Emotional security in relationships
How Do You Build Emotional Security in a Relationship?
Developing a secure bond with your partner may allow both of you to share your true selves with confidence and safety.
Emotional security is the bedrock of a stable, healthy relationship. It contributes to true intimacy and trust.
In an emotionally secure relationship, you have a sense that your partner understands and accepts all of you. Because of this, you can feel confident opening up, being vulnerable, and sharing your hopes, fears, and pain.
Emotional safety in a relationship may also mean that even when you’re not physically together, you both feel assured in your connection.
You can go out into the world and live independent lives while being confident that your relationship is a safe place to return to.
There are two components to emotional security, both of which are important to consider.
- There’s emotional well-being and security as it relates to your own mental health. This is about how you feel about yourself and how you relate to the world in general. Emotional security is influenced by your prior experiences and the type of attachment style you’ve developed.
- There’s also emotional security as it refers to relationships. This type of emotional safety takes you and your partner to build and maintain it. Communication and trust are key to emotional security in relationships.
Even if you’re emotionally secure in general, that may not translate to your relationship if your partner isn’t on the same page or if you’re facing specific challenges that may require additional emotional resources.
Sometimes, your past experiences, emotional challenges, and poor communication skills can lead to behavior that may make it hard to build emotional safety in a relationship.
Every situation is different, but here are some behaviors that may represent challenges to achieving emotionally secure bonds.
Defensiveness sometimes refers to feeling judged or attacked when someone gives us feedback. When you feel attacked, you’re more likely to react in defensive ways.
For example, if your partner tries to discuss a problem, you may deflect blame, become hostile, or make sweeping statements like, “I know you don’t really love me.”
This can get in the way of open conversations that make you both feel safe expressing how you feel.
Sometimes, defensiveness comes from criticism or not feeling accepted as you are.
Criticism may mean focusing on what you think may be your partner’s faults, and expressing disapproval about something they’ve done or said.
Not all feedback is criticism, but a constant pattern of blaming, correcting, or nitpicking could create an emotionally unsafe dynamic.
Contempt is a belief that someone or something may be unworthy of your acceptance or respect.
In a relationship, communicating with contempt can involve mocking, sarcasm, name-calling, hostile language, and nonverbal behavior like eye-rolling.
Acting with contempt could impact trust and how safe you and your partner feel with each other.
Stonewalling is what many refer to as the “silent treatment.”
Sometimes this may also involve physically turning away during a conversation, appearing to be distracted on the phone, or leaving the room when the other person is still talking.
Attachment style theory: Change is possible
During the 1950s, British psychoanalyst John Bowlby developed attachment theory, which states that a child’s bond with their primary caregivers shapes how they navigate all other relationships throughout life.
Research published in 2019 suggests that a person’s attachment style can change over time.
If you feel you or your partner use an anxious or insecure attachment style, there are tools to work through it that can help develop more secure ways to relate to one another.
Everyone’s different, which makes all relationships unique. The bond you and your partner develop is a combination of both of your worlds, experiences, and expectations.
The main signs of emotional security in a relationship are that you both feel comfortable, safe, and confident about each other and the bond. This helps build a loving, lasting bond.
Here are another five things that can indicate you and your partner have developed emotional security:
Sign No. 1: You don’t dwell on your past
Dwelling on past relationships, experiences, and challenges can make it hard to enjoy the present. It can also be a way to avoid being open with your current partner or an excuse to avoid working on current roadblocks.
Being able to let go of the past and enjoy the moment can contribute to creating a strong bond.
Sign No. 2: You can be your true self
It can be difficult to be vulnerable and show your whole self to another person. In an emotionally secure dynamic, you can feel comfortable expressing yourself and showing different aspects of yourself to your partner. You may also feel safe if you opt to keep some of your private things for yourself.
Sign No. 3: You don’t seek constant validation
While can be natural to enjoy reassurance from your partner, constantly needing comfort from them could be a sign that you may be feeling insecure or fearful. For example, you may be experiencing abandonment anxiety.
When you’re emotionally secure in a relationship, you develop a constancy that can make you feel the bond will remain strong even when you’re upset with each other or physically apart.
Sign No. 4: You feel seen, heard, and understood
In an emotionally secure dynamic, you can feel comfortable in expressing yourself with complete honesty, knowing that your partner sees you clearly and will listen to you carefully. When conflicts do arise, you can approach them from this place of mutual understanding.
This is what some people refer to as emotional availability. Being emotionally present and willing with one another is a sign of emotional security in a relationship.
If you believe you and your partner may need to work a bit more on emotional security, here are some steps you can consider.
Step No. 1: Try not to disregard your own needs
Your partner suggests going out with friends, and even though you’re tired and don’t feel like socializing, you say “sure!”
It can be tempting to just go along with your partner’s wishes, especially if you have people-pleasing tendencies. Over time, though, constantly putting someone else’s needs before yours can create resentment and distance.
It’s important for both of you to try to become comfortable with sharing your needs and preferences, and expressing how you feel when these aren’t heard or honored.
Step No. 2: Paying attention to your body language can help
Nonverbal communication can be just as powerful as the words you use. You may want to consider working on creating consistency with one another when communicating with your partner.
Sometimes your body language may be at odds with what you’re saying. You say you’re not upset, but your fists are clenched, your tone of voice is dry, and your shoulders are tense.
This can make it hard for your partner to understand what you’re going through and develop a sense of safety that you mean what you say. You may also feel you can’t express your feelings.
Staying aware of how you feel and working on communication skills that allow you to express yourself in an assertive way may be a good idea.
Step No. 3: Consider approaching conflict as a team
Conflict can be a typical part of a healthy, long-term relationship, but ideally, an argument doesn’t feel like “me vs. you.” Instead, you may want to try to approach the situation from the “us vs. the problem.”
Trying not to focus on scoring points, or on being right, and instead considering viewing your partner as your teammate can be helpful when working on resolving the issue.
Step No. 4: Try to give your partner the benefit of the doubt
Let’s say your partner is running late for a date, forgets to do a chore, or in some other way doesn’t meet your expectations.
Before you assume the worst or generalize, maybe think about their track record and specific evidence.
If they’re generally reliable and respectful, consider giving them the benefit of the doubt — that is, start from the positive assumption that they’re doing what they can and they don’t mean to hurt you.
Step No. 5: You might want to maintain a life outside of your relationship
When you’re in a romantic relationship, it can be tempting to let everything else fall away. But an emotionally secure bond can provide you and your partners a safe base from which you can go out and live independent — but interconnected — lives.
It may be a good idea to nurture your own friendships, professional life, and hobbies, and encourage your partner to do the same.
Step No. 6: Consider professional support
If you feel you and your partner are still facing challenges when it comes to emotional security, you might consider reaching out for help.
A mental health professional can help you both determine what the main challenges are and how to approach them as a team.
Emotional security is about feeling confident navigating the world, including your relationships. This involves feeling at ease expressing your true self, being vulnerable, and feeling you don’t need constant reassurance from your partner.
Feeling emotionally safe depends on the type of attachment style you’ve developed but also on the relationship dynamics you’ve created with your partner.
Improving communication, avoiding hurtful behaviors like the silent treatment, and reaching out for professional support can be helpful steps toward developing emotional security.
How to Create Emotional Safety in a Relationship: 7 Tips
Understanding how to create emotional safety is key to fostering meaningful connections and healthy relationships.
Emotional safety is the foundation for a loving and healthy relationship. It’s about establishing trust with another person and feeling safe enough to be open and vulnerable with them.
To put it simply, emotional safety is feeling secure enough to truly express yourself with someone and show up as your most authentic self.
Emotional safety also goes both ways. When you feel emotionally safe and reveal your true self, it opens the door for your partner to do the same. And when both people in a relationship feel secure, it provides a safe environment where a deeper and more loving connection can form.
Emotional safety does not apply to abusive relationships. If you’re experiencing abuse, whether physical or emotional, you have several options for seeking help. Try reaching out to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist or calling a domestic violence hotline.
When you find yourself in an emotionally safe relationship, chances are you’ll experience many advantages as a result. Benefits of emotionally safe relationships include:
- You feel valued and valuable.
- You can truly be yourself without the risk of judgment.
- You can show your weaknesses without being taken advantage of.
- You can share boldly and express yourself freely.
- You feel seen, heard, and understood.
More importantly, an emotionally safe relationship creates a stronger connection.
Of connection, Brené Brown, author and research professor of social work at the University of Houston, said it best: “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
Wondering how to build emotional safety or unsure where to start? We’ve broken down seven helpful ways to cultivate trust and vulnerability in any relationship.
Respect boundaries and consent
Setting and respecting boundaries can increase safety and security in a relationship by establishing personal limits. By communicating a limitation, you let your partner in on your preferences and invite them to share their own. Think of boundaries as not only protecting yourself but also protecting your relationship.
Boundaries can be physical, sexual, intellectual, emotional, or financial — all critical to nurturing respect in a healthy relationship. Once you set a boundary, it’s crucial that you and your partner respect it. Some examples of boundaries that promote emotional safety are:
- honoring what is important to you
- sharing personal information gradually
- protecting your time by not overcommitting
- asking for space when you need alone time
- communicating your comfort level on intimacy
Pay attention to your nonverbal communication
Body language is essential for emotional safety.
Vocal tone, eye shape, posture, and other micro expressions are continuously being interpreted by you and your partner, whether you realize it or not. “If you approach your partners with hard eyes, tightly pressed lips, and short words, they may not feel safe,” says Dr. Jake Porter, a Houston-based licensed professional counselor.
“The key here is to realize that we are each responsible not only for the words we say but also the way we send them,” he adds.
It’s a good idea to practice paying attention to the nonverbal communication you’re carrying with you before you approach your partner. Consider asking yourself, “What is my body language communicating right now?”
Be an active listener
Active listening is a critical component to a healthy relationship because people need to feel heard and understood to feel secure and validated. “Active listening is when you set aside your defenses and distractions, and truly take in what your partner is telling you,” explains Dr. Isabelle Morley, a licensed clinical psychologist based in Massachusetts.
“The ability to actively listen means that whenever fears or issues arise, your partner will feel comfortable telling you,” she adds. “Instead of the problem growing or your partner becoming resentful, you’ll be able to quickly and easily address it.”
Some ways to practice active listening include:
- nonverbal signs of listening like smiling, nodding, and maintaining eye contact
- asking your partner questions or asking for clarification
- summarizing or reflecting back on what was said
Transparency is an important part of building trust and emotional safety. When you practice transparency, you eliminate the potential feeling that you or your partner are hiding something from each other.
While you don’t need to share every part of your life with your partner, “general openness about your thoughts, feelings, and activities is a good way to build trust, communication, and security,” says Morley.
Give your partner the benefit of the doubt
Giving your partner the benefit of the doubt means removing judgment and, instead, being curious to learn about the motivation for their behavior. “Most people’s motivations are subconscious and often connected to their own baggage they bring to the relationship,” says Baltimore-based certified imago relationship therapist Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin.
“When we stop judging and making up stories of why our partner did what they did, we begin to look at them favorably from a place of compassion and understanding,” he adds. “We may disagree with them, but we can at least create a safe environment without confrontation. ”
Foster accountability and follow through
Following through shows your partner that you are dependable and value the relationship. When you commit to something and follow through, you actively build trust by showing your partner your loyalty. Yet following through doesn’t have to happen overnight.
Even when you take small steps, enabling your partner to see your consistent effort shows them your commitment to the relationship. Try keeping your partner in the loop, as this will help you hold yourself accountable too.
Consider couples or relationship therapy
A mental health professional’s perspective can help people in relationships build emotional safety by focusing on dealing with conflict rather than focusing on the conflict itself.
“Couples therapy fosters emotional safety by helping couples understand how they work together as a system,” explains Porter. “When I work with couples, I’m less interested in the content of what they are fighting about than the process of how they fight. ”
“Focusing on the content might help them in the moment as I mediate a dispute, but they are just going to end up right back in the therapy office next time they can’t agree,” He adds. “Instead, by helping them create a new process for how they approach conflict to set them up for success as life continues to throw challenges their way.”
Emotional safety is key to a healthy and happy relationship. There are countless ways to create emotional safety, and some may work for you better than others. Consider trying a few of the ways we’ve identified and decide which ones work best for you and your partner.
While it may take time to build emotional safety, the result is a relationship built on mutual trust, respect, and unconditional support. Not only will you find yourself seen, heard, and understood, but you will find yourself feeling more connected to yourself and your partner. Try to be patient with each other, and then watch the benefits of being open and vulnerable unfold.
7 Ways to Create Emotional Security in a Relationship - The-Femme
Understanding how to create emotional security between partners is the key to making meaningful connections and healthy relationships.
Emotional security is the foundation of loving and healthy relationships. It's about establishing trust with the other person and feeling secure enough to be open and vulnerable with them.
Simply put, emotional security is the feeling of being secure enough to truly express yourself with someone and express yourself as you really are. nine0003
Emotional security is also two-sided. When you feel emotionally secure and open to your true self, it opens up an opportunity for your partner to do the same. And when both people in a relationship feel secure, it creates a safe environment in which a deeper and more loving connection can form.
What are the benefits of an emotionally secure relationship?
When you find yourself in an emotionally secure relationship, you will most likely reap many benefits as a result. The benefits of an emotionally secure relationship include:
You feel appreciated and valued.
You can truly be yourself without the risk of being judged.
You can show your weaknesses without taking advantage of them.
Feel free to share and express your thoughts freely.
You feel seen, heard and understood.
More importantly, emotionally secure relationships create a stronger bond.
Regarding connection, Brené Brown, author and professor of social work at the University of Houston, said it best: “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and appreciated; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they draw support and strength from the relationship.” nine0003
Not sure how to achieve emotional security or where to start? We've identified seven helpful ways to build trust and vulnerability in any relationship.
Respect Boundaries and Consent
Establishing and respecting boundaries can increase the security of a relationship by setting personal limits. By reporting a restriction, you allow your partner to share your preferences and invite them to share their preferences. Think of boundaries as protecting not only yourself, but also your relationships. nine0003
Boundaries can be physical, sexual, intellectual, emotional, or financial, all of which are critical to building respect in healthy relationships. Having set boundaries, it is very important that you and your partner respect them. Here are some examples of boundaries that promote emotional security:
- respect what is important to you
- share personal information gradually
- save your time by not overdoing it
- ask for time alone when you need to be alone
- report your level of comfort in intimacy
Pay attention to non-verbal communication
Body language is important for emotional security.
Tone of voice, shape of eyes, posture and other microexpressions are constantly being interpreted by you and your partner, whether you are aware of it or not. “If you approach your partners with a glare, tight lips, and short words, they may feel insecure,” says Dr. Jake Porter, a licensed professional counselor based in Houston. nine0003
“The key here is to realize that each of us is responsible not only for the words we say, but also for how we say them,” he adds.
It's a good idea to practice paying attention to the non-verbal communication you carry with you before approaching your partner. You may be asking yourself, “What is my body language saying right now?”
Be an active listener
Active listening is an essential component of healthy relationships because people need to feel heard and understood in order to feel protected and accepted. “Active listening is when you let go of defenses and distractions and truly accept what your partner is telling you,” explains Dr. Isabelle Morley, a licensed clinical psychologist in Massachusetts. nine0003
“The ability to actively listen means that whenever fears or problems arise, your partner will feel comfortable telling you about it,” she adds. “Instead of the problem getting worse or your partner getting offended, you can fix it quickly and easily.”
Here are a few ways to practice active listening:
- non-verbal signs of listening, such as smiling, nodding, and maintaining eye contact
- asking partner questions or asking for clarifications
- summarize or reflect on what has been said
Transparency is an important part of building trust and emotional security. By practicing transparency, you eliminate the potential feeling that you or your partner are hiding something from each other.
Although you don't have to share every part of your life with your partner, "general openness about your thoughts, feelings, and actions is a good way to build trust, communication, and security," says Morley. nine0003
Give your partner the benefit of the doubt
Giving your partner the benefit of the doubt means not being judgmental and instead wanting to know the motivation behind their behavior. “Most people’s motivations are subconscious and often tied to their own baggage they bring to the relationship,” says Baltimore-based certified imago therapist Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin.
“When we stop judging and making up stories about why our partner did what they did, we begin to favor them from a position of compassion and understanding,” he adds. "We may not agree with them, but we can at least create a safe environment without confrontation." nine0003
Promote accountability and see things through
Seeing things through shows your partner that you are reliable and value the relationship. When you do and accomplish something, you actively build trust by demonstrating your loyalty to your partner. However, completion does not have to happen overnight.
Even when you take small steps, letting your partner see your continued efforts shows them your commitment to the relationship. Try to keep your partner in the loop, as this will also help you be accountable. nine0003
Consider couples or family therapy
A mental health professional's perspective can help people in relationships increase emotional security by focusing on conflict resolution rather than the conflict itself.
"Couple therapy promotes emotional security by helping couples understand how they work together as a system," explains Porter. “When I work with couples, I am less interested in the content of what they are fighting about than in the process of0092 as they quarrel."
"Focusing on the content might help them the moment I'm mediating an argument, but they'll just go back to the therapy room the next time they can't agree," he adds. "Instead, I want to help them create a new conflict approach process to set them up for success as life continues to challenge them."
Emotional security is the key to a healthy and happy relationship. There are countless ways to create emotional security, and some may work better for you than others. Try a few of the ways we've identified and decide which works best for you and your partner. nine0003
Although it may take time to build emotional security, the result is a relationship built on mutual trust, respect and unconditional support. Not only will you find yourself being seen, heard and understood, but you will also feel more connected to yourself and your partner. Be patient with each other, and then watch the benefits of openness and vulnerability unfold.
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It is impossible to be silent: commas of emotional security
Author: Tatyana Rak
Emotional security gives us the freedom to share, dream, create, express ourselves and establish exclusive communication with other people. What does this aspect include and how important is it for building healthy and meaningful relationships? Let's talk in more detail.
Any person seeks in close relationships acceptance, support and the opportunity to show different sides of his personality as organically as possible. When we enter into a friendship or romantic relationship, we rely on how we feel around a particular person. Security is a basic, almost instinctive need. It is the ability to calmly share opinions, tell, demonstrate one’s (even different from the interlocutor’s) views that allow one to plunge into a deeper connection. nine0003
Calmness, only calmness
The principle of organic communication is to make each participant feel comfortable at all stages. Trust takes time and patience. It is impossible to jump over several stages of communication at once without gradual development. At the same time, from the very beginning, there are certain norms of adequate interaction, which include the ability to share and keep what was said private, to engage in dialogue and conflict without becoming personal and denying the values of another person, the ability to compromise and admit one's mistakes. nine0003
In any communication there is a place for challenges, but they can look different. For example, you can help the other participant to overcome certain patterns, but this should go through open dialogue and non-violent communication.
Gradual development with the possibility of maintaining personal boundaries and pluralism of views is a healthy story in which each participant in the relationship can be himself without fear of not living up to the expectations of the other. nine0003
What makes people get closer?
With healthy self-esteem, a person is able to find validation in himself, but the social factor makes us look for it from other people as well. The safety mindset starts with our autonomic nervous system. Its goal is to protect us by assessing risks, constantly listening to the body and its reactions, as well as connections with other people.
The reactions of the autonomic system are divided into three types:
- life-threatening reaction paralysis;
- active action or avoidance of the situation - the principle of "fight or flight";
- safety validation in social interaction.
Every reaction has a physical reinforcement. When we have dinner with friends, talk about our favorite movie, receive words of approval and support, we receive at the neural level the same validation signal that allows us to enter into a closer emotional connection and form attachment. nine0003
It takes two to tango
Our relationship is far from boring when we feel safe. It encourages us to talk to each other more, grow together and strengthen our mental connection, while maintaining bright and warm moments together.
Pop culture actively broadcasts unhealthy attitudes based on emotional swings, unrealistic expectations, and narcissism. Healthy communication means the ability to accept another person without the desire to change or re-educate oneself, correctly convey one's point of view, conduct dialogue and conflict, apologize, admit one's mistakes, give the right to the existence of other views, respect each other's boundaries and not question the value of the second person. . It is important: these skills should be mutual. nine0003
Signs of emotionally safe communication:
- two-way ability to share any information and views without fear of judgment;
- the ability to explain the causes of emotional responses and states before entering into an open conflict;
- respect for personal space and boundaries;
- empathy and the ability to put yourself in the position of another person;
- desire to listen, hear and seek compromises.
What insecure communication looks like:
- emotional unpredictability - you don't know what reaction to expect in the next moment and what might provoke the other person to anger;
- fear of getting into conflict situations, becoming personal and denying your needs and values;
- emotional overreactions and gaslighting;
- exclusive emotional intimacy acts as both a reward and a punishment: if you do "right", you get warmth and attention, if you go beyond some limits, you feel rejected or unworthy of respect; nine0033
- threats to cut off contact or distance themselves;
- suppression of another personality.