I've been thinking lately about how we try to stay safe in relationship and how our efforts sometimes defeat us. Here are a couple examples.
A classic approach to safety in relationship is to adopt an exterior of toughness, a bit of a barricade around our hearts that says: "I can't be hurt if I don't let you hurt me." I pretend to myself and to a partner that I'm tougher, less vulnerable, than I really am. As I use this method of self-protection, my partner, not knowing where I'm sensitive, may unintentionally hurt me. Or, frustrated with the lack of connection, may decide that the only way to get through to me is to use strong medicine – a 2 x 4 rather than a gentle request. Either way, I invite the very hurt I'm trying to avoid.
Another approach to safety is to avoid commitment. If I live in fear of being trapped in an unhappy situation, I'll tend to keep my eyes on the exit. I may even rehearse exit strategies, just to make sure I can still leave if I have to. My approach to relationship mires in "maybe". I ruminate in doubt, prepare for the worst, and wind up living in just the sort of unhappy world I'm trying to escape. Adding to my discomfort, a partner who senses my halfheartedness is likely to self-protect in ways that confirm my worst fears.
Relationship is so lovely in theory and so messy in practice.
Perhaps, living dangerously – staying soft and acknowledging vulnerability with pedal-to-the-metal, wholehearted commitment – is safer than being safe.