Safe Place

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“THE INTENTION OF MARRIAGE IS TO CREATE A SPACE WHERE TWO PEOPLE CAN BE COMPLETELY VULNERABLE, YET TOTALLY SECURE.”

There’s no place where you should feel safer than in your own marriage and no person you should feel more comfortable with than your own spouse, after all, you sleep in the same bed and reveal more of who you really are to them than anybody else.

The intention of marriage is to create a space where two people can be completely vulnerable, yet totally secure. Unfortunately for many, (including myself at times) marriage has been more like a war zone, than a sanctuary. It has felt more like a battlefield of “I’m right and you’re wrong” and turned into a tug of war of the wills creating a reservoir of disappointment and frustration.

That’s because marriage doesn’t automatically become your “safe place”—you have to build it, mould it and shape it, together (Keyword: “together”).

Sydney J. Harris summarises it well. “Almost no-one is foolish enough to imagine that he automatically deserves great success in any field of activity; yet almost everyone believes that he automatically deserves success in marriage.”

I don’t know about you, but I really want to be successful in this thing called matrimony. I don’t want to be another statistic. I want to raise my kids in a home where their parents love and respect each other. A home that is safe, emotionally and physically. I am a child of divorce and it was a brutal road to walk (and sometimes still is). A month before I got married my parents separated. At my wedding they sat at the same table and pretended they were strangers. It was yucky. It’s been nearly a decade and it hasn’t got much better. Divorce sucks. There are no winners. My heart goes out to anyone impacted by it.

It is so vital that husbands and wives are emotionally connected. Both spouses should be able to express affection and admiration regularly, and this is something Ben and I fight for to keep our union strong. There’s a little thing that my husband likes to do—he writes love notes on our mirrors with a marker. I remember this one time he wrote a cute (and a little bit raunchy) note on our bathroom mirror before he went to work one day. It was sweet—I appreciated it. It was also in permanent marker and didn’t come off for a long time. Let’s just say it was a little awkward when his mum came to stay the following week. Marriage should be a place of affection and admiration, and not just in the early years.

Husbands and wives should be invested in sharing their thoughts and feelings and be receptive to their partner’s needs and wants. Both partners should be emotionally present and available. If one person is disengaged or unable to express their feelings it becomes incredibly difficult to build connection. Neither spouse should shut down or run away during conflict or become defensive when confronted.

Conflict is inevitable, combat is optional.

Physical intimacy is also an important part of maintaining the unity and trust in our relationship. Sex plays a huge role in marriage and so it should! Sex is amazing and it’s designed to bond a husband and wife together in a way that no other interaction can.

Ben and I committed to respecting and valuing each other’s needs and desires and doing our best to meet them, regularly. I’ve heard women say they’d rather eat a packet of Tim Tams than sleep with their husbands. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a chocolate-loving girl, but intimacy with my husband takes the cake, and I think it should. Sex is not a wifely duty, it should be passionate and fulfilling for both parties. I’ll admit there have been occasions where I have made my Ben feel unwanted by repetitively rejecting his sexual cues and advances. I’m not suggesting that every time he wants a little somethin’ somethin’ I have to salute and say “Yes sir!”, but selflessness and compromise goes a long way in the bedroom. After all, if we don’t fulfil our partner’s sexual needs, who will? Both spouses (again let me emphasise “both”) must commit to creating an environment that is sexually safe and aims to meet the sexual needs of the other.

Clear and kind communication is another way to remain connected. I will admit I have not always been good at this. I have reacted harshly instead of responding calmly. My mum is German and my dad is Maori. Let’s just say my tongue is a weapon that can be used for good or evil.

I grew up in a house that was loud, where yelling was normal and the tone was irrelevant. My husband on the other hand grew up in a household where “shut up” was a swear word. Yes, not even kidding … bless his heart. I spent the first couple of years living by my own rules. Ben would often say to me, “Why are you yelling at me?” and I would reply, eyes bulging, nose flaring, “I’m not, I’m not even angry. This is my normal voice,” which it was. It was my “normal”, but it didn’t make it right. I had to learn to speak to Ben in a way that he saw as respectful and honouring. Note to self: tone matters.

Open communication doesn’t mean your relationship is completely argument free and things never get heated. It just means that arguments don’t escalate to yelling, swearing or name-calling, causing disunity.

Your relationship will only be as safe as both partners commit to making it. Ben and I have wholeheartedly dedicated ourselves to keeping our union a safe place: a haven where we can bare our soul, where fear doesn’t feel so fearsome.

Carly Tia

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