Creating a sense of safety and security in our primary relationship is essential to a satisfying partnership.  It creates a foundation in the relationship which allows each partner to be vulnerable, accepted, and appreciated.  Additionally, it lends strength to the partnership so partners may work together to create and maintain a life you both love.

We create safety and security in our primary relationship in various ways.  Giving and receiving love, feeling we matter to our partner, and being protected by them are some ways we feel secure with our partner.  We also feel safe when we can be ourselves fully and feel cared for.  However, couples may not know how to create safety and security in their relationship.  They may not know how to ensure their relationship is a safe haven in which they can feel supported, accepted, and respected.

First, let’s explore one challenge that typically interferes with creating security in a relationship.  Then, we’ll talk about how to set up your relationship in a way that fosters mutual safety.

“I” versus “We” In Relationships

Oftentimes, we receive conflicting messages and internalize conflicting beliefs about independence and partnership.  Many of us have a strong negative reaction to the idea of dependence, and so we may hold on tightly to our independence thinking it is healthier.  We may believe we’re supporting our relationship more effectively by letting one another “do their own thing.”  But how does that impact the ability for a “we” to form when we partner up?

As a couples therapist, what I’ve learned is many couples have never talked about this explicitly until it has caused a breakdown in their relationship.  When it comes to a head, partners can feel in some way neglected, rejected, or hurt when independence is prioritized over the relationship. Or when there is fear of co-dependency.  To be clear, co-dependency is different than forming a sense of “we” through mutuality.  Co-dependency neglects our needs as individuals and instead focuses on meeting all of our partner’s needs in order to feel good.  Mutuality is different in that it is about creating an arrangement which benefits both partners in feeling care for, valued, and supported.

Relationships Benefit Us Both

There are benefits to partnering up.  One of them is to have a person you can rely upon.  To feel loved and valued by another.  Additionally, we have each other to tackle important things together.  We can help one another reach our goals ad realize our dreams.  In order to receive the benefits of this kind of partnership, it means we have to carefully consider creating the kind of partnership which prioritizes “we” rather than “I”.

Creating Safety and Security In Relationship: The Couple Bubble

Stan Tatkin, the founder of PACT, encourages couples to form a couple bubble in order to create a sense of safety and security in a relationship.  A couple bubble is a pact the couple creates in order to be clear with one another that the relationship comes first.  Each partner agrees to prioritize their partner’s well-being and sense of safety and security.  And each partner is intentional about finding out what makes their partner feel safe and secure and supporting it in the relationship, rather than doing what they think should make their partner feel safe and secure.

Creating the Bubble

As a couple creates their own couple bubble, they agree to do important things for one another that no other person in their life would do:

  • Each partner makes it their job to know what their partner needs to feel safe and secure and provides this in a way their partner needs.
  • Each partner agrees to be fully in or the couple bubble will burst. Having one foot in the relationship, and one foot out will pop the bubble.  Acting in an ambivalent way with your partner will undermine the sense of safety and security you’ve carefully created with one another.
  • The couple bubble is mutually maintained. Whatever principles you both agree to when creating your bubble, needs to be reciprocated fully.  For example, if one of your principles is you expect your partner to share important things with you first, you will also be expected to share in the same way with your partner.
  • The couple bubble creates a safety and security in your relationship that you should expect to use regularly. Each of you should feel you can ask for help, share vulnerabilities without judgment, and be yourselves in your couple bubble.  Additionally, your couple bubble can help you in practical ways.  For example, perhaps you both agree to support each other during an upcoming challenging experience by staying connected through eye contact.  Additional way of connecting may include hand holding, or by simply staying together during the event.  You can be proactive as well.  Perhaps you discuss difficult situations together before hand rather than try to deal with difficult situations apart.

Each Partner Takes Responsibility for Maintaining Safety and Security

When we make a pact to create our couple bubble, we must also maintain it.  We do this together.  However, each of us must also take responsibility for our part of the couple bubble.  It’s important to pay attention to your couple bubble, and maintaining it is an on-going process.  You may notice times when you feel especially close with your partner, times when you spend more time alone.  Some variation is natural.  However, observing times when something more is happening is important so both of you can address it.  There may be cues this is happening such as how you speak or don’t with one another, or the degree of closeness you experience in the relationship, for example.

A Safe and Secure Relationship

When we feel protected, loved and important in our primary relationship, we set up a lasting foundation for our relationship.  Relationships based on mutuality allow both partners to get their needs met.  It also contributes to a fair, just and sensitive relationship.  Yes, there are risks each partner must take in order to create safety and security.  However, the pay off of being in a relationship in which you are fully accepted, protected, desired and loved for who you are is priceless.

At Vitality Therapeutic Services, we offer couples therapy to support safe and secure relationship building and maintenance.  We also offer individual therapy and EMDR therapyContact us today to get started.

Photo by Annushka Ahuja:

Reference: Wired For Love by Stan Tatkin, PsyD