Chris Prentiss, Guest Author
We find rest in those we love,
and we provide a resting place
in ourselves for those who love us.
~ Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
Your relationship thrives, withers, lives, or dies in an environment. If the environment in which your relationship lives is harsh and unforgiving, a place where sarcasm, degradation, and anger is present and where forgiveness, thoughtfulness, and love are in short supply, your relationship will wither and die… painfully. It will die just as a garden dies without water, nutrients, and light.
Your generosity, understanding, good nature, supportive attitude, gentleness, and knowledge of the “Laws of Love” are the nutrients and the bonds of a strong, endearing, and enduring relationship. Blended together, they create the environment for a successful relationship: Safe Space.
Here is the heart of the Law of Love regarding Safe Space: In your eyes, your partner cannot make a mistake or do anything wrong. That is the ultimate condition of Safe Space. That doesn’t mean your partner will not make mistakes, do things you don’t agree with, or do things that are hurtful to you or someone you care about. What it means is that you will treat their action as if nothing wrong was done, as if what happened is fine with you.
You will not be harsh, hurtful, sarcastic, degrading, or even somewhat put off by what happened. You will keep in mind as you respond that you are talking to someone you want to love you completely, warmly, and sincerely. You are talking to someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. If you were able to choose how your partner would treat you, wouldn’t you want to be treated gently, lovingly, and with great tenderness and complete consideration no matter what you were to do?
The degree to which you provide Safe Space for your loved one is the same degree to which your relationship will blossom and the same degree to which you will find the love you seek in the eyes and heart of the one you love. The degree to which you fail to provide Safe Space is the same degree to which your relationship will diminish, tarnish, and die. If you do not offer a haven of Safe Space, your mate may become afraid of you and afraid to make mistakes, which will surely cause those mistakes to occur. If you would exist in that rarified world of relationship heaven where only a few have entered and even fewer have remained, you must fully embrace the condition of Safe Space.
When you live by the law that relationships only thrive in Safe Space, you do not become upset or angry with your partner over hurtful events caused by them because you know that, speaking in today’s vernacular, you’ve got to cut them some slack — in fact, total slack — if you want to be loved. Creating Safe Space requires nothing less than becoming the kind of person who looks with perfect equanimity on the shortcomings of your loved one — the kind of person who sees the seeming mistakes, omissions, blunders, failures, and even the intentional hurts and transgressions and makes them all okay.
Making Your Love Felt
At this point, there will most likely arise in your mind a myriad examples in your current or past relationships that you can point to and say, “Well, what about this or that — am I supposed to just overlook those things? Am I supposed to say, ‘Okay honey, it’s alright that you continue to lie to me.’ Or ‘Don’t worry, dear, about not paying the bills on time, month after month, and ruining our credit. I understand you were busy with your friends and I love you just the same.'”
Lying is not okay. Ruining your credit is not okay. Driving recklessly is not okay. Being disrespectful or nasty to you is not okay. Neglecting important things is not okay. Cooperation is not a sentiment; it is an economic necessity. If those transgressions and things like them continue despite your best efforts to help your partner correct them, they enter into the domain of “deal breakers.”
Before the above examples turn into deal breakers, when they are still in the annoying stage but have not become intolerable, it’s essential that you create Safe Space for your partner so you do not wind up appearing uncaring or difficult or making them feel as if you don’t love them. How you treat your partner during those occurrences will determine the degree of love and respect you will receive from your partner.
In the universal sense of the word, all events are part of the perfection of the unfolding Universe, part of your process of growth. By acting in accord with that truth and carefully adhering to what you have just read about Safe Space, your partner will revere you, love you, cling to you, and be forever grateful to you for being the loving, compassionate, and understanding person they have always dreamed of and longed for, either consciously or subconsciously. Your loved one will speak about you and think about you in the highest terms of endearment. You will have earned their love.
Providing Safe Space for another is, in reality, an act of complete selfishness. What you are after is to be totally loved by the one you love. You are, in fact, the direct beneficiary of your creation of Safe Space. First, you get to live with and experience the joy and love of someone who is free to grow and expand in the Safe Space you have created. Second, you get to experience what it’s like to live with someone who is not afraid of doing the wrong thing. That leaves you and your partner free to experiment as you move through life and removes fear from your relationship. And third, because your mate has experienced what it is like to live with a person who is generous and compassionate, they will therefore want to provide you with the same Safe Space you have provided them.
As my wife, Lyn, says, “Partnerships allow you to love yourself and life through another.” To the extent that you have created Safe Space, your partner will have perfect trust in you. Your partner will “know” you — know you to be in love with them and know that they can trust you to be loving in response to any action they take, even actions that would seem to the world to be mistakes, bad judgment, or even intentional transgressions.
Removing Fear from Your Relationship
Here’s an example of how Safe Space manifests itself in a perfect relationship environment. Say your spouse takes the new car out to run an errand and smashes it. When you are committed to Safe Space in your relationship, your response will be: “As long as you’re safe, that’s all I really care about. I hope you’re not upset by it. I want you to know that I love you, and that you are my treasure. I was so worried about damaging our new car, and now I realize that the only thing that is important is that you are safe and sound. Cars are replaceable — you’re not!”
How do you think your spouse will respond to that? I know how I would respond. I would feel a surge of love and gratitude for being in the presence of someone who truly loves me, who thinks far more of me than of the banged-up car, whose first and main concern is my well-being. Wouldn’t you feel the same?
Here’s another example of how to create Safe Space in your relationship. Say you arrive at the airport, only to discover that your partner forgot to bring his or her driver’s license or passport as identification. Your response: “No problem, honey. We’re obviously not supposed to be on that flight. Since we can’t fly until tomorrow, let’s have a special celebration tonight to make the most of this unexpected bonus time. I’m actually glad we missed the flight. Something good will come of it. Do you know, I may have forgotten to lock the back door. This will give me a chance to check on it.”
Then, all during the rest of that day, find reasons to feel good about having missed the flight. Make statements such as these: “It would take a heck of a lot more than that for me to ever be angry with you.” “You’re such a perfect partner for me, and I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable, even in the slightest, for anything you do.” “Do you know, if we hadn’t missed that flight, we might never have discovered this great restaurant.” “If we had made that flight, you wouldn’t have gotten that important phone call from work.”
Safe Space relieves apprehension on the part of your loved one. We all know what it feels like when we know we are going to be scolded or punished for having done something wrong. Those feelings should be absent in your relationship. Making everything your partner does okay with you will remove most of what causes dissension in relationships. There’s really nothing quite like Safe Space for creating and maintaining a wonderful, loving, stress-free relationship.
Don’t forget about yourself too. Remember to create Safe Space for yourself as well. Don’t needlessly beat yourself up over things you’ve done that you wish you hadn’t. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself the right to be happy with yourself and your actions. Many a life has been ruined because of long-term feelings of guilt, regrets about missed opportunities, and the whole world of coulda, woulda, shoulda.
Larry’s NOTE: “I’ve read, ‘The Laws of Love: Creating the Relationship of Your Dreams.’ Every couple should keep this book on their night stand and read it together – a little bit at a time. Digest it. Savor it. It will help you find the path to a relationship you will be proud to be in. Chris Prentiss has written a terrific guidebook to genuine couple happiness!”
Copyright © 2012 – Chris Prentiss. Chris Prentiss is the author of several popular works on personal growth, including Zen and the Art of Happiness; The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure; Be Who You Want, Have What You Want; The Little Book of Secrets; and The I Ching: The Book of Answers. He is the cofounder of the world-renowned Passages Addiction Cure Centers. He has also written, produced, and directed a feature film. He lives with his wife in Kauai, Hawaii.
Larry James is a professional speaker, author, relationship coach and a nondenominational minister. He performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere. Something NEW about relationships is posted every 4th day on this Relationships BLOG.
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