When clients ask me what I think is the most important ingredient for a successful relationship, I always answer: ‘respect and trust for one another.’
Without these two ingredients, it is difficult to have an emotionally secure relationship with your partner.
Many of us are what we call ‘conflict avoidant.’ This means that we aren’t comfortable with conflict and will do anything to avoid potential conflict with others.
Avoiding conflict often shows up as lying to your partner to get out of having a fight, or withholding information because if you share it, it might lead to a fight, or not engaging with your partner because you may have to deal with something uncomfortable that you fear may lead to conflict. You get the idea…
Unfortunately, all these strategies to avoid conflict tend to erode trust in the relationship. Your partner knows they can’t rely on you to be upfront, to deal with issues directly or even to tell the truth about things. If both of you avoid conflict, then issues go underground and remain unresolved which can contribute to underlying tension in the relationship and a lack of meaningful connection.
If you think about what it means to be in a committed relationship with your partner, you probably think it’s important that you love each other. This is indeed important, but if you love someone and don’t respect or trust them, what kind of relationship can you actually create together?
Deep down, I believe we all crave a sense of emotional safety and security. When we partner with someone, we look to them to provide this, whether we are aware of this or not. There are different ways that we can provide our partner with a sense of safety and security: being reliable, following through on what we say we are going to do, acts of kindness, considering our partner in decisions we make, consulting with our partner, being willing to talk things through even when the topic is a difficult one, being interested in our partner, being honest about our feelings, and so on.
What we each want to feel is that we have each other’s back. This goes a long way to creating a feeling of security in our relationship. Of course no relationship is perfect and we make mistakes all the time. The important thing is to repair the mistake; we can always go back and open up a conversation about what happened and apologize for our part in it.
A strong, secure relationship can withstand mistakes. When you look at the relationship as a whole, if your underlying feeling is one of safety and security, of knowing your partner usually has your back, it is easier to integrate the times when things don’t go well and don’t contribute to this feeling of security.
A good question to ask yourself on a regular basis is: “Is this going to help my partner feel safe and secure in our relationship?’ If the answer is no, then you have a great guideline for how to proceed.