In my blog post Vulnerable Vs. Needy – 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 “fear of rejection.”)
In this blog post, I want to dive deeper into this issue and discuss something that’s totally up for me – the issue of safety.
What Makes A Relationship Safe?
In many past relationships, I’ve felt unsafe. What do I mean by that? I’ve been in a physically abusive relationship before, so obviously, that’s an extreme feeling of unsafety. But there’s a more subtle, and in many ways more emotionally damaging, kind of unsafety that’s about not feeling safe to be vulnerable. In those relationships, I couldn’t 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 – time and time again until, as Brené Brown teaches, there were no marbles left in the trust jar.
That’s when I decided that safety was tantamount, that trust was key, and that, at least in my close relationships, I’d choose safety over risk or adventure any day.
So how does safety relate to vulnerability and need? I’ve come to realize that I feel safe when I come to trust that someone will make every effort to meet my needs when I’m 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 – over and over – I express needs that don’t get met, I start feeling unsafe and that leads me to feel insecure and then – lo and behold – I start acting needy.