Creating Safe Space to Heal Relationships | Omega

In this excerpt from Making Marriage Simple, Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt discuss how to create a safe space to heal relationships.

We need to answer the call to become each other’s healers. It means that you avoid, at all cost, re-wounding each other so that you can become true advocates for each other. Only for the strong-willed, this is an art—an honor—a sacred duty.

Creating Safe Space

The key to this transformation happening is safety. By safety, we mean two people living in relationship with neither feeling hurt, criticized, or put down by the other. When your partner doesn’t feel safe, they put up their defenses. When this happens, you may think you’ve been living with your partner, but you’ve actually been living with their defenses. If you can help your partner feel safe, they will soon drop their defenses to come out and play. Only then can they do the work they need to do.

This is why safety is a thread running throughout this book. Healing happens only in a safe environment. Without safety, healing won’t happen.

So how do you achieve safety? Consider the following.

The common way of thinking about relationship goes something like this: When a relationship is in trouble, it’s assumed that one or both of the people need “fixing.” So they go to a therapist. Or they buy books about fixing one or the other (and it’s usually the other). The belief is that each individual in the partnership has to get healthy in order to create a healthy relationship.

We flipped that idea on its head. We believe that if a relationship is in trouble, the couple needs to focus on healing the relationship. Not on themselves. In fact, we would assert that the best way to heal a relationship is not to repair the two people, but the space between them.

The “Space Between”

So what is this space between? The moment you committed to each other, it was born. You can think of it as an energy field filling up the space between you two.

Right now, we’re imagining you might have the same kind of look on your face that we get from couples in our workshops. Many are suspicious. Others think we’re off our rockers. And many insist, “There isn’t anything between me and my partner but…well, air.”

It may look like there isn’t anything between you. But there is.

Consider outer space. Our universe is filled with stars, planets, meteors, and comets. What lies between all these cosmic bodies? Space. Lots of space. Lots of empty space. Right?

Wrong.

We used to think space was empty. But astronomers have proven that the space between the planets isn’t empty at all. It is filled with gravitational pull and energy fields that actually hold the planets in their orbits.

And so it is with the space between. It is a cosmic energy field that supports you both in your relationship. Just as physics is part of the physical world, we believe there is a physics that governs the space between you and your partner.

The Physics of the Space Between

Every word, tone of voice, every glance, affects the space between. Even the unspoken communication of your body language (called nonverbal cues) contributes to this energy field.

There are times when you and your partner feel accepted by each other. The air is safe to breathe. These are the times when the between is filled with love.

Then there are times when things are strained. The air is thick with judgment. Tension coils all around you. These are the times when the between is filled with conflict. The state of the between determines how safe you and your partner feel in each other’s presence. So we’re going to give you a statement that we want you to repeat over and over again. Tape it to every mirror in your house. Say it 10 times throughout the day.

Ready for the mantra? Here it is: No shame, blame, or criticism in our between!

Criticism, blame, and shame are like toxins. They act as acid on the between, corroding your connection to your partner. Your goal is to make the between safe. This means loving and empathizing with each other through it all. Yes, we mean all. Your partner’s fun and happy feelings, and their not so fun ones.

By sacred space, we mean space that is absolutely holy. The between may look like ordinary air. But don’t ever treat it in an ordinary way. Your relationship needs to be the most important thing in the world to you. Never violate the space between with anything that will hurt your relationship. Truly think of it as holy ground.

This is the act of building real love. It leads to a genuine homecoming. One built on a solid foundation of trust and caring. And none of this would be possible if we were not bound with someone who re-wounds us like our parents did. We were all wounded in relationship. We can only heal in relationship. This is why we have to answer the call to become each other’s healers.

And it all hinges on what you choose to put into the space between.

Adapted from Making Marriage Simple: 10 Truths for Changing the Relationship You Have into the One You Want, by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt. © 2013 by Harmony. Posted with permission.

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