When you’re dating, first impressions matter so much … even more so in an era when you can narrow potential romantic partners down by swiping their photos one way or the other. Those first messages, maybe a video conversation, and then that fateful first date over coffee or lunch: each step creates its own first impressions that either make our hearts flutter or have us eyeing an exit sign. Could this person be the one?

People are so dazzled by the first impressions that they forget to pay attention to something even more important: is this person emotionally safe for me? That becomes a critical question as your new relationship begins to deepen and your lives become woven together.

When you truly feel emotionally safe, you’re able to comfortably be your authentic self. You don’t have to pretend to be someone else or hide aspects of your personality you fear will cause the other person to leave. In emotionally safe relationships, people develop deep trust and openness. They’re not afraid to be vulnerable with each other.

People you are emotionally safe are able to share their needs and feelings clearly and honestly. When they tell you something, you aren’t left confused and wondering what they’re really trying to say. They also want to know what you feel and need … and they do what they can to help you. After all, emotionally safe people want to grow. They take responsibility for what they’ve done and seek ways to become a better person.

In emotionally safe relationships, both individuals see each other as equals. We often look for people whose characteristics and strengths complement ours, but when we’re together, we don’t see one person as superior to the other or expect one person to control the relationship. Instead, both parties treat the other with respect and admiration. They also respect each other’s boundaries, knowing each of us has a need for privacy and space, even when we’re around those we love deeply.

You may not be able to instantly determine whether a new relationship is emotionally safe, but a good way to tell if it’s heading in the right direction is to demonstrate your own vulnerability by sharing something small about yourself. If the other person reacts by drawing away from you or by being unkind, they may not be the right one for you. But if they react with compassion and kindness and feel comfortable sharing something about themselves, it’s a good sign.

If you’re currently in a relationship and you’re not sure whether you feel emotionally safe, sitting down with a professional counselor can help you explore your feelings and the situation. It’s an effective way to determine whether the relationship is right for you, and to discover strategies you can use either way. Contact us today if you’d like to set a time to talk.

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