How to Identify an Emotionally Safe Person
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone with whom you felt you couldn’t be your authentic self?
Or maybe, even though you trusted your partner, you felt like you couldn’t share with them all of your thoughts and feelings?
If that’s the case, your relationship probably lacked emotional safety, or your partner exhibited emotionally unsafe behaviors.
What’s emotional safety, you ask?
Besides the fact that it’s a vital component of any healthy, successful, and long-lasting relationship, I’m gonna explain right away:
- what it means
- how you can spot an emotionally safe person
- how you can evaluate whether you are in an emotionally safe and healthy relationship
Let’s dive right in.
What Does It Mean to Feel Emotionally Safe?
Feeling emotionally safe with a person means being able to let our guard down and be our 100% authentic self when in their company.
When there is emotional safety in a relationship, both people can be open, vulnerable and wholeheartedly trust each other. They feel comfortable, relaxed, and above all, safe.
As psychotherapist John Amodeo masterfully explains in his article:
“Feeling emotionally safe means feeling internally relaxed with a person. We feel free to let down our guard and show our authentic self, including our hurts, fears, and longings. When we feel safe with a person, we don’t need to be so defensive because there is little to defend against. As we feel consistently held with respect, kindness, and caring, we relax with a person. As we trust that our partner or friend has the intention, interest, and capacity to see us, hear us, and understand us — even if they fall short sometimes — we relax more and more with them, which strengthens the foundation for intimacy.”
So, let’s say you just started dating someone and want to know whether they are able to provide emotional safety in your relationship. How you can spot an emotionally safe person?
Let’s take a look at five signs that might help you. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it contains examples of the most important traits/behaviors that indicate an emotionally safe person.
1. They Encourage You to Express Your Feelings — and Accept Them
Emotionally safe people always want to know your true, inner thoughts and feelings and will encourage you to express them. What interests them is the full story — how, why and what made you feel that way.
Unfortunately, there are many people, who, after claiming they want to know your feelings will rush to dismiss then by saying things like “I don’t understand how you can think like that” or “You shouldn’t feel that way”.
When it comes to emotionally safe people, however, things are much different: they’re never judgmental and dismissive of your feelings, but rather, they respect and accept them, even if they don’t like/disagree with them.
2. They’re Direct in Communicating Their Needs and Feelings
How many times someone you knew told you they ended a relationship because they just couldn’t communicate with their partner?
In fact, poor communication is the #1 reason relationships fall apart and marriages end. If we’re being honest, many of us have adopted the common, yet toxic belief that our partners should always know what we want/feel/think.
The truth is that we might be in a relationship with someone for years, and that someone will still not be in a position to read our minds.
That’s why communication is vital, and thankfully, emotionally safe people have great communication skills.
More specifically, an emotionally safe person is direct and honest in communicating their feelings, needs, and thoughts. They don’t leave you wondering what the hell is happening inside their heads and they make sure their communication is clear and consistent.
3. They View You as an Equal, Not a Competitor
Not all people out there feel like equals in their relationships. Sadly, there’s a big percentage of people that build their relationships on power and control plays instead of equality and respect.
An emotionally safe person, however, values equality more than anything. Now, equality in a relationship means that each person’s needs and interests are respected and met to a reasonable degree as opposed to just one person domineering or trying to control elements of the relationship.
Mark D. White, Ph.D states in his article in Psychology Today:
“Let’s be clear: People in a relationship are never equal in all (or any) ways. One person may be judged more attractive (by popular conventions), or may make more money. One person may smarter in one way, less smart in another. One person is more outgoing, one person is better with money, etc. Vive la différence! We look for people who complement, accent, or offset our various good and bad qualities with their own, and we value each other accordingly.”
4. They Respect Your Need for Privacy and Space
Despite what many people might think, there are times when everyone needs privacy and space, both outside and inside their relationships.
In other words, we all need to set some healthy boundaries in our relationships and be able to respect the other person’s boundaries as well.
Psychotherapist John Amodeo explains it best:
“Having boundaries means honoring ourselves as a separate individual with needs and wants that often differ from others. Without healthy boundaries, we allow others to override our own feelings and desires.”
You know someone’s is cabaple of providing you with emotional safety, when they respect your boundaries and don’t make you feel like you have to justify them and defend yourself.
They also understand that sometimes you might need some space and time and will freely give them both to you, without being intrusive, intimidating or starting to doubt your feelings.
5. They Strive to Grow and Become Better
I firmly believe that, throughout our lives, we should all strive to become the best version of ourselves, both outside and inside our relationships. First and foremost for ourselves, but also for our partners and the people closest to us.
Because, the truth is, we all have flaws and weaknesses and we all make (plenty of) mistakes. And emotionally safe people are no exception.
The difference between emotionally safe and unsafe people is that the former strive to grow as individuals and become better people and partners. They will never say something along the lines of “I am who I am, take it or leave it”. Instead, they:
- Recognize their mistakes and try to fix them.
- Take responsibility for their actions.
- Accept your feeedback.
- Act by taking your feelings into consideration.
- Don’t get stuck in a destructive pattern.
Safe vs Unsafe Behaviors Boiled Down to Simple Comparisons
Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize specific behavior patterns in our partners. That’s why I compiled a list of simple comparisons that can help you evaluate whether you are in an emotionally safe and healthy relationship:
Unsafe: Your partner is dismissive of your feelings, and pushes you to suppress your emotions.
Safe: Your partner accepts your feelings and allows you to fully express them.
Unsafe: Your partner’s communication is unclear/inconsistent and they tend to avoid important conversations.
Safe: Your partner is always eager to communicate their feelings/needs/thoughts in an honest and clear way.
Unsafe: Your partner underestimates your opinions, makes sarcastic comments, considers them ridiculous/irrational and tries to persuade you to adopt their own beliefs/views.
Safe: Your partner listens to and respects your opinions/views even when they differ from their own.
Unsafe: Your partner gets defensive, angry and frustrated whenever you tell them they did something wrong or made a mistake.
Safe: Your partner takes responsibility for their actions, admits their mistakes, accepts your feedback and tries to clean up the mess.
Unsafe: Your partner acts like you’re inferior to them, they try to influence and control your relationship, without taking your feelings and needs into consideration.
Safe: Your partner recognizes you both have different strengths and weaknesses, respects and meets your needs to the same degree you meet theirs, and doesn’t try to dominate you relationship.
Before you start making future plans with your significant other, you need to accept a simple, yet crucial truth about relationships: you can’t have a healthy relationship without emotional safety.
You might have the most good looking partner, they might be incredibly clever and witty, or they might have a great sense of humor and make you laugh like there’s no tomorrow.
But, if they don’t make you feel emotionally safe, then, one way or another, you’ll end up struggling in your relationship.
Search for safe people. Emotional safety is the best thing a partner can provide you with.