Safety conjures up images of physical abuse when we link it to dating and relationships. And yet, there are many more of us who often write in our journals or talk with our friends about not feeling safe in a relationship with someone we’re dating. It’s usually our own emotional well-being that we’re talking about. What is it exactly that makes us feel safe in a new relationship and whose responsibility is that kind of emotional safety?
Maybe it’s who I hang with, but I can think of only one dear friend that I would say had a pretty great childhood. And truth is, down deep I don’t really believe it. He most likely has buried the real stuff deep down in his subconscious, ha! The rest of us…well, let’s just say we might better have been raised by wolves. And, bless their hearts, most of our parents did the best they could with what they had.
Now, all grown up and wanting to love and be loved, we begin the trek to find and/or keep the love we so desperately need. Enter a new person, dragging his/her own trunk of memories and family crazies behind as they enter the coffee shop. Our radar turns itself on, looking for any inkling of anything that might hurt us again, anything that is, that he/she might do to hurt us, overlooking the most important person whose job it is to keep us safe…ourselves.
I spent a good deal of my life thinking that it was my spouse or partner’s job to behave in ways that would make me feel safe. And, yes, we all have a responsibility to those we love not to do things that cause them harm. Driving safely, meeting a new person in a public place, making sure her car starts after going out to a movie…those are the easiest things to do, but it’s impossible to know someone’s sensitive emotional areas until we get to know them.
Prior loss and abandonment by a parent can leave us feeling fearful when a new man/woman doesn’t call us after a date or “often enough”. Histories of physical or sexual abuse can create jealousy or a need for constant control in a new relationship. And, prior heartbreaks can set us up to assume that this sweet person we’ve just met will do it again.
Sometimes we meet a new person and there are clues they may not be safe for us but we ignore or rationalize it because we want what we want. Anything but being alone again! He says, “I just got out of a relationship a few weeks ago with a crazy woman.” She says, “I think all men are pretty much alike.” “I’ve never had much luck with relationships, but we’ll see.” And after 4 months, she is still saying, “I don’t know if I can do this.” Hmmmmm…, who would feel safe? And, whose job is it to recognize the truth and keep himself/herself safe? It may mean you’re alone again but you won’t be taking Valium and nursing a migraine while your body tries to tell you the truth.
It’s our job to be willing to wait for what we deserve in a relationship and one thing we all deserve is respect. With respect from a person who is capable of love and excited about being in relationship with us, there’s a chance that we just might be so relaxed we turn our radar off and enjoy the ride!
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Donna Bailey, MS
Dating and Relationship Coaching and Speaking