Feeling emotionally safe is an important factor for staying in a relationship with someone, but what happens when you spot some signs of a toxic relationship?
Did you fall in love with a person who was so amazing that you thought you’d been blessed with a soulmate? Great! Then, did you soon find the relationship deteriorating into something more like being cursed with a cellmate?
That happens too often. I wish it didn’t, but it does.
Sometimes, you’re not quite sure what is wrong — in that case, there are a few deep questions you can ask yourself to figure things out.
You’ve heard that when something seems too good to be true, that’s because it is — it happens in relationships, too.
One big thing is true: you are responsible for keeping yourself safe. Sometimes, you forget this when you are so charmed and enchanted by that seemingly perfect new person in your life.
You abandon your concerns — and your judgment — to experience the joys of falling in love, while being swept off your feet.
Yes, of course, that happens and things only get better as time goes on. In healthy relationships, you will be emotionally safe. But, there are far too many that don’t work out that way.
I hate to burst your bubble but there are people in the world who simply want to have power over you.
All the charm, seduction, and seeming perfection is short-lived. In fact, it usually only lasts long enough to get you to fall for them, move in, marry, or get pregnant. Followed shortly thereafter by them wanting to control you, your life, your family, friends, and finances!
And, with that need for control, the charm, seduction and seeming perfection become what it always was: lying, exploitation, and manipulation. You don’t want to believe it. You want to keep the “happily ever after” story.
You want to believe the lies — they were magical and you were enchanted. It seemed perfect.
You want to believe the promises, even though, all evidence in your day-to-day life tells you differently. Yet, you hold on, hoping they will change.
You tell yourself, “If only I am more patient, kind, loving, understanding, nurturing, undemanding, compassionate, etc., then things will get better.”
When you are in an emotionally unsafe relationship, your partner is counting on you believing it’s your fault things aren’t working.
In fact, once you think about it, you’ll realize that, actually, everything is your fault. At least, that’s what your partner tells you. You are not emotionally safe. In fact, you’re likely not safe in any way at all!
Let’s back up for a minute and talk about what emotional safety really is.
This quote from Anais Nin says it all: “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”
When you are wearing rose-colored glasses, you will miss all the relationship red flags. When you see poor behavior, things that make you feel uncomfortable and you rationalize, justify, and make excuses for them, you are now accepting and condoning them. And, you’re the one who is hurting!
If you are trusting, loving, honest, and reliable, we expect everyone to be. We see people as we are. And, that’s a wonderful place to start in any relationship.
The problem is that we forget to take off the rose-colored glasses. We refuse to see the red flags. We don’t want to believe people use people, and we don’t want to believe we are allowing ourselves to be used, either.
You are emotionally unsafe when you cannot both be open, honest, and vulnerable without being fearful of being put down, discounted, or made fun of. When only one person is open, honest, and vulnerable, too often, the other is power-hungry and using you for a doormat.
Don’t let anyone wipe their feet on you!
To be safe means to be free from harm and hurt. You also want to be free from anticipating being harmed or hurt. When someone wants to have power over you, your freedom is in jeopardy.
You begin to anticipate being hurt, again. You are not emotionally safe. And, maybe, not physically safe, either. You have to be safe to risk, to expose, to share.
In his book, Emotional Safety, author Don Catherall says, “One partner can say something stupid, and the other person ignores it or doesn’t look at it as significant. There’s a level of trust. But when they lose that safety, everything has the potential to flare up. They stop taking things at face value or giving each other the benefit of the doubt.”
Then, you’re often not emotionally safe. You’re afraid. You don’t want to be. You want to trust, so you make up excuses for the behavior, but you’re not feeling safe. Can you acknowledge that to yourself?
Right now, this minute, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you feeling safe in your relationship?
- Can you trust your partner with your innermost feelings, and not fear being put down?
- Can you trust your partner to listen to you with interest and compassion?
- Can you trust your partner to want the best for you, and do what is possible to make it happen?
- Can you trust your partner to keep your secrets safe, and protect your vulnerabilities?
If your answer to these questions are “no”, then you are not emotionally safe.
If any of these things are true, take this important piece of relationship advice: it’s time to rip off the rose-colored glasses, stand up, and take a good look around.
What are you putting up with? What are you making excuses for? What are you continuously rationalizing and justifying that is just plain uncaring, thoughtless, and dismissive?
These destructive patterns in your partner are not your fault.
Likely, your partner tells you they are. That’s to keep the power over you. And, if you go along with it, you are enabling your partner to continue to misuse and abuse you. Yes, abuse!
I know that you don’t want to think of it as abuse. You don’t want to believe your partner is abusive. You don’t want to believe you would allow yourself to be abused. You don’t want to think of your partnership as abusive.
I get that. But, that doesn’t change things. It’s abuse!
Stop taking the blame for your partner’s bad behavior! It’s not your fault — it’s a choice the other person is making.
And stop making excuses for your partner’s abuse of you and your relationship. Rip off those rose-colored glasses and throw them away for good. They only end up blinding you to the red flags in a relationship and in life.
Who would be foolish enough to wear them once they realize that? People who have little self-esteem and even less self-confidence.
If you are recognizing a pattern and believing that you may be trapped in here, know that you can escape.
You are the only person who can keep you emotionally safe!
Being with someone who needs to have power over you, to keep you uncertain and in fear, is the first thing to recognize.
I created the term Hijackal and wrote about it in my book to describe a person who hijacks a relationship for their own purposes and then relentlessly scavenges it for power, status, and control.
Does that sound — or more importantly, feel — familiar? Power is the air that Hijackals breathe. They need, crave, and demand it. When you’re with a Hijackal, you are being suffocated so that the Hijackal can take control.
So, stop! You are emotionally unsafe with a Hijackal and it won’t change.
Hijackals don’t change. It’s hard to believe because you’ve been telling yourself that with enough love, patience, and all that from you, the Hijackal will finally believe they are loved enough and will start to relax.
No, it won’t happen. Believe me.
Yes, I know you don’t want to. You want to believe the Hjackal and believe in the Hijackal. Don’t! A Hijackal only has an interest in what feeds the need for power and control.
It sounds harsh but a Hijackal could care less about you as long as they are getting what is needed for themselves. Hijackals don’t have love to give you. Instead, they have uses for you. Believe this harsh truth now or believe it later, but it’s still the truth.
You have the right to be emotionally safe and the responsibility to keep yourself emotionally safe.
Are you willing to rip off those rose-colored glasses and see how it is, at last? Great. That’s a big vote in favor of yourself, and you deserve to be safe. Believe that!
Emotional safety means feeling accepted. It is the sense that you are safe from emotional attack or harm. A Hijackal will never allow you to feel accepted, acceptable, or good enough.
If all this sounds horribly familiar, that’s the first important step to recovery. The next is to get help to recognize the patterns, traits, and cycles. Then, to gather the new attitudes, mindsets, and strategies to step into your own power, and say no to abuse.
You have the right to be emotionally safe. Exercise your rights!