I want to discuss a fundamental skill, tool and value in couples relationships. I will call this ‘creating a Safe Harbor.’
Safe harbor means that you, my partner, can be safe here. It means you, my love, can be uniquely you and expect love, support, appreciation and acceptance for your uniqueness. It means that I cherish our differences and want to know you and explore you without pressuring you to be anything special for me. I want to be a safe place for you to explore and discover who you are!
How do we create a Safe Harbor?
We need to develop the value that want’s to see the the world from our partners’ perspective without needing it to be different. We want to use our partner as an extension of our self to see and feel and sense the world from a different location in a completely different way… different than is possible without them. Not in a way that contradicts or challenges our way, but in a way that brings surprise and wonder!
Imagine that you wanted to know what it was like on mars? So you sent a robot to go and report back. The robot would send you pictures and temperatures and all other sources of sensory data. And from that data, you would try to construct an idea of what it might be like on the surface of the planet. The great thing about these robots is that they can sense things that I couldn’t sense …even if I was there!!! Like radiation, and infrared, and minute temperature differentials … wholy cow! What they can see that I would totally miss!!
Now your partner possesses completely different sensors than you do. And can process things differently too! Wholy cow!!! But you know, mostly we ask our partners to see what we see, and process how we process … and make reports about things only in a way that doesn’t contradict our view … dang!!
How much more of the world could we see… what richness might open up… what wonders await…. if we could see it completely different — through someone else’s eyes!!! And what a gift it would be to allow and encourage our partners to express this different and possibly contradictory data!
“How does it look on your side of the world? How does it feel over there? How do you process things like that? How do you sort them and order them? How do they strike you and impact you? What kind of conclusions do you draw from that?”
Said with open curiosity, these are the kinds of open questions you might want to ask at the core of allowing your partner to be as they are … and for you to see the world through their eyes.
If you get good at this, and you have created a lot of safety, you might even advance to more challenging and mysterious topics:
“Why did you get into the relationship with me? What are your fears? What are your goals? What are your hopes? What would an ideal world look like? Where do I fit in your ideal world?”
Can you ask your partner questions without fear? Can you be unattached to the reply? Can you hear it without making it mean something about you?
The better you get at this, the safer the harbor will become.
It is important to understand how much trust and how much vulnerability it takes to honestly answer simple questions about self … without the self trying to change itself to be who it thinks it is supposed to be…
Notice your own answers … how much do you want to filter? How much do you want to avoid hurting your partner? How afraid are you to be judged? Appreciate that it will take some time to build a safe harbor … that you need to work at yourself so that you can be this for the relationship …
Can you create that safe place for your partner to explore themselves without fear that you will disapprove or get scared or withdraw your love? Can you share yourself, explore yourself and present yourself, as-is, to your partner? Notice: you don’t even know who you are to present … you have only who you want them to think you are … you have only what you think you should be …
So this is the bases of becoming a Safe Harbor. Can your partner come home in the raging storms of life and safely present themselves as they are ?
Be the beacon of light that guides them safely back to love, acceptance and support for their unique offering to the world! Be willing to show the way with courage and vulnerability so that you both can help each other discover who you are!!
I love this blog post! I am so excited to apply these distinctions and invite my clients to consider how their relationships can be different. Thank you for your insights and support. You have so much to bring to the conversation.
I love having you in my life.
It is a real love. Kind of love most of us did not experience as children and/or we did not see it between our parents. You are giving a million dollar formula here. It can save marriages. It is saving mine. Real love is contagious – I get more love back than I ever imagined.