PQ 17.6 — Where does my sense of security come from in my relationships? What am I willing to do to help my partners feel secure, and will those things come at a cost to any new relationships I may start?
“Remind me again: How many plans do you have in case I kick you out?” Justin asks me.
I sigh. I thought he’d forgotten about that.
“It’s not that I think it would happen,” I explain. We’ve been together 8 years. We’re married and get along really well. Nothing whatsoever points at his throwing me out suddenly. Say, tomorrow.
“I know,” he says. “You just always have plans.”
I nod. It’s a product of growing up with a mercurial mother. And an adolescence that was often very turbulent. A girlfriend who frequently cheated on me. An ex-boyfriend who stalked and then sexually assaulted me. And later on, a much older abusive boyfriend who came close to completely breaking me.
I learned in those years that security wasn’t something I was entitled to. That it was possible to feel safe in one moment and in the next have the ground collapse out from under me.
I had been blindsided by each betrayal, each threat to stability, to safety. I hadn’t seen it coming.
And while I can say that over the years I’ve become better at spotting danger from a distance, my guesses aren’t perfect. I frankly have a hard time trusting other people — at least in the way that other people mean when they use the word.
But I was saved by a different kind of trust: I learned to trust myself. Not to never get into situations that might be hurtful. But to be able to deal with it if bad things happened. And to recover and move forward.
So I’ve learned to trust and feel secure in a different way than other people. And by and large, it’s great for me personally. This self-trust is very stable and resilient to fluctuations in my various relationships. I don’t have to worry so much about things going wrong since I trust I’ll be able to deal with it if they do.
But it does make me wonder sometimes if it hinders me in other ways. Am I able to help others to feel secure?
My current partners seem to think so. That I’m very reasonable and reliable. But it’s possible that not everyone I’ve ever dated would say so.
I can think back on one person who told me that they felt blind-sided by my asking to end our relationship, but from my perspective, I did tell them, openly, honestly, of the issues that were plaguing us. Several times. We just seemed to communicate poorly, no matter how much I tried to reach them.
And I can think back on other times when I signaled to my partner that we were in serious relationship jeopardy, and they nonetheless seemed surprised when later I wanted to end things for those same, unaddressed issues.
However, it would seem, looking back, that the problem wasn’t that these partners felt insecure. In some ways, they perhaps felt a false sense of security — that I didn’t act in a way that was disruptive enough for them to take my voiced concerns seriously (I’m not a yeller or a screamer, I tend to state serious things very calmly though clearly).
I do wonder why this is, why partners tend to feel so secure dating me. Each relationship I have is of course unique, but I suppose in general my partners feel secure because I:
- Tend to be very reliable as a partner (i.e., I do what I say I will)
- Regularly voice appreciation for my partners’ positive qualities
- Take my partners’ emotional states to heart
- Am very direct as a communicator
For those interested in doing so, here’s a post about a how to build personal security.