Webster’s describes this adjective as “protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or lost.”
Thinking of that definition, one can conclude there is no absolute safety in life. We live in an imperfect world amongst imperfect people–true safety is an unrealistic expectation.
When your safety is violated, your heart is wounded. As a woman whose emotional safety was shattered when my first husband left, I can tell you in those early months, I had never felt more unsafe. My heart was trampled, my emotions were tangled and physically I felt unprotected as a single mom of four.
Then Jesus grabbed a hold of my heart. I felt a safety in His presence I had never felt before. The safety I felt with God enabled me to trust the plan He had for my life and to forgive and to seek healing and peace. My life didn’t get physically easier but my heart began to heal and my head found hope. That changed my life.
As a single mom, I had found peace in my life. I wasn’t looking to date or remarry. Then… I met Andy. While I thought I could never trust another man with my heart again, there wasn’t even a question about whether I could trust him–I did. When we were dating and talking of blending our two families, I felt a safety in his love and the plan we had for the future of our big blended family.
My husband’s love was intoxicating. I had never felt the intensity of love or the level of emotional safety before that I felt when I was in my husband’s presence. I felt safe in my husband’s love and while it wasn’t a conscious decision, I began to put more expectations on my husband for my happiness instead of God.
Once again, I was reminded that the only true safety is found in Jesus. Our big blended family came with big hurts in the kids and some issues with my husband’s ex-spouse. While my husband and I had processed our divorces from our first spouse–our kids had not. Divorce is hard on kids.
My emotional safety was shredded upon becoming a stepmom. I was left raw and vulnerable in those early months as I shared my hurts with my husband and my most trusted friends only to be met with resistance and judgement. Not only was I hurting over things I never anticipated experiencing as a new stepmom, I was dealing with the emotional pain of being misunderstood. I felt alone. The pain pricked at places deep within me that I had long ago stuffed down. I felt judged, criticized and rejected. Those are hard feelings to process for a woman like me who is so deeply relational and has a heart for others.
Often its hard for a spouse in a step-relationship to hear how their child has hurt you so they may minimize the pain (which isn’t safe for you), dismiss it or even put it on you. While the desire of the heart would be for our spouse to just listen, the reality is that they are listening with a human heart and may have a human reaction.
I posted the question on Facebook: What does the word “safe” look like in your family? Here are a few of the responses I received:
“Being able to express our feelings no matter how awful in the moment.”
“Unconditional love and honesty.”
“Openness and stability”
“Not being judged”
“Accepted, permission to fail, able to “let down guard”…security”
The above are blessings to any relationship and things that I too desire in my marriage and family. However, they aren’t realistic to experience 100% of the time. People are human and they will disappoint. I’m human and I know that while I don’t want to disappoint others, I do at times.
I have found through this journey that the only true safety is that which I experience through God. The above are all things that can be found in God’s presence. He doesn’t promise nor give me safe days but in His word, I find the emotional safety of His love and His gift of salvation. That is constant and unchanging regardless of my struggles in life.
When I find my worth in God, I am never disappointed. When I put my worth in the hands and words of others my heart can be hurt. That is the reality of human nature.
In stepfamily life, if you derive your happiness from the words and/or actions of your spouse, your stepkids, or your husband’s ex-wife––you are giving your power to others instead of the One who created you and has the power to give you your heart’s desires.
I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t be vulnerable and feel love and be 100% emotionally safe all the time. Mercy, grace and forgiveness cover the space that is between safe and vulnerable. (Please note, I’m talking about getting your feelings hurt not being verbally abused. If you are in a verbally abusive relationship please get help. It is never okay for anyone to injure you with words or actions.)
Emotional safety is possible in your stepfamily. It is possible through the love, truth and promises of God.
Dear Heavenly Father, there are times when I share my heart with my spouse, my stepkids or a friend and I feel that my heart is trampled on. The hurt is so deep yet no one seems to care or notice. God, help me to seek You in my darkest hours and my brightest days. May I live the truth that true safety only comes from you. I know to love I must be vulnerable and I do not want to close up my heart to protect it. This journey is tough and I don’t want to harden my heart as I navigate it. Help me to keep my eyes focused on You and my heart open to others. May I learn to put up boundaries and not barriers.
This post was written in response to this week’s #livefree prompt: Safe from Suzi Eller. Read more posts on this topic by going to her website.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you feel emotional safety in your stepfamily? Marriage? What are your thoughts on finding safety in Jesus? What is the biggest struggle you have with emotional safety in your stepfamily?