Much is written and said about making women feel safe in marriage. She must feel safe to open up to you. She must feel safe to give of herself sexually. The relationship must have long contiguous periods where she feels safe or it is at risk of her finding a better harbor in which to rent a slip. I’ve had an unanswered question on my lips for years. The question is, what does that mean? I have cataloged dozens, maybe hundreds of answers. After eliminating those that themselves made no sense, the others are each and every one, unique. This means that when 20 women say they need to feel safe, 20 women are saying something completely different from one another.
I understand that my lack of clarity stems from my being stuck in my hyper linear thinking that we males are wont to do. But I do not accept that as my problem to solve. If there is something that can be delineated clearly that I/we can do, then let’s have it spelled out please.
In that vein, reading “Creating a safe Marriage” at FoTF today spurred some additional consideration of this issue of feeling safe. They do their best to make this a two directional issue using the language of safeness to describe a need woman and men both have. They offer points that illustrate the nebulous nature of the idea of safeness that has so baffled me for years.
This sounds really cool:
Emotional safety sets a peaceful environment that allows people to relax.
I repeat, what does that even mean? Well, they try to help:
A heart will open only when it feels safe. But what does feeling safe really mean? I asked more than 1,000 couples for help defining emotional safety.
- Feeling completely secure (What, an alarm system and a concealed carry permit?)
- Being accepted for who I am ( 1. The person married you and still is married to you. 2. What if who I am is a pedophile? )
- Feeling relaxed and comfortable (I recommend a spa and a programmable thermostat)
- Being free to express who I really am (See number 2 above…..really?)
- Being loved unconditionally (I get this one)
- Feeling respected (I get this one)
- Knowing that my spouse is trustworthy (Knowing that someone is trustworthy requires that YOU be willing to trust, this is significant in many ways)
- Having my spouse be there for me (20 plus years married, spouse has kept the lights on, changed your tires, tended you when sick, done their part, etc…..and then this “”be there for me” is expressed here as some nebulous emotional need)
- Being fully understood (Then you must be understandable)
- Being valued and honored (I get this)
- Having loving reassurance
- Being able to open fully in order to give and receive love (Why would you be unable? Ability is yours in terms of giving and receiving)
- Not being judged (Be careful, ladies, with this one, it was likely a predominantly male response)
- Being seen for who I am (Oy, again with the who I am)
- Having my flaws accepted as part of the whole package (Why? Do you not mean the flaws you want to keep?)
- Living in an atmosphere of open communication (This is likely a female response and ironically, in a topic of open communication, it does not even mean what it says)
Predictably they conflate. Conflation is often how God’s straightforward word gets transformed into nebulous received nonsense:
Emotional safety is not simply a bunch of psychobabble. Safety is, first and foremost, something that our heavenly Father provides for us.
- The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. (Proverbs 18:10)
- Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge. (Psalm 16:1)
- In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)
Finally, to the point.
Early in the article the writer said something that made me consider the difference between how a man and a woman consider what it means to feel safe in a relationship and how that difference in perception of whether of not each feels safe is not a refection of the same condition in the two genders. Let me explain.
The behaviors men engage in that would result in the wife feeling unsafe are behaviors born more of indifference or distraction. These are not good things, but they are also not malicious, intentional, nor targeted things. I could make the case they that are things that come often as a direct result of the volitional things a woman does that make the man feel unsafe.
For a man to feel safe, he needs to not feel like he is in the midst of trickery designed to impeach him. He needs to feel that her words are plain, that there is not passive aggressive voice at work, that no manipulation is present, that it is genuine, and that he can truly share something that will not manifest somewhere in a future time and place as some strung together reason for sanctimony. If he shares his struggles with her, will she elevate her moral self image far above his? She should not, in other words, put all his shared things in a pool and let them marinate with each other crating more and new things with which to subtly torture him later.
Her heart is suspicious or at least calculating versus his being indifferent at best and paranoid at worst, or, in short, closed. Is either REALLY safe? Should they be dependent on each other to feel safe emotionally, or should they take feelings of not being safe captive and live openly, confidently, in grace? Grace replaces the need for safety, it doesn’t create safeness.