Safety in Marriage in Marriage Conversation:
In order for a marriage to function as a healthy marriage there is a big need for safety. We call good marriages ‘learning communities’ because healthy marriages make each partner (and all the children) smarter. Dysfunctional marriages (we call them ‘marginal’) tend to make the partners crazier or perhaps dumber.
There is a need for safety. We must be certain there will be no violence obviously, but other forms of safety are critical as well. We need to be safe from the possibility of shaming, blaming, diagnostics (‘what’s wrong with you’) and exit strategies. We need to know that the garden of our feelings, thoughts and images will be safe from intrusion, will be respectfully received and honored for the truth (our own truth) we bring.
Good communication only happens in a safe environment which is why corporate leadership often doesn’t get the kind of information it needs – employees not feeling safe to communicate their observations, experience or ideas in an environment where leadership is unresponsive, threatening, or preoccupied with bottom line considerations.
I recently learned this: the Los Angeles Unified School District has many schools in which the fire safety systems have been incapacitated. The systems that were installed to protect our children are inoperative because of budgetary considerations. How did that happen? So we have thousands of children and teachers who are in an environment devoid of an early warning system. They are at risk and school officials, politicians, and even parents seem to be oblivious.
How can one learn if one is not safe to learn? This appalling reality may exist because we assume that no one knows the reality. But a sense of safety or the lack of it is built into our awareness. We might not know the facts but we can feel the threat. Within marriage we don’t necessarily have to feel physically threatened to be afraid of the consequences our telling the truth might provoke.
Here’s your takeaway. Perhaps in L.A. community leaders can through the process of personal denial think an inoperative fire warning system doesn’t matter so much. Perhaps in marriage you think that your critical attitude, your habit of diagnosing your partner, your frequent theorizing about their intentions – has no effect on them. Perhaps you think ‘they’ are ‘the’ problem in the lack of connection you both experience. But the very lack of safety determines the quality of connection you both lack.
Safety can be created though a thoughtful and reflective conversation and it is in your best interests to do so. In L.A. if the powers in charge don’t soon wake up to the fact of their careless disregard for the safety of our most vulnerable citizens I’m afraid our schools will never achieve the kind of learning environment they deserve.
Stephen W. Frueh PhD is a coach, consultant, writer and speaker. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805 338 4286
“Healthy marriages make the world a safer place for children.”
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