Creating A Safe Haven For Communication

When I ask both sexes what brings them to therapy, the most common answers I get are, “We never talk anymore” or “we have communication issues.” There are undoubtedly many underlying causes behind this, and each side has an explanation for why it is the way it is. In order to get insight into the dynamics of the couple’s relationship and for one partner to be able to “hear” and learn about the other, it is worthwhile to process their impressions and feelings during the session. My behaviorist professor from many ages back used the term I invented: “Know your critter.”

However, how can you get to know your pet if you can’t hear them or if they can’t communicate with you in an honest, safe, or transparent manner? The most important component of communication is “hearing,” which is frequently lacking when someone feels like they are speaking to a brick wall.

Having a safe haven for communication

I first set the guidelines for the process of getting to know and interact with “your critter” during our counseling session. I ask couples to consider how much simpler it is for them to “communicate” and how much more validated they feel when they have a home, a safe haven where they can discuss all of the things that make up a relationship and being human, including their fears, grievances, appreciations, and hopes.

Recall that “feelings are never right or wrong, they just are,” and that conflict ends and clarity reigns when emotions have a safe place to live.

Sounds simple! But before anything else, BOTH people need to learn how to get rid of five typical responses to their partner’s sentiments, which are frequently interpreted through subjective filters (also known as “baggage” and “triggers”).

Understanding, compassion, and empathy are essential for fostering growth because they enable each partner to move past their own anxieties, self-defense mechanisms, and deflection—all of which are roadblocks to intimacy, a stable, emotionally developed relationship.

A secure location for communication CANNOT have:

Example of criticism: “You never seem to be satisfied.” You never accomplish anything successfully.
Example of assigning blame: “You’re never on time, so it’s your fault.”
Defensiveness: “I don’t want to talk about it,” as an illustration “That wasn’t what I said!”
An example of an ego is “I know what is best.” What I say is valid.
Example of a judgment: “You act that way because you’re a Republican; you should be a democrat.”


Even yet, it’s simple to observe how, when our spouse tries to express their needs, wants, or desires, we all retreat into one or more of these hiding spots. We sense danger. When the instinctive (and primitive) reactions of blame, criticism, defensiveness, ego, and judgment are removed from interactions meant to strengthen rather than destroy the relationship, clients have, nevertheless, expressed a greater sense of liberation, authenticity, and curiosity to learn more about themselves and their partners.

Although it is not always simple to stop our instinctive responses when we “feel” attacked, practicing self-awareness, or mindfulness, makes it easier to let go of these harmful habits in the name of the greater good. Not to mention a greater sense of inner serenity, a more loving partnership.