turns every conflict into a power struggle and seems unable to admit to their faults, weaknesses and vulnerabilities? My guess is, not at all! Conflict resolution skills are essential for the development of emotional safety.
  • Tolerance. Who is perfect? To happily co-exist with ANYBODY requires tolerance. Tolerance means not getting too hyped up about the other person’s shortcomings.
  • Forgiveness. We can only feel safe and secure in an environment in which making mistakes is not considered a criminal offence. Any healthy relationship requires heavy doses of forgiveness.


  • Selfishness. Making everything – or considering everything to be – about you.
  • Not taking personal responsibility. Blaming your partner for everything that isn’t working in the relationship.
  • Power struggles. Feeling that you must ‘win’ each argument, must get your own way, must be right at all costs and act accordingly.
  • Lack of personal boundaries. Allowing your partner to walk all over you OR considering it your personal right to walk all over your partner.
  • Fear of conflict. Inability to tackle tough relationship issues.
  • Lack of communication. Not giving your partner information about you – your thoughts and feelings, likes, dislikes, ideas, values, beliefs, interests, what you will and won’t accept – in other words, what makes you tick.


It ALL Depends on HOW You see Yourself

How often do you ask yourself: “Do I love me?”

If you think that this is a silly, self-centered or inappropriate question, think again! The one relationship from which can never get away is the relationship you have with yourself and if that isn’t a good one, how do you expect to have a good relationship with anyone else? YOU CAN’T – it’s as simple as that! Therefore it is critical that you do all it takes to develop an excellent and healthy relationship with that person that stares back at you when you look into a mirror.In his book You Can Do It Paul Hanna states that just like a pilot of a 747 we have all the controls at our fingertips that allow us to take off and fly at any altitude we choose. He asserts, however, that many of us cruise along the same altitude for years, often very unhappy with our bumpy ride, but with the conviction that we don’t have the power to change it.I believe that Paul Hanna is right – it’s our attitude that determines whether we will soar like a 747, cruise along at the same altitude year in year out or, worse still, limp along the tarmac taking off every so often, only to land again with such a nasty bump that sooner or later we’ll be convinced that take-off isn’t even an option.

My attitude not only determines my altitude, it also determines the success I achieve in my life. Recognising this principle makes it vital to understand how I came by my attitude in the first place and, more importantly, how I can change it.




sonja-ridden-emotional-safety (1)Simplistically, our attitude is the sum-total of the beliefs we have developed about ourselves and our world throughout our life’s journey. The most significant development of our beliefs occurs throughout our childhood years.

This may mean, for instance, that if you were raised in fear-filled home it is likely that when you first tried your wings you did so with great fear and trepidation, expecting to crash at any minute.

If you were told throughout your growing years that you are worthless and would never amount to anything, chances are that you never even found the courage to take off in the first place.

Adversely, having spent your childhood in a supportive environment that applauded your early successes, you most likely took off with the total conviction that your plane would safely lift off the ground, would soar like an eagle in no time at all and that you would land safely at your chosen destination…which, no doubt, you did!

It all depends on how you see yourself – the image you have of who you are – how competent, how capable and how worthy you are of success.

So, what if you were NOT raised in an environment that encouraged this kind of self image?

Does this mean that you will never be able to effectively fly your 747?

Not at all! Whilst it obviously helps to have had acknowledgment of our childhood successes, thankfully our future does not depend on it as we all have the capacity to change our early programming.

So, how can we change our programming?



The only way you can change the program that has thus far determined the view you have of yourself and of the world is by changing your beliefs. The only way you can change your beliefs is by accepting that they may not be accurate; that you’ve simply accepted what you’ve been told by your parents, your teachers or other individuals who were influential in your life was the truth; that – in fact – you have been viewing yourself and the world through someone else’s glasses 

The following steps will help you change your program:

Step 1 – Challenge your beliefs

Take a good, hard look at the things you believe and especially at the beliefs that have kept you grounded on the tarmac. Take off your parents’ (teachers or other people’s) glasses that are tinted by their own experiences, agendas and issues and put on glasses that are not tinted by anyone else’s expectations. Then determine whether it is really true that you are unreliable, can’t do anything right or are responsible for everybody else’s well being, or whether – in fact – this is something you’ve simply accepted as ‘a given’ because you’ve been told it so often? Be sure to view all your beliefs through your new glasses and decide for yourself which ones to keep and which ones to discard.

Step 2 – Explore, read, discuss and grow

The more dysfunctional the beliefs you have held in the past, the greater your challenge to discover and embrace healthier and more empowering ones. In order to make the desired changes it is essential that you broaden your world.

You can begin the broadening process by reading about the areas in which your beliefs had been restrictive and unsupportive; by opening your mind and discussing your beliefs, thoughts and ideas with trusted friends and mentors and by giving yourself permission to see yourself and your world through glasses that have not yet been tinted.

Step 3 – Replace your old beliefs with new and more empowering ones

As you discover a new and exciting world of knowledge and become convinced and convicted that some of the beliefs you may have held for a long time are either inaccurate or are not your own or have not served you well in the past or have tied you to the tarmac or have kept you cruising at an uncomfortable and unsatisfactory altitude, be sure to replace them one by one with new, helpful, empowering and supportive ones.

Step 4 – Allow your new beliefs to help you soar

Now that you’ve replaced your old beliefs, allow your new ones to help you take off and fly. Be prepared that your first few attempts may be frightening, unsteady and not entirely satisfying. Expect your first take-off or rise to higher planes to be pretty scary. Moving outside ones comfort zone always is!

Step 5 – Choose your friends

Having discarded your old and dysfunctional beliefs you may also find that relationships and friendships with people who’ve kept you ‘stuck’ no longer fit for you. Be sure to now surround yourself with supportive people, friends and relative who want to see you fly, who cheer you on as you roll along the tarmac and who applaud every take-off, no matter how wonky it may be.

Step 6 – Stick with the process

Remember that all new things are difficult. Overriding old programming takes time and so does trusting your new beliefs. The more you practice, however, the better you will get at it and in time, you too will take off as elegantly as a 747 and fly as majestically as an eagle.

Sonja Ridden is a counselor/psychotherapist, relationship and life coach. Passionate about personal and professional development, Sonja considers herself a change agent and is committed to enhancing people’s potential in all areas of life.

To find out more about Sonja, go HERE.

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