Developing a secure bond with your partner may allow both of you to share your true selves with confidence and safety.
Emotional security is the bedrock of a stable, healthy relationship. It contributes to true intimacy and trust.
In an emotionally secure relationship, you have a sense that your partner understands and accepts all of you. Because of this, you can feel confident opening up, being vulnerable, and sharing your hopes, fears, and pain.
Emotional safety in a relationship may also mean that even when you’re not physically together, you both feel assured in your connection.
You can go out into the world and live independent lives while being confident that your relationship is a safe place to return to.
There are two components to emotional security, both of which are important to consider.
- There’s emotional well-being and security as it relates to your own mental health. This is about how you feel about yourself and how you relate to the world in general. Emotional security is influenced by your prior experiences and the type of attachment style you’ve developed.
- There’s also emotional security as it refers to relationships. This type of emotional safety takes you and your partner to build and maintain it. Communication and trust are key to emotional security in relationships.
Even if you’re emotionally secure in general, that may not translate to your relationship if your partner isn’t on the same page or if you’re facing specific challenges that may require additional emotional resources.
Sometimes, your past experiences, emotional challenges, and poor communication skills can lead to behavior that may make it hard to build emotional safety in a relationship.
Every situation is different, but here are some behaviors that may represent challenges to achieving emotionally secure bonds.
Defensiveness sometimes refers to feeling judged or attacked when someone gives us feedback. When you feel attacked, you’re more likely to react in defensive ways.
For example, if your partner tries to discuss a problem, you may deflect blame, become hostile, or make sweeping statements like, “I know you don’t really love me.”
This can get in the way of open conversations that make you both feel safe expressing how you feel.
Sometimes, defensiveness comes from criticism or not feeling accepted as you are.
Criticism may mean focusing on what you think may be your partner’s faults, and expressing disapproval about something they’ve done or said.
Not all feedback is criticism, but a constant pattern of blaming, correcting, or nitpicking could create an emotionally unsafe dynamic.
Contempt is a belief that someone or something may be unworthy of your acceptance or respect.
In a relationship, communicating with contempt can involve mocking, sarcasm, name-calling, hostile language, and nonverbal behavior like eye-rolling.
Acting with contempt could impact trust and how safe you and your partner feel with each other.
Stonewalling is what many refer to as the “silent treatment.”
Sometimes this may also involve physically turning away during a conversation, appearing to be distracted on the phone, or leaving the room when the other person is still talking.
Attachment style theory: Change is possible
During the 1950s, British psychoanalyst John Bowlby developed attachment theory, which states that a child’s bond with their primary caregivers shapes how they navigate all other relationships throughout life.
Research published in 2019 suggests that a person’s attachment style can change over time.
If you feel you or your partner use an anxious or insecure attachment style, there are tools to work through it that can help develop more secure ways to relate to one another.
Everyone’s different, which makes all relationships unique. The bond you and your partner develop is a combination of both of your worlds, experiences, and expectations.
The main signs of emotional security in a relationship are that you both feel comfortable, safe, and confident about each other and the bond. This helps build a loving, lasting bond.
Here are another five things that can indicate you and your partner have developed emotional security:
Sign No. 1: You don’t dwell on your past
Dwelling on past relationships, experiences, and challenges can make it hard to enjoy the present. It can also be a way to avoid being open with your current partner or an excuse to avoid working on current roadblocks.
Being able to let go of the past and enjoy the moment can contribute to creating a strong bond.
Sign No. 2: You can be your true self
It can be difficult to be vulnerable and show your whole self to another person. In an emotionally secure dynamic, you can feel comfortable expressing yourself and showing different aspects of yourself to your partner. You may also feel safe if you opt to keep some of your private things for yourself.
Sign No. 3: You don’t seek constant validation
While can be natural to enjoy reassurance from your partner, constantly needing comfort from them could be a sign that you may be feeling insecure or fearful. For example, you may be experiencing abandonment anxiety.
When you’re emotionally secure in a relationship, you develop a constancy that can make you feel the bond will remain strong even when you’re upset with each other or physically apart.
Sign No. 4: You feel seen, heard, and understood
In an emotionally secure dynamic, you can feel comfortable in expressing yourself with complete honesty, knowing that your partner sees you clearly and will listen to you carefully. When conflicts do arise, you can approach them from this place of mutual understanding.
This is what some people refer to as emotional availability. Being emotionally present and willing with one another is a sign of emotional security in a relationship.
If you believe you and your partner may need to work a bit more on emotional security, here are some steps you can consider.
Step No. 1: Try not to disregard your own needs
Your partner suggests going out with friends, and even though you’re tired and don’t feel like socializing, you say “sure!”
It can be tempting to just go along with your partner’s wishes, especially if you have people-pleasing tendencies. Over time, though, constantly putting someone else’s needs before yours can create resentment and distance.
It’s important for both of you to try to become comfortable with sharing your needs and preferences, and expressing how you feel when these aren’t heard or honored.
Step No. 2: Paying attention to your body language can help
Nonverbal communication can be just as powerful as the words you use. You may want to consider working on creating consistency with one another when communicating with your partner.
Sometimes your body language may be at odds with what you’re saying. You say you’re not upset, but your fists are clenched, your tone of voice is dry, and your shoulders are tense.
This can make it hard for your partner to understand what you’re going through and develop a sense of safety that you mean what you say. You may also feel you can’t express your feelings.
Staying aware of how you feel and working on communication skills that allow you to express yourself in an assertive way may be a good idea.
Step No. 3: Consider approaching conflict as a team
Conflict can be a typical part of a healthy, long-term relationship, but ideally, an argument doesn’t feel like “me vs. you.” Instead, you may want to try to approach the situation from the “us vs. the problem.”
Trying not to focus on scoring points, or on being right, and instead considering viewing your partner as your teammate can be helpful when working on resolving the issue.
Step No. 4: Try to give your partner the benefit of the doubt
Let’s say your partner is running late for a date, forgets to do a chore, or in some other way doesn’t meet your expectations.
Before you assume the worst or generalize, maybe think about their track record and specific evidence.
If they’re generally reliable and respectful, consider giving them the benefit of the doubt — that is, start from the positive assumption that they’re doing what they can and they don’t mean to hurt you.
Step No. 5: You might want to maintain a life outside of your relationship
When you’re in a romantic relationship, it can be tempting to let everything else fall away. But an emotionally secure bond can provide you and your partners a safe base from which you can go out and live independent — but interconnected — lives.
It may be a good idea to nurture your own friendships, professional life, and hobbies, and encourage your partner to do the same.
Step No. 6: Consider professional support
If you feel you and your partner are still facing challenges when it comes to emotional security, you might consider reaching out for help.
A mental health professional can help you both determine what the main challenges are and how to approach them as a team.
Emotional security is about feeling confident navigating the world, including your relationships. This involves feeling at ease expressing your true self, being vulnerable, and feeling you don’t need constant reassurance from your partner.
Feeling emotionally safe depends on the type of attachment style you’ve developed but also on the relationship dynamics you’ve created with your partner.
Improving communication, avoiding hurtful behaviors like the silent treatment, and reaching out for professional support can be helpful steps toward developing emotional security.