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What I Consider the Most Important Part of Relationships as a Trauma Survivor

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Are your relationships truly rooted in love? While relationships can have layers upon layers of complexity, love itself is ever so simple. Or, at least it should be.

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Societal norms and expectations often rule us in our relationships. These unspoken “standards” not only dictate how we behave interpersonally, but also our perceptions of ourselves.

Oftentimes, we get caught up in who we think we are supposed to be. Whether it is to attract a love interest or simply to gain acceptance, we tend to overlook a key aspect of loving relationships: a feeling of safety.

Whether or not you feel loved in your relationships is one thing. But a key question is this: Do you feel safe? Not just “safe” in the physical sense, but in the emotional sense as well. Do you feel safe to be fully and vulnerably you, and let your walls down so you can truly love and be loved?

This is a concept I refer to as safe love. It applies not only to romantic relationships, but also to any type of bond — regardless of whether it’s a friendship, familial connection or anything else.

Safe love means approaching the people you love with the intention of being their rock in this chaotic world. Safe love doesn’t have any prerequisites besides seeing the humanity of those you love and standing by them with open arms. It means creating space for vulnerability without judgment, honesty without threat and love without conditions. Ideally, it also means having a safe haven in them as well.

Safe love can look like many things.

Safe love can mean non-judgmentally sitting with a friend who is going through a mental health battle and simply staying by their side — even when that person is scared of themselves. It can mean taking a step back from an argument with a significant other. In that time it’s to hold space for your shared love even in the midst of confusion and misunderstanding. Safe love doesn’t require fixing anything — it is simply about offering unconditional love while allowing someone’s experience to exist.

Giving and receiving safe love doesn’t mean you ignore your own needs, boundaries and perspectives. Rather, it means that you enter your relationships and communicate your needs from a place of pure love. It means not catering to the idea of resentment or opposition. In a relationship of safe love, you know you love and are loved. And you know that your loved one is trying their best, just as you are.

Safe love banishes the idea of “fault.” When love is real, it is never truly “you against them.” Rather, painful relational situations are often just the product of complex human beings navigating a chaotic world hand in hand. With this awareness, things can feel a little less tangled.

Safe love looks and feels different for everyone. Regardless, it is the type of love you deserve to experience — a love that allows you to feel so seen that maybe one day, you can extend your love inwards, too.

Photo by Steve Halama via Unsplash

Originally published: June 7, 2020
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