Do you know what it feels like to be in a relationship that feels emotionally safe? A relationship where you feel comfortable showing up as your authentic self? One where you can share all of your feelings, fears and insecurities? To not be afraid of being imperfect in your partner’s eyes, nor are they afraid of being imperfect in your eyes?
Creating an emotionally safe relationship for you and your partner comes down to trusting that you’ll both show up in the relationship with a certain level of kindness, respect and vulnerability. And that each of you can accept the other person. It’s also about being present with your partner and engaging in their world and feelings.
According to relationship coach, Anita Hisir, codependent and anxiously attached individuals struggle to find emotionally safe partners because their relationship with their primary caregivers (for most people this is our parents) never felt emotionally safe. This emotional unsafety is what’s most familiar to the anxious and codependent individual, and it tends to be what they unconsciously chase after.
When you consider the journey of an anxious attachment style, from the get-go, they learnt they were never entirely safe in terms of security in a relationship. This is because of the inconsistency in their parent’s ability to show up emotionally for their child when they needed attention and care the most.
Our parents might have been too busy with life and work, dealing with their own stress or a mental health issue, or perhaps they were emotionally unavailable. The child’s insecurity came from never fully knowing when they would get love, attention, presence, engagement and care from their parents.
“We all have this bucket, this need of security and safety in relationships that we want to have filled. And because these insecure types didn’t get enough of it in their childhood, it’s as if the bucket for their safety and security has no bottom. So no matter how much reassurance, safety and security the insecure individual gets from their partner, it never feels like enough. We try and find ways to get this love and security by adopting specific survival strategies along the way: people-pleasing, overachieving, hyper-independent, or stoic and emotionless. Anything they can do to get that approval, acceptance and belonging,” says Hisir.
One of those learned survival strategies is perfectionism. Hisir notes that codependents learn to show up in a particular way to get love and approval from their primary caregivers. This idea of showing up in a precise manner is then projected onto our partners. We feel they need to be a certain way, so we try to mould them into who we want them to be rather than accepting them for who they are.
Hisir explains, “What we can do for our own healing is learn to build that bottom part of the bucket and to give that love, validation, and reassurance to ourselves. We need to find our inner anchor in our lives to fill our own bucket and find our sense of aliveness. So that when we do go into a relationship, we are coming from a place of, I am filling my own bucket, and it’s great when you can also fill it. And I am going to fill yours sometimes too”.