Safety First: 2 Great Questions

Relationship Safety is Key for Marriage Mentoring

The heart of marriage is to have a great relationship. It’s a love relationship. It’s where we feel safe. We feel secure. We feel connected. It’s with someone with whom we can be open and vulnerable. We can talk to. No fear. We can relax.

We, as mentors, talk about this with couples. They nod and they get it. No one ever disagrees.

The reality is that many couples don’t really feel safe, especially emotionally safe, inside of the relationship. When we don’t feel safe, we react to protect ourselves. At times, that’s the right thing to do.

Different people react in different ways. Some wall themselves off and shut down. Others try to control and manipulate their spouse. Some try to stamp out the behavior that they think is hurting them by reacting with harsh words or critical statements.

How do we add safety into the dialog to create something that is open, vulnerable, relaxed, comfortable and soothing?  That’s the relationship and the marriage bond that we all want.

What’s Safety Look Like to You?

Here’s my list:

  • I want someone who listens to me.
  • I want them to validate me and try to understand me.
  • I want them to treat me as someone who is very valuable and precious.
  • I want them to give me the benefit of the doubt. When I act poorly, they’ll try to understand.
  • I don’t want to be judged. If my motives aren’t understood, I would rather that they ask me about my thinking than assume the worst.
  • I want someone who honors my opinion, even if they disagree. (Sometimes, I’m even wrong and I do need to hear other people’s opinions.)
  • When I’m hurt by something they’ve done, I want them to try to work it out with me.

When my wife treats me like this, I feel honored. I’m more likely to be vulnerable and open. My defenses drop.

The relationship feels relaxed and safe. Things go well. I am not as likely to resort to poor behaviors.

Are You a Safe Person?

This is the second question. That’s sobering. I don’t usually think of that in regards to my own behavior. As I’ve made this more of a focus with couples, I’ve had to think about my own safety.

“In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you.” Matthew 7:12 (NET)

Am I treating my partner the way that I would like to be treated?

  • Do I listen to my spouse?
  • Do I try to understand?
  • Do I treat my wife as someone who is valuable and precious?
  • Do I give her the benefit of the doubt when I see something that I don’t like?
  • Do I honor her opinion, even if I disagree?
  • Do I judge her motives?
  • Do I work out disagreements with her?

In reality, when I look at this list, I’m not always a safe person.

This is something that I need to work at.

I want her to be open and vulnerable with me. I want her to be relaxed and have fun with me. I want her to be connected to me.

How Does This Apply to Marriage Mentoring?

Reframing the conversation to safety helps us to focus on what will build safety. Instead of pointing to what our spouse is or isn’t doing, it’s about how to create safety inside of our environment.

When we ask what will create a safer environment for you, they, of course, don’t have a list. Usually, the answers will focus on one or two behaviors that their spouse is doing that threatens them. That’s OK.

Their spouse will probably have other thoughts about what will make it safe for them.

We then ask how they can be a safer person.

The value of the conversation is that we’ve reframed the dialog to be about safety. That can help them to be more open and vulnerable with one another.

Tips for Marriage Mentors:

  • Add the topic of safety to your dialog
  • Ask “What would make you feel safer?”
  • Ask “What could you do to be a safer person?”