Safety is a way we lie to ourselves about what will work to have a better life. We clutch at believing it is safer to avoid talking about problems with our partners. Choices made for safety are always choices made out of fear. Safety is about the false comfort that false beliefs offer.

Safety Has Exaggerated Importance In Relationships

Safety is a way we lie to ourselves about what will work to have a better life & better relationships. We clutch at believing it is safer to avoid talking about problems with our partners. Choices made for safety are always choices made out of fear.

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If you believe you are superior because you have white skin it is a source of comfort to soothe your own insecurities. As long as you believe it, it doesn’t matter that it is absolutely not true. Which is why racism is on the rise.

Many people refuse to fly believing they will be safe. Despite the statistics about cars & planes saying otherwise. Safety is about comfort & firmly held false beliefs. 

Many are expert at making up obstacles to avoid engaging with the world at large. They play a game called “Yes, but” which initially appears to be agreement, then the but erases any agreement. Saying “Yes, but” is simply a way to maintain the unsatisfying status quo for safety & the comfort of the familiar. This is what happens when someone stays too long in a terrible relationship.

Perfectionism is yet another way of pretending to achieve safety. As long as everything looks good to others and no one else really knows what’s going on we feel safe. How often are you surprised when the “perfect” family gets divorced? The belief is as long as no one else knows the truth we are safer. 

Social media helps feed the false sense of safety. Have you ever seen so many happy pictures? People end up jealous of the happy lives portrayed on FB, with the consequences that the photos can easily begin to feed self-loathing. 

Obsessing is another way we soothe ourselves by pretending that ever circling thoughts are keeping us safe. The truth is obsessing is an incredible time suck that wastes our energy.

What is the opposite of safety in a relationship? There are two. The first: Embracing the value of vulnerability. Relationships require vulnerability. Real intimacy demands the risk of vulnerability. When two people are deeply honest about either a secret or something they are shamed of; then they feel a deeper connection with each other.

Just 3 examples of topics avoided in relationships:

  • ❖ It scares the hell out of me that you are diabetic and don’t take care of yourself.
  • ❖ I’m confused about why you seem to be avoiding sex with me.
  • ❖ We need to create a budget because we are spending beyond our means. This is something we need to face together instead of ignoring.

Relationships always require the hard work of asking these questions and risking the answers. Avoiding hard questions means creating a grand canyon of distance. We lie to ourselves in the false belief that avoiding and deflecting is kinder. 

I worry a bit about all the FB posts for kindness. Despite the fact I live in Mr.Rodgers hometown, I believe kindness can be overdone. You don’t want a therapist who is only kind, it’s important to have the balance of acknowledging & dealing with reality which may seem unkind but is best if a relationship is going to make it for the long haul.

I was inspired to write this blog by a self-employed Mom who lost her biggest customer and who was afraid to tell her married and employed daughters that she could no longer afford to pay for their cell phones. Her fears were making the decision of silence because she was afraid that they’d be upset & she does not want to appear unkind. 

So I’ve already mentioned the second opposite of safety is: Embracing reality

It’s why the escapism of Disneyland makes me squeamish. People just smile way too much, the smiling lacks any authenticity. I would love to see a research study of all the couples who get married and/or honeymoon at Disneyland. I would be surprised if the divorce rate for that group wasn’t higher than the norm, maybe even as big as 75%, because their expectations would be way beyond any realistic possibility. My only data is my brother-in-law who honeymooned there & is divorced.

Fear prevents good choices. Fear does not offer clarity. Fear is about pretending. Fear is about false beliefs. Fear leads you astray because you don’t want to be uncomfortable. Fear must be balanced by thinking.

Thinking things through requires embracing reality, reality is all about knowing & accepting life includes sorrow. In the Russian room in the Cathedral of Learning at PITT there are two carved wooden doves that look exactly the same. One is Joy & the other Sorrow because the reality of life is always both.

Reality opens up the doors of truth. Reality matters. If I was dying, I’d want to know. Even to just hear my last ocean wave or write letters to my children, I’d want to know. Reality really does matter, ignore it at your peril.

How can your partner truly know you if you aren’t vulnerable? Sharing hard truths isn’t just about obtaining reassurances, it’s about being truly known by the person you love the most. Being authentic is a gift of love to your partner. Just 3 examples follow:

❖ I’m afraid to have kids, growing up was so hard.

❖ I buy too much stuff and I don’t feel good about it. 

❖ I drink too much.

The more equipped you are to deal with reality, the more you’ve been honest with yourself about your own dark side. If you have embraced the hardship and blessings of self-awareness then you have to be able to be real with yourself. Then you have to take responsibility and wrestle with the reality of your own demons. 

When a partner lacks self awareness it can make them difficult to deal with because they will project their own insecurities all over you. Self awareness prevents the easy dumping of blame. The more lopsided blame is dumped on one partner, the less self aware the blamer is & the least reality can be found. 

Blame creates a false construct.

Blame is one way of lying to yourself. We imagine our lies to be a safe haven. There is a false short-term sense of comfort, you hear it when kids blame the teacher for their bad grades or when they look you in the eye and say they didn’t do something. 

Self-awareness is the beginning of change and growth. It’s very uncomfortable, “Is that me?” you scream inside of yourself with awful recognition. Increasing self-awareness is why therapy sessions do (and should) not always make you feel good. Self-awareness might make you squirm by owning your part to play in the problems. 

One example of lying to yourself & creating a false belief: “I work hard for my money and I deserve to spend it. I might die tomorrow.” 

Greater self-awareness will lead you to a different conclusion. “I spend beyond my means and I need to be more careful and stop avoiding a budget.”

It’s important to feel experimental if you’re going to give up your safety as a priority. Pick 4 or 5 people you’d like to be closer to and if you were more vulnerable, what is something you would share about yourself with them? 

You have to be willing to try out new things out as a couple to find new ways to be together. That means you will also discover a lot of things that don’t work for both of you. So don’t bail out prematurely, keep testing the waters. Keep trying until you find what works. Don’t shrink your life to the safety of working, eating and television. Shift your value of safety to a value of exploration, you won’t be sorry.

Become more greedy, because greediness can be a fine appetite for life.

Safety is overvalued and squelches the possibilities. Take a chance and join a group of strangers and learn to rock climb or kayak or jump with the waves in the ocean. Don’t just hide out in the tranquil pool of life.

When I think of all the things I’ve failed at, I’m proud of the long list. Painting, pottery, horseback riding, skiing on both snow and water and to my deep sadness, storytelling. I paid for three courses about storytelling because it is important for podcasting. Alas, I’m just too direct and am mystified on how to spin my stories to be better.

I think trying matters a lot. So another value to move you out of the safety zone is the willingness to try and fail. Everybody learns more from failure than success. “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly” is what the renowned Gestalt therapist Laura Perls says.

[STINGER] My CHALLENGE for you today: 

Couples need to try new things together and as individuals. Here’s a challenge: Pick up the entertainment section of a newspaper and highlight things you are curious about doing as a couple. Google- search outdoor activities in your city. Use anxiety management strategies to manage your fears about doing something new.

2020 is a great year to commit to making your life more interesting. 

I am now creating courses for 29.95 on my website. The first is for overly generous people pleasers in lopsided relationships. It will be up by the end of January. Visit The next will be on dating. Thanks so much for listening today.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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