Psychological or Emotional safety erosion in marriage relationships is a slow process that we fail to see on time before it is already far gone. Emotional safety erosion in the marriage institution is the gradual destruction and degradation of the level of confidence that partners share regarding their interpersonal-relational-self-image and status by various contradictory behavioral agencies that ensue. There are salient and obvious negative behavioral characteristics that erode the confidence that couples share in a marriage relationship. These adverse agencies could be by omission (i.e., unknowingly) or commission (i.e., knowingly). However, physical and emotional abuses are the greatest enemies of a marriage relationship’s psychological safe zone. These abusive behavior forms erode the trust in a relationship and leave behind bitterness, inferiority complex, and lack of self-confidence.
Every relationship requires a certain level of absolute trust to thrive. Older couples can tell you with all humility that trust and loyalty are critical ingredients needed to have a beautiful marriage. Developing this level of trust and commitment does not happen overnight. It is a function of time that is defined by corporate building by the two parties involved. There is a growth cycle laced with experiences as its building block that every relationship must go through. Couples grow daily to trust each other through the experiences they go through together. Developing emotional confidence starts with being comfortable with each other—letting go and relating without the shame of being judged for the simplest of things. This factor is at the nucleus of psychological safety in marriage relationships. It could be something as simple as “cutting the cheese” in each other’s presence. It could be something as profound as revealing a big secret of the past at the altar of confidence that could ruin your relationship. It could be anything that makes you feel exposed, and at your partner’s mercy. It is your emotional or physical Achille’s Heel, your point, or place of absolute vulnerability.
The most vulnerable one can ever be to another is showing the other individual your weaknesses and failures. This ability to take the risk to show your partner your vulnerability is the first step to building a psychologically safe zone and removing fear from your relationship. It is a zone that is free of any mental apprehension. It is a state of emotional freedom where one can let go and allow the partner full access through their hearts’ portals. Once couples feel comfortable with one another, they begin to open different parts of their lives to each other. There is a sense of emotional security. The defensive guards that surround their emotional vulnerabilities are let down. This dependability helps them give each other the support they require to grow as individuals and couples. Not being judged when you are at your lowest point encourages couples to understand one another and make the trust grow in the process. This understanding builds the surefire flames of friendship when they realize that they have a supportive partner and friend.
Trust allows couples the freedom to express their individuality and sexuality within the marriage union. Like any great team, the best form of liberty is when there is respect, excellent communication, and understanding with clearly defined boundaries, roles, and expectations within the relationship. A seamless team-spirited marriage relationship is an investment in hope, with each party extending a helping hand as they solidify the nuptial bonds in the marital association. They win various life psychological battles together. The feeling of emotional safety and lack of apprehension in a relational tie is exhibited in the freedom to express pain without reservation or being overly needy. There is a level of mutual liberty and understanding that the couple shares. Alternatively, it could also be the ability to stick your neck out for one another without a second thought. They are fully invested in each other’s emotions that they can risk letting each other into the depths of their deepest passions and experiences without an ounce of reservation.
Emotional safety is the freedom to understand personal space and quiet time, but with the knowledge that it does not mean your partner is sending a silent message that he or she needs a break from the relationship. This confidence will give you clarity that the situation is just the usual personal space we all crave to make sense of the chaos of life, and not that he or she is distancing himself or herself from you. To attain this height of emotional safety requires a high-level mental maturity. No one desires to be in a relationship where they feel that they are emotionally smothered. No one craves in willful anticipation to be in a relationship where they sense that their significant other is steadily over their shoulder. Such action is a glaring sign of mistrust. Safe zones can either be a physical space or a mental place of comfort rooted in the knowledge that your partner loves you genuinely, and that love can never intentionally hurt you. The acceptance of this action means that psychological safety is the knowledge that each party in the union will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up, communicating their ideas, asking questions, showing their concerns, or making a mistake.
Intimate relationships thrive on psychological safety. In an emotionally safe marriage, each spouse feels valued, understood, and accepted. Although emotionally abusive relationships might not leave physical marks, they can go deep leaving the individual with devastating psychological issues that take years to heal. In these relationships, we at times see one partner being overly dominant and aggressive, while the other one remains passive and at the negative receiving end of the union. The dominant partner is manipulative and selfish, always striving to make sure that it is their way or the highway. They abrasively unapologetic and will compass land and sea to always turn the script of guilt to their suffering partner—even when it is evident that they are the one in the wrong. The more passive partner, wanting peace to reign suffers in silence. Little by little, their psychological safety in the union is eroded until it’s no longer able to hold up the walls of confidence in the union. Emotional abuse corrodes self-esteem and can lead to an identity crisis. Emotional abuse is an eerie-cryptic-depressive-labyrinth of psychological solitude that should not be wished on anyone. Trust is as delicate as a rose. Once trampled, it is difficult and almost impossible to build it up again to its original state. These issues if experienced in a previous relationship can make it difficult to get into a new one. It can also affect your career, social life, and finances.
In the remain paragraphs of this article, we will look at ten things that can erode psychological safety in marriage relationships if not checked.
10 Things that will Erode Psychological Safety in Marriage
First is sarcasm—it can deal a fatal blow to the psychological safety of a marriage union. Making crass jokes at your partner’s expense is highly unacceptable and can quickly gnaw at emotional security. Words of ridicule may seem harmless at first, but they can be used to dig at your partner and communicate that you have been frustrated by an unmet expectation. Sarcastic comments that put your partner down will erode the psychological safety in marriage and likely leave your partner feeling frustrated. Please make efforts to speak words that will reassure your spouse that you’ve got their back. Speak uplifting words. Speak words that are motivating. Speak words that are infused with lots of positivity.
The words that we say are very powerful. A Lewis Carroll once stated that “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’” Hence, married couples must weigh what they say to their significant others. Once that word or statement is let out of the bags of our buccal cavity, it’s out, and you can’t retrieve it again. If it is a graceful word, then it will build emotional safety deeply rooted in love. If it’s contrary, then it still achieves its effect. Remember the words of Francis de Sales, “Our words are a faithful index of the state of our souls.” Be careful of what you say, why you say it, and how you say it.
Second, taking each other for granted can cause an adverse ripple effect on a union or relationship’s cerebral security. Marriages often fail because couples fail to recognize and meet each other’s expectations. When the initial feelings of affection and the buzz of falling heads over heels wear off, there is a chance that couples could take each other for granted and may begin to lose interest in each other. This is the juncture where many relationships take the wrong turn. Instead of rekindling the flames of passion they initially had at the inception of the relationship, they become complacent with each other and allow the sparks to be extinguished by time.
At the onset of dating, couples usually make out time to see each other. As time passes, couples become lazy, and they begin to taper off when it comes to making the appropriate effort to keep the initial sparks of excitement alive. Keep the flames of your relationship alive—don’t allow the winds of indolence to blow it out. Not making a concerted effort to keep working at the relationship is a corporate investment in laziness, the rewards of which could be heart-wrenching and costly in the end. Taking your partner for granted can lead to a loss of respect for each other and spur emotional or physical infidelity, resentment, and constant relationship conflict.
Some common relationship problems begin by not spending enough time alone together. Couples who have children commonly experience this relationship variation. When you factor in work and family obligations, the couple may begin to feel more like roommates with a mutual responsibility of just raising the kids than romantic partners on a mission. Being referred to as a roommate in your marriage could be because you have stopped ‘dating’ one another. Dating your spouse should never come to a halt. Remember, before the kids came along, there was just the two of you. Couples need to find time to fan the flames of the initial romance of dating. I know a couple in the Atlanta, Georgia area committed to continuing dating each other even after so many years of marriage. Guess what? Their marriage is still growing strong. What you focus on will flourish. Doing the contrary could make a partner feel unappreciated, unattractive, and emotionally frustrated.
Third, playing the blame game can numb psychological safety in a relationship. Having the “it’s all your fault mentality” can quickly erode the psychological safety in your union. The more you stop taking responsibility, the quicker you fall into playing the blame game. Take equal responsibility for building your home. Don’t let the weight of obligations rest on just one of the spouses on the see-saw of the marriage union. Don’t be lazy—help your partner out instead of pointing fingers at them and blaming them for things spiraling out of control. As it takes two to tango—two in a marital union must also put heads together to fix a flaw arising in their relationship—irrespective of who it came from. Humility and reason demand that the party at fault swallow their pride and extend an olive branch to resolve the dilemma peacefully.
If you feel dissatisfied with any situation in your relationship, it is essential to address your needs in a calm, non-blaming way. It takes maturity to do this, and it solidifies psychological safety in the home. If one partner always sees themselves as the victim of blame coming from their significant other, he or she will eventually shut down. They may feel that no matter how hard they try, they can never be good enough for their partner. Playing the blame game is the coward’s way of not taking responsibility for their mistake. It will erode psychological safety in the home and has its roots in pride. In the words of a François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon, “Pride comes from a deeply buried root—it comes from the devil himself. Where pride is fostered, a person will be insincere, harsh, bitter, cutting, disdainful.” Eschew the blame game.
Fourth, threatening each other with divorce will destroy the emotional safety of a marriage union. Divorce threat from one spouse to the other could quickly help in the relationship’s degradation of psychological safety. When you make divorce threats, it shows that you are not genuinely committed to seeing the marriage last a lifetime. This could make your spouse feel rejected or unwanted. It could erode their sense of emotional security around you, leading to a diminishing effect on the love and commitment that they once shared in the relationship.
Misunderstandings happen in marital unions. When couples have marital conflicts, the be-all and end-all of the situation should not always be divorce. It takes mature adults to resolve quarrels. The mention of divorce in jest could cause severe hurt to a partner in a marital union. It could also sow the seeds of doubt in your partner’s mind and cause irreparable damage to the relationship. When kids are in the picture, they suffer the most if the couple follows through with divorce over irreconcilable differences. Hence, be careful of threatening your spouse with divorce—it is potent cyanide that will kill your union’s emotional security.
Fifth, speaking in absolutes can help the cookie of psychological safety crumble. Speaking too firmly to your partner can be hurtful with words such as, “You are always late! I don’t remember you putting away the laundry! You never help out around the house!” You are telling your partner that they can never do anything right and that you don’t think they can change. When you use such words, they erode psychological safety in your marriage. When one partner lives mostly in a “Me” vs. “We” paradigm—me-centered behaviors can negatively impact the relationship. Stop being an egomaniac. Psychological safety can be eroded when one spouse demands that the other spouse live up to their standard instead of their own personal standards. By pushing others to live up to the image that you project as necessary or ideal can create a feeling of resentment and discontentment.
When it is blatantly apparent that you care more about yourself than your spouse, you are an egomaniac. You often start your sentences with “I.” “I want this or that.” “Just get it done; I don’t care what happens along the way.” Instead of it being all about your partner, it is always all about you. You only care about what happens to you, and you could care less about your spouse’s emotions. It’s all about you, you, you. Your daily buzzword is “Me, Myself, and I.” These individuals are narcissistic to the core and are inordinately fascinated with themselves—they can only hear their own voice. Their excessive self-wantonness drowns out the drowning cry of their spouse. This is self-egotism at it’s very best. A partner to such a spouse may drown in the apprehension that they may never meet their egotistic spouse’s demands. Because of this, they may live with the fear that their spouse may leave them as soon as they get bored with the fact their spouse can never meet the demands of their self-centered self.
Sixth, bringing up your ex can corrode the psychological safety of your union. When you are angry or disappointed in your partner, it is easy to start making comparisons. You start comparing your spouse with your ex in one way or the other. You begin making slight comments about the flaws of your spouse in parallel to your past relationships. These individuals are also prone to nitpicking their significant others. Sometimes, these individuals could also compare their spouses with other people that may not be their ex. It could just be individuals they admire from afar who may have qualities that they desire in a spouse, completely lacking in their current partner.
It’s imperative for you never to let moments of dissatisfaction be a chance to minimize the things that you love about your partner. It is not a time to maximize an idealized version of your ex or someone desirable to you. Doing so will only erode the psychological safety that you share with your partner. Let bygone be bygone, and let your past relationships stay in the past. If you choose to always dwell in the past, you should not have committed to the present relationship. Continually living in your past is a red signal that you are in a non-fulfilling relationship. Be wary of this, stay in the present, and work out your differences with your spouse amicably. Stop comparing your spouse to others.
Seventh, absenteeism or coldness will erode the mental security of a marriage union. When couples fail to prioritize each other at a time of emotional need, it becomes a crack in their marital union’s foundation. This can have a devastating impact on their relationship and degrade the psychological safety they share. Failing to support your partner during highly stressful events in your lives can be emotionally grueling. Consistently missing opportunities to turn towards each other during the rigors of life could also be very destructive to the relationship. This is a clear sign of being absent from the union (i.e., absenteeism).
Some partners are also very good at giving their significant others the cold treatment or giving them the cold shoulder. Daily withdrawal and negative interactions can show how selfish you can act, how cold you can be, and how poorly you treat your partner. Engaging in these behaviors will silently destroy the emotional confidence that your spouse has towards you. Expunge absenteeism and stop giving your significant other the silent or cold treatment. Find time to be present for your spouse. Support one another in good and bad times. Mutually being there for one another will fortify the walls of psychological safety in the home.
Eight, lack of sex will cause the erosion of mental security in a marital union. Sex plays a huge role in relationships with physical, emotional, and even spiritual benefits. It is only natural that it would be the source of significant matrimonial issues. It is also the source of considerable emotional and psychological abuse in many homes. The absence or lack of sex thereof could erode the emotional safety in a marriage. When partners fail to reassure each other, their sex life naturally takes a hit. In most sexless marriages, the absence of any physical connection divides couples by destroying the bridge of communication. The erosion of communication, as a result, could also lead to the weathering of the emotional connection between the duo. What leads to sexless marriages?
In a study by a Madeleine A. Fugère Ph.D. on Psychology Today titled, “Do Married People Really Have Less Sex?”1 She established some reasons why married couples end up having less sex. First, “due to a sense of a loss of newness or familiarization to your partner.” The spark or flames of partners goes down as time goes by; however, it is the married duo’s responsibility to fan the flames of passion for keeping it blazing and anew. Couples also become over-familiar with themselves. Because of this, the passions the share often wanes. Second, she establishes that children coming into the equation in marriage often reduce sex between couples. The demands of childcare arise, and many times increased fatigue sets in, leading to a decreased sexual interest. This is also supported by an article from Times Magazine in an OpEd written by Belinda Luscombe.2
Third, career demands could be a factor that leads to the depletion of sexual desire in a marriage union. However, she supposes through her research that it could go either way from factual data. Some studies have shown that more work has also led to couples desiring more sex. Fourth, she also establishes that as couples age, sexual desire could go down due to hormonal changes in the human body. Also, an increased likelihood of illness or sexual dysfunction could occur due to aging. These are some of the factors that lead to sexless marriages, which could impact the emotional security that couples share in a marriage.
Dr. Madeleine A. Fugère did not just point out the several hiccups that cause a sexless marriage. She makes several propositions on how couples can keep intimacy alive in their unions. First, she calls for couples to institute kid-free times to spend time with each other. Second, schedule time for intimacy—like you schedule a time for other tasks. Third, discuss your desires with your spouse—communication is crucial. Fourth, infuse creativity in intimacy. Fifth, put in effort in building marital satisfaction—it increases psychological safety and trust. Sixth, have a sense of humor—be fun to be around. Couples need to take time and reassure one another by satisfying each other’s sexual needs regularly. This will help in solidifying emotional security in the home.
Ninth, cheating and other forms of infidelity can rupture the bubble of psychological safety in marriages. Marital infidelity is a huge issue in relationships. The advent of the Internet has multiplied the chances that men and women are exposed to indulge in cheating escapades. The Internet is now a channel for emotional affairs. In pursuing extramarital happiness, people now resort to using social media as a platform for wandering eye adventures. People get attracted to each other over social media. Communications commence on a platonic level. It then graduates to a more romantic level of relationship. Before you know it, it gravitates towards a physical or even virtual sexual relationship. Mobile technology is also making cheating a lot easier as couples now drift into the macrocosm of sexting with their cheating partners. Today, many people get so attached to their mobile technology that it begins to erode the level of mental security that couples share on a face-to-face basis with their spouses. (Check out these two articles, “Mobileholism: The Dangers of Technological Addiction” and “Is the Social Media Culture Eroding Face-to-Face Social Interactions?”). Those who are not careful, and those who do not reinforce their commitment to each other face the dangers of drifting into the world of cheating on their spouses.
Marital infidelity resulting from sneaking around can seriously erode psychological safety in a marriage union and relationships, sometimes irreversibly. Albeit unjustified, in extreme cases, some men and women are sometimes forced to cheat when their partner uses sexual deprival as a form of punishment. Those who are sex-deprived in their homes often suffer—socially and psychologically. They become emotionally detached from their spouses. This could become the catalyst that stimulates the wandering eye for the man or the woman experiencing the deprivation. Those who cannot stay chaste through the abuse they face often resort to various improper means of satisfying their natural urges. Some drift into the detestable world of pornography and self-stimulation. Others resort to visiting the red light districts in their cities in the quest to satisfy their sexual urges. As they become more addicted to such pernicious habits, they are further drawn away emotionally from their spouses, further eroding psychological safety in the home.
Sexual deprivation is not the only thing that causes the erosion of emotional security. Emotional and social deprivation also go a long way to cripple the psychological trust in marital unions that drive partners to cheat. Some people put up emotional barriers towards their spouses by not communicating enough (e.g., absenteeism and coldness). Not being able to connect emotionally and on a social level with their spouses drives these individuals away as they seek emotional and social connection and security outside the home. In their pursuit of passionate and social sanity, some people even go to the extent of forming emotional ties with the other man or woman outside the home. Marital infidelity is not right and can help collapse the psychological trust that partners share. So, make sure that you are not the reason why your spouse is moving away from you. Examine your union together. Correct your marital variations amicably, and continue to build the strength of your union. It takes time to build emotional safety. Cheating can destroy in a moment what it took years to establish.
Tenth, the lack of adequate finances or the overabundance thereof can erode psychological safety. One of the most common things that can cause the erosion of cerebral security in relationships is poor financial management. The lack of financial management acumen can cause a lot of rift in a marital union and erode mental security in the process. The erosion of emotional security can ensue when couples don’t have enough financial resources to care for their basic needs. Couples have rifts when they lack the business acumen to know how to split the home’s financial burdens. When the breadwinner’s burden falls on one spouse, emotional tension may arise in the face of mounting financial obligations because of such a situation. In many situations, couples need to be yoked together in bearing the burden of financial responsibility to make ends meet. There needs to be some equilibrium in the carrying of financial responsibilities.
A psychological rift can occur in a home that thinks solely on liabilities rather than in assets. A lot of couples spend their hard-earned cash on things that cause more indebtedness. Amid financial opulence, a psychological rift may arise when one of the partners thinks in assets and the other reasons with a sensibility that leans on liabilities. In this scenario, there is no mutual financial understanding. There is no common financial concord. The asset-thinker ruminates on how they can increase their cash flow, while the other spouse is only thinking of how they can spend the money—not on things that can help improve their cash flow—but on things that will continue to deplete the funds that are coming in. Other things that can cause the erosion of psychological safety relating to income are losing a job, ballooning debt, stinginess, overspending, etc. are all common issues that can put pressure on any marriage.
In summary, psychological safety in a home or marriage situation is the level of confidence spouses share related to their inter-personal-relational-self-image. The erosion of emotional security in marriages can be latent and often unchecked before it is too late. Trust is a requirement in establishing the foundations of psychological safety in the home. The emotional security safe zone in the marriage situation is a place free of any form of mental apprehension. As stipulated in the preceding paragraphs above, several things can erode psychological safety in a marriage union. We looked at sarcasm, taking each other for granted, playing the blame game, divorce threats, speaking in absolutes, bringing up past relationships and exes, absenteeism or coldness, lack of sex, marital infidelity, and poor financial management. These variations and possibly more can impact the mental security of couples in a marriage relationship. The onus now lies on the couple to build the foundations of their psychological safety. Failure to do so could be devastating. A word is enough for the wise.
- Fugère, M.A. (2016, May 3). Do married people really have less sex? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dating-and-mating/201605/do-married-people-really-have-less-sex
- Luscombe, B. (2018, October 26). Why are we having so little sex? Time Magazine. Retrieved from https://time.com/5297145/is-sex-dead/