When the word “safety” comes up within the context of relationships, your mind may immediately fall to the importance of physical safety. Emotional safety, however, is equally as crucial. Feeling safe in a relationship is necessary if you hope to ultimately open up to your partner, and if you’ve ever found yourself thinking, “I don’t feel secure in my relationship,” then chances are your partnership is lacking trust. So, what does emotional safety look like? For one, it means being able to share your feelings, concerns, or desires without fear, as well as showing your partner the same empathy and respect.
As relationship and etiquette expert April Masini tells Elite Daily, “When you and your partner care about each others’ feelings, you’ll go out of your way to take care of each other to make each other feel emotionally safe.” Emotional safety is all about having open conversations about difficult topics, and honoring each other’s perspectives even when you don’t agree. It comes in the form of offering honest feedback without anyone getting overly defensive. In other words, when you’re feeling safe in a relationship, there's no need to hold back or pretend.
When people feel unsafe, they withdraw. It’s a natural, instinctive reaction. But romantic relationships aren’t capable of thriving if the people in them close themselves off. Here are some possible signs you don’t feel emotionally safe with your SO.
There are plenty of reasons why you might not be feeling safe in a relationship, and those reasons may stem from your partner’s behavior or your own personal experiences. “Sometimes the fear you’re feeling has to do with your past, not your present,” explains Masini. “If that’s the case, do the work you need to do to properly process your past experiences that have lead you to be fearful in relationships. Unless you take care of you first, you’re always going to feel fearful in relationships — even with loyal partners.”
If you’ve determined that your feelings of emotional insecurity are legit, then it’s time to have an open and honest discussion with your partner about your needs. A couples counselor or relationship expert may be able to further help you dig into your fears and gradually enhance the feeling of emotional safety in your relationship. But it’s important to recognize that in some cases, a lack of emotional safety may be a sign of an unhealthy or even emotionally abusive relationship. Being tempted to snoop on your partner’s phone is one thing, but feeling as though your partner is gaslighting, manipulating, or belittling you is a whole other ball game that should be handled with care.
Celebrity matchmaker and dating expert Alessandra Conti previously told Elite Daily, “When a [partner] makes you second-guess your interactions with them, or makes you feel guilty for something that was objectively their fault, you may have a seasoned emotional abuser on your hands.” According to Conti, emotional manipulation isn’t just a red flag; it’s a sign to get out. "Manipulation is second nature to emotionally abusive partners,” she added. “It is just the way that they are used to communicating so that they are not held accountable for their actions."
You are worthy and deserving of love that lifts you up, not a relationship that feeds on your insecurities. However, if you feel that your relationship is a non-abusive one and can be worked on with professional support, then find strength in vulnerability and take those steps. It’s well worth the effort when you consider that the reward is a trusting, compassionate relationship, in which you can be stronger as individuals and together as a unit.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.