Matt wrote a great post called, “SAFETY AND TRUST IN RELATIONSHIPS: THOSE WORDS DON’T MEAN WHAT YOU THINK THEY MEAN” He’s speaking to mostly men here, men who may not have realized how important emotional safety is to women, men who may have focused on physical safety, with little or no awareness of women’s needs for emotional safety and trust.
I am forever trying to verbalize that same idea, safety, safety, safety, and more safety. It’s a bit tongue in cheek, but nearly every time I talk to a wife who is unhappy, at the root of that is oh yeah, you don’t trust him, you don’t feel safe. Seems simple and logical to me, cut and dry. Can a woman survive in a relationship without trust and safety? No, not for long. A lack of safety is fight or flight, so that’s what tends to happen.
As a total side issue however, a rabbit hole that sprung up from Matt’s post, do men also have a need for emotional safety? I say not so much, not as much, it isn’t quite on their radar in the same way. Physical safety is, but not emotional safety, not really. I can’t recall a time I ever walked into a group of guys and said, “okay guys, let’s first take 20 minutes to address your needs and concerns about emotional safety, trust, confidentiality, and the importance of being heard. “
It’s almost comical to ponder because it’s simply not done. I imagine if I tried such a thing, many of them would suddenly feel very emotionally unsafe like, stop looking at me, this is all very awkward….
Two guys will rarely check in with one another ask, are you feeling safe? How are your trust issues? What’s your emotional state like right now? I’m sure some of that is culture and socialization, but it is biology, too. The genders are simply different, with different needs. You don’t have to explain physical safety to most men, they get that really well. But try explaining emotional safety and there can be some confusion and bafflement.
Learning those different needs and accommodating one another is really key to having successful relationships. That’s really hard to do when we are insisting the two genders are the same and equal in all ways.
I don’t wish to imply that men don’t have feelings or that they have no emotional needs what so ever, it is just that you speak to them about safety and they will say something like, “I don’t want that lamp to fall on my head, or I don’t want my relationship to end.” Women’s emotional needs are far more extensive and complex, I need to be heard, I need to feel safe, I need intimacy, I need connection, I need order in my life, I need to trust you, I need relationship….and on and on it goes.
Somewhat tragic, but comical too in the way it tries to prove me wrong, Matt’s mostly addressing people with struggling relationships, divorce, and so sometimes I find a whole lot of resentment and bias towards men going on. Like, if I were a guy reading some of the comments, I wouldn’t just feel emotionally unsafe, I might even start to feel downright emotionally abused. What kind of baffles me is that many of the women don’t actually hear their own selves, so saying something like, “men just absorb all our giving and give nothing in return” is kind of like, “now wait a minute, hold up here!” Or threatening divorce is just warning him about the dangers of not meeting my needs.
I’m not trying to be impolite here, but the underlying message in both of those statements is actually, you are worthless and I will abandon you.
While men may not have quite the same need for emotional safety that women do, those are still some harsh words, some unhealthy messages, a genuine lack of emotional safety. Borders on abuse really. I’m not judging anyone, I don’t even know people’s individual circumstances, I’m just saying, the words we speak can be very revealing as to what is lurking in our hearts, and women especially, I wish we would listen more closely to what we are actually saying, because if I had a spouse who kept sending the message, you are worthless and I will abandon you, I’d probably divorce them myself.