Home » Blogs » Couples in Recovery » When IN Love, Emotional Safety is as an Important as Physical Safety

When IN Love, Emotional Safety is as an Important as Physical Safety

SafetyFor a successful and loving relationship to endure the ups and downs life brings, there needs to be a foundation of safety as its cornerstone. We have found that without romantic safety, couples are unlikely to enjoy the depth of closeness and intimacy most partners crave. It is very difficult, or perhaps even impossible, for an individual who feels physically or emotionally threatened by his or her partner to risk trust and vulnerability.

Let’s start with an obvious example: Physical violence. Any couple that does not agree to a clear “do not touch” policy with each other cannot possibly become safe enough to experience the level of romantic vulnerability necessary to be IN Love. Think about it, anytime the one member of the relationship is afraid that whatever he or she says or does may enrage their partner, he or she will think twice before sharing it or doing it. As a result, open honest sharing and emotional risk-taking will obviously be very foreign to this relationship.

Threats to romantic safety need not be this extreme, however. Think for example of a partner who “only” verbally threatens his or her partner, and let us say that the threatened partner has a history of abuse in prior relationships – or in childhood. The level of fear and mistrust such verbal threats can ignite may produce as much damage to a relationship as a shove or a slap. The threatening partner however, may insist later on that s/he has not done anything that bad. “After all,” they might argue, “I have not physically touched anyone…” They fail to recognize the emotional lack of safety they have created just the same.

The variables that can result in a breach of safety are unique from relationship to relationship. Some challenges in a relationship can pose no significant threat to one partner but may feel extremely threatening to another. That is why we maintain that no one ever gets to decide for an individual what his or her safety needs are. An individual is unsafe when he or she says so.

Be mindful however, that not all discomfort, conflict, or relationship problems indicate a lack of safety. When we talk about romantic “safety” we are not referring to a wish list of every change people would like their partner to undertake in order to ensure total and complete comfort at all times. Lack of safety, as we use the word, refers to the circumstances, behaviors, and events – within reason – that represent a significant obstacle to a couple’s ability to risk meaningful vulnerability with one another.

We would love to hear from you, our readers, about some of your experiences creating and maintaining safety in your own relationship. Or perhaps you can share with some of our other reader your awareness’s of your or your partner’s safety needs. Please click >HERE< to leave us a comment or a question.


This article was written by John and Elaine Leadem.

When IN Love, Emotional Safety is as an Important as Physical Safety

John and Elaine Leadem

John and Elaine Leadem are licensed clinical social workers whose combined investment in the field of addiction treatment spans more than sixty years. Their commitment to helping recovering families has provided the core inspiration for the development of a "A Decision to Be IN Love"© which has helped many couples move from the traditional parallel model of recovery to strong united core support group. They are both certified Sex Addiction Therapist and have co-developed a model for treating couples during the crisis stage of recovery. In addition to being the co-directors of Leadem Counseling & Consulting Services, Elaine and John are seasoned therapeutic retreat leaders in working with recovering couples. As a team they have thus far co-authored three books:

In addition, John and Elaine are in the final stages of publishing their two latest masterpieces: Raising the Bottoms: A guide to training professional interventionists, and A Decision to Be IN Love: A therapist guide to treating couples recovering from addiction.

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Leadem, J. (2015). When IN Love, Emotional Safety is as an Important as Physical Safety. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 17, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/couples/2015/07/safety-in-relationship/


Last updated: 3 Nov 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Nov 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.