In my blog post†Vulnerable Vs. Needy Ė A Fine Line, I explored how vulnerable it is to share our wants and needs, knowing that the person we expose ourselves to might choose not to honor that want and need. (File under ďfear of rejection.Ē)
In this blog post, I want to dive deeper into this issue and discuss something thatís totally up for me Ė the issue of safety.
What Makes A Relationship Safe?
In many past relationships, Iíve felt unsafe. What do I mean by that? Iíve been in a physically abusive relationship before, so obviously, thatís an extreme feeling of unsafety. But thereís a more subtle, and in many ways more emotionally damaging, kind of unsafety thatís about not feeling safe to be vulnerable. In those relationships, I couldnít trust someone to hold my vulnerability without lashing out in hostile, unconscious ways or betraying that vulnerability.
In those relationships, when I opened my heart, it got trampled on. And when I asked to have a need met, it went unmet Ė time and time again until, as†Brenť Brown teaches, there were no marbles left in the trust jar.
Thatís when I decided that safety was tantamount, that trust was key, and that, at least in my close relationships, Iíd choose safety over risk or adventure any day.
So how does safety relate to vulnerability and need? Iíve come to realize that I feel safe when I come to trust that someone will make every effort to meet my needs when Iím brave enough and vulnerable enough to express them. When I feel safe in a relationship, I can give someone a whole lot of space without interpreting that space as distancing or threatening to the relationship. But if Ė over and over Ė I express needs that donít get met, I start feeling unsafe and that leads me to feel insecure and then Ė lo and behold Ė I start acting needy.
Security From Within
It makes me wonder where that comes from. Iíd like to think that I can always find my center when I ground into my†Inner Pilot Light and find security from within.† If Iím able to do this, I should be able to avoid getting clingy if someone chooses to meet their own need for space before meeting my need to connect.
Yet, Iím not always so good at that.
So I think I have a tendency to enter into relationships that feel safe, but perhaps I do this at the expense of adventure and risk.† Perhaps if I could boost my own internal sense of worthiness and loveability, Iíd find it easier to grant people space, even when Iím feeling insecure, especially when I sense that the space they need is not even ABOUT me, that theyíre needing space because of their own personal needs, which should always supercede mine.
Permission To Break Your Heart
In my professional life, I definitely havenít been playing it very safe. If Iíd been playing it safe, Iíd still be practicing medicine in San Diego, churning through 40 patients a day in exchange for the security of a stable paycheck and a guarantee of lifetime employment.
But in my personal life, I think Iíve tended more towards playing it safe, veering away from relationships that donít leave me feeling completely secure. Perhaps itís because the stakes are higher. If I fail to play it safe professionally, itís really only financial security Ė and a bit of pride Ė that I risk. But in my personal life, if I fail to play it safe, itís my heart.
Iíve written a lot about giving people and animals permission to break your heart (you can read about it here and†here and†here).†Keeping your heart open when it feels threatened feels very unsafe, which is why so many of us armor up when we feel insecure in a relationship. Keeping your heart undefended is the ultimate risk. Itís also the ultimate adventure.
Adventure Vs. Safety
In the past year, Iíve experimented with this new way of being, with resisting the urge to keep myself emotionally safe, either by resisting relationships that leave me feeling insecure, or by refusing to put up vulnerability armor when Iím hurt, or by making myself vulnerable about my wants and needs when I have no guarantee that my needs will be met. This new way of being has opened me to a great deal of adventure and richness in my emotional life.
But itís come at a price Ė the cost of safety.
I think itís worth the risk. After all, Iím taking risks in my professional life that have completely paid off. Why shouldnít I stop letting fear rule my relationships in the same way Iíve stopped letting fear run my business?
But jeez. Easier said than done.† I said to a friend today, ďThis whole advanced living thing is not for the faint of heart.Ē Since sheís trying to abide by the same fear-busting principles, she just nodded, knowingly.
Are You Willing To Take Emotional Risks In Relationships?
Tell us your stories about how you play it safe or take risks. Share your wisdom.
Pushing the envelopeÖ again,