Creating a Nurturing Safe Haven

This article was originally published on Healing Moments Counseling.

Note: All names and the characters are fictitious but resemble similar interactions that real couples have.

During Breakfast

JORDAN (frustrated), “When my father passed away, you hugged me once and then never discussed his passing again. Every Time I brought it up, you changed the topic. You don’t care.” 

TAYLOR reacts (dismissive and defensive), “What are you talking about, I do care. I hugged you and told you how important he was. I gave you space to grief and took care of so many of our house things so you could grieve. I’ve been working my ass off so you don’t have to fret about anything else in life.” 

JORDAN (snappy), “That wasn’t helpful or what I needed.” 

TAYLOR (irritated), “You’re exhausting. I never get it right with you. Screw this.” 

Taylor leaves the room. 

Jordan and Taylor are fighting about one of the core tenets of romantic relationships: A Safe Haven. 

Safe haven, attachment theory

Safe Haven: A Sanctuary From The World 

“We are biologically wired to attach to those who depend on us and to those who we depend on.” – Dr. Sue Johnson

A safe haven within a romantic relationship is crucial for emotional well-being. It serves as a sanctuary from the chaos, stress, and pain of life. According to Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and attachment theory, partners become each other’s safe haven, offering support, comfort, and care during difficult times.

All of us need to know that we matter and when things get hard in our life, we want our significant other to be there for us, which reinforces that we matter to them. 

Unfortunately, in insecure relationship patterns, partners who need each other during difficult times end up feeling more lonely and distressed because they can’t find the comfort they long for or can’t seem to offer the comfort they are yearning to create for their partner. It’s painful for the partner who wants to offer comfort to have that fail in the way they intended. 

Here are some examples of ways romantic partners create a safe haven in a secure relationship:

  • 👂 Active Listening: They lend a caring ear when we’re stressed and overwhelmed, allowing us to express our thoughts and emotions without judgment.
  • 🌡️ Attentiveness: They show genuine concern when we’re feeling under the weather, providing the care and attention we need to heal.
  • 🤝 Practical Solutions: They offer practical help when we’re facing challenges or in need of assistance, finding solutions together.
  • 💗 Emotional Connection: They ask open-ended questions, seeking to understand our deepest feelings and challenges, and building a profound emotional bond.
  • 🌅 Rituals of Connection: They create shared moments, whether it’s talking about our day or engaging in special activities, fostering a sense of togetherness and connection.
  • 😔 Comfort and Care: They express empathy and provide physical comfort when we’re feeling sad or hurt, offering solace in their comforting embrace.

Let’s revisit Jordan and Taylor to see how they can repair and co-create a safe haven in their relationship.

Repairing the Rupture of a Safe Haven

It’s impossible for partners to always be connected. It’s in the moments of rupture within the relationship that can foster the best chance to deepen trust and security. 

“The true mark of a secure bond is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of repair. It is through repair that we learn to trust that our love can withstand the challenges we face.’” – Dr. Sue Johnson

Jordan sits on the couch, deep in thought. Taylor enters the room, cautiously approaching.

JORDAN (looking up) I’ve been feeling so alone lately, Taylor. When my father passed away, it felt like you withdrew. I needed your support, but it felt like you didn’t care.

TAYLOR (softly) Jordan, I am sorry. I was withdrawing because I thought you needed space.  What you need from me is to stay engaged.  I am sorry that I did not do that, I want to be here now the way you need me.  You mean a lot to me and your father meant a lot to me too.

[Jordan’s eyes well up with tears.]

JORDAN (sniffles) It hurt because I wanted to share my grief with you. I need you to listen and remember him with me.  I need you close.  I do not want to do this alone.  I am just so sad.

TAYLOR (gently) I understand now, Jordan. I see how my actions made you feel unheard. I want you to know that I care deeply, and I’m here for you. [hugs Jordan]  You are not alone, I am here. I want to remember him too with you.  

[They sit together, holding hands, ready to face the pain together.]

This repair brought them closer together and created a space to grieve and be in the pain together. 

After repairs, it is very important to explicitly state the positive impact of the repair and reinforce how important it is to have your partner there for you. 

Dinner time, later that day

Jordan and Taylor are preparing dinner, working side by side. They exchange glances, a renewed sense of connection in their eyes.

JORDAN (smiling) Thank you for taking care of all those house things when I was grieving. I know you were working so hard to lighten the load for me.

TAYLOR(sincerely) You’re welcome, Jordan. I wanted to create a space for you, to ensure that you didn’t have to worry about anything else during that difficult time. I didn’t want you to fret about the practicalities of life.

Jordan puts down the knife and wraps their arms around Taylor, seeking comfort and reassurance.

JORDAN (whispering) I appreciate your efforts, Taylor. It means a lot to me. I’m sorry for not recognizing it before. We’ve both been struggling, but we can find our way back to each other.

TAYLOR (holding Jordan tight) We can, Jordan. We can learn from our mistakes and keep working on creating a safe and nurturing space for each other. I love you, and I’m committed to making things right.

They stand in each other’s embrace, feeling the warmth of their love rekindling.

If you are wanting to find ways to repair ruptures and cultivate a safe haven in your relationship, then please reach out to one of Healing Moments Counselors for Couples Therapy in Washington or Flordia. 

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