Every time someone interviews me on what I find to be essential to a relationship, the first word that I bring up isn't love, respect or reciprocity. Through personal experience, observation of friends and couples I've worked with, and just life in general, I think what is most important is safety. It's essential that all of us make sure that we are with someone who is safe and that we are someone who another could consider safe to be with.
I'm telling you, "safe" is the kind of word that is totally underrated. I think a part of it is because, whenever it comes up, physical safety is what tends to come to mind. And so, to hear me say that you should look for someone who doesn't put your physical safety in jeopardy, an immediate "duh" is the response (or, at least I hope that it is). But hear me when I say this—I have never had a man even raise his hand to me; that doesn't mean that I haven't been with someone who isn't unsafe before. Know what else? I've never raised my hand to a man either. I can still admit that I've been an unsafe woman, though—just in a different kind of way.
To be safe is to be "secure from liability to harm, injury, danger, or risk". To be safe is about "involving little or no risk of mishap, error, etc." too. And while no one is perfect—not by a long shot—we all should strive to be the kind of individuals who aren't out here hurting someone or constantly causing errors that end up putting others in harm's way.
That's why I think it's imperative that, when it comes to discussing what it means to be and feel safe in a relationship, the definitions need to go way beyond the physical. Today, I'm tackling the importance of emotional safety. If you're curious about what an emotionally safe relationship should look like, here is a pretty good place to start.
You Listen to Each Other
I promise you, the older (and hopefully wiser) that I get, the more a quote by a theologian named Paul Tillich resonates—"The first duty of love is to listen." I think it means a lot to me because listening isn't just hearing what someone is saying. A good listener listens without giving into distractions. A good listener doesn't interrupt while you're talking. A good listener asks questions for the sake of getting clarity. A good listener retains what is said. A good listener doesn't derail or deflect. A good listener stays on topic until the matter is resolved. A good listener will strive to sympathize and, when necessary, empathize with where you are coming from. A good listener pays close attention and is extremely attentive.
The reason why, above all else, I choose to share that listening is a sign of being emotionally safe is because, when two people make a point to fully engage one another by listening, they show that they deeply care about each other's thoughts, needs and emotions. Personally, I'm not sure if it gets any safer than that.
What You Both Share Remains Between the Two of You
Proverbs 17:9 (NKJV) says "He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends." What's dope about this particular Scripture is it doesn't say that keeping stuff to one's self keeps the drama down (although it does). No, it states that when you're not out here putting things on blast, the motive is really about love. I totally agree because something I have learned to give more and expect more is confidentiality. My relationships are safer, both ways, because of it.
When you are in a relationship with someone (especially if it's serious), they should be able to feel like they can come to you with all of who they are. They should also believe that they can come to you with just about anything without having to worry about your friends knowing, your mama (or their mama) finding out or that some slick version of what was shared will show up in a Facebook group or sub-tweeted on Twitter. Also, if two people are really respectful of one another, this will remain the case, even if they should happen to part ways at some point.
To be accepted is beautiful. To know that you've got a safe place to share all of who you are is rare, sacred and something to profoundly cherish. It's one of the best types of safeness. It really and truly is.
Dependence Trumps Vulnerability
Whenever I'm in a session with a couple, something that I share with them is I'm actually not a huge fan of the word "vulnerable". Meaning, I don't think it's something that should apply to two people who have been in a platonic or romantic situation for a while; I think it's more appropriate for new situations and circumstances. The reason why I say that is because vulnerable means "capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon" and "open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc." Although none of us are perfect and we do run the risk of these things happening with just about anyone, who wants to be in a long-term relationship when you're worried that you'll be wounded or hurt or attacked and criticized all of the time?
That's why I encourage couples to go with the word "dependent" more often. To be dependent is to "rely on someone or something else for aid, support, etc." Hey, if you've got a problem relying on your partner to have your back, I've gotta wonder why you're in the relationship in the first place.
You Each Take Ownership for Your Own Actions
Here is one of the most underrated indications of being in an emotionally safe relationship. If you are someone (or you're with someone) who can always point out others' issues, faults and areas of weakness but somehow, you are never able to see your own, you are an unsafe individual. Why do I say that? Because someone who is self-aware enough to take responsibility for their downfalls or offenses, is personally accountable enough to acknowledge how they can better themselves and grow, and is willing to hear you out when you bring certain issues to their attention—they are someone who is constantly on the path of personal growth and evolution.
Meanwhile, someone who is always defensive, finds a way to play the victim and/or somehow turns everything that they do wrong into being everyone else's fault (including yours)—they are emotionally immature, highly-manipulative and, quite frankly, not even close to being ready for a grown-folks type of relationship. And a healthy adult who is trying to make it work with an immature, insecure and potentially toxic one? C'mon now. Y'all already know that's the perfect recipe for an unsafe situation.
Love Languages Are Spoken Fluently
The picture right above this point breaks down what the five love languages are. The reason why they make the list is because anyone who knows their partner's primary love language, they are someone who really wants their partner to feel loved by them in the most impactful way possible. That kind of laser focus should get major props from us all.
Along these lines, two synonyms for the word "safe" are "preserved" and "maintained". I know quite a few people who claim to love one another. Still, they're constantly complaining about their needs not being met. When your partner knows how to make you feel loved and then they actually put that knowledge into action, they are basically saying "I love you so much that I want to do all that I can to preserve and maintain our relationship." Someone who loves like this is someone you can feel truly safe with, don't you think?
Apologies Aren't a Problem
I'm just gonna shoot this one straight.
Someone who refuses to apologize for what they've done wrong is someone who is mad prideful. How can you truly feel safe with an individual who isn't the opposite of prideful which is humble?
Because just think about it, it really does take some heartfelt humility to admit when you've messed up and then to apologize for it. Actually, not just apologize, but to then put forth some real effort to not do what you needed to apologize for again in the future.
While we're on the topic of pride, prideful people aren't emotionally safe individuals across the board because that trait tends to spill over into other areas and situations. A prideful person thinks they are always right. A prideful person isn't good at taking advice or asking for help. A prideful person tends to be quite critical while, at the same time, abhors constructive criticism. A prideful person has authority issues. A prideful person justifies everything they do—even when it is dead wrong. A prideful person wants fans more than true friends. Please tell me how in the world you can feel emotionally safe with someone like this?
Positive Energy Is Consistent
I remember watching a throwback episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 and one of the characters saying, "My mom always said that if you're always up, you must be on something." To a large extent, I agree. It's important to say that out the gate because it's darn near impossible to have positive energy all of the time. But what you can do is not be on an emotional roller coaster of pessimism and doom—or allow someone else to put you on one. You can choose to be the kind of person who is more optimistic than not, who is more solutions-oriented than problems-driven, and who tries to bring more joy and peace into your relationship than sadness and stress.
In the article "11 Ways To Bring Positive Energy Into Your Life", the author talks about the fact that positive energy has a direct impact on our health, the quality of our relationships and our ability to reach our personal goals. They also shared that some of the ways to go about harnessing positive energy is to let go of the past, to live in a spirit of gratitude, to love and accept yourself, to not dwell on negative stuff (something that I'll add here is also not to dwell on stuff that you can't change as well) and to laugh as often as possible.
Two people who are intentional about living their life this way? Not only are they an emotionally safe haven for one another, they are pretty close to being an unstoppable pair too.
Love and Respect Go Hand in Hand
If you are currently engaged, a book that I recommend adding to your couple's collection isLove & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs. There's a Scripture in the Bible that says, "Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." (Ephesians 5:33—NKJV) How this all breaks down is pretty much an article on its own.
For now, I'll say that it's a reminder that women are more "wired" to feel loved; men are more "wired" to feel respected. This and love languages have something in common. When it comes to both, where a lot of us mess up is we give more of what we want than what our partner actually needs.
As far as respecting men goes, respect is about esteem. When I think about what our Black men go through on a daily basis, simply because of the color of their skin, that is enough to motivate me to esteem and affirm them any and every chance that I get. Because if there is any place where they should feel safe, seen and acknowledged (in public and in private), it's from a sistah. Black men feel our love by how we respect (esteem) them.
And fellas, if you're looking in on this, if you're a Black man—your mama's a Black woman. That should be enough of a reason to treat Black women, especially the one you are seeing, like she is to be honored, cherished and adored. We as Black women feel respected by how well we are loved.
Two people who have love and respect constantly present in the life that they share with one another—they are the poster children for what it means to be in a truly emotionally safe relationship. If that is you, congrats. Please hold on to what you've got. It's super special. Safe relationships always are. If that's not you, well, you've got some serious stuff to think about, don't you? You are far too precious to not be in a safe relationship; emotionally safe included.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
Feature image by Shutterstock
- Should Someone Have To MAKE You Feel Loved? - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- 8 Different Types Of Relationships - xoNecole: Women's Interest, Love, Wellness, Beauty ›
- The Feeling of Emotional Safety | Psychology Today ›
- 8 Signs you Don't Feel Emotionally Safe in your Relationship | NLP ... ›
- Do This to Feel Emotionally Safer in Your Relationship | Psychology ... ›
- Keeping a Relationship Emotionally Safe | University of Chicago - SSA ›
- Emotional security and safety in relationships ›
- 4 Red Flags You Don't Feel Emotionally Safe With Your Partner ›
- Emotional Safety is Necessary for Emotional Connection ›
- How Do You Create Emotional Safety in Your Relationships? ›
- What It Means to Be Emotionally Safe in a Relationship ›
Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
2023 has become the year of celebrity breakups with headlines breaking left and right about celebs filing for divorce or ending high-profile relationships. The latest couple to announce their dissolution? British actress Jodie Turner-Smith. TMZ reported that Jodie has filed for a divorce from her husband, Dawson Creek alum Joshua Jackson.
As far as her reason for calling it quits, Jodie cited "irreconcilable differences," according to TMZ, and has requested joint custody of the couple's daughter, Juno Rose Diana Jackson. Late last year there were rumblings of there being "trouble in paradise" for the couple after the media realized they were no longer following each other on Instagram.
Those rumors were more than laid to rest when Jodie and Joshua went to the 2023 Oscars together earlier this year, and even more recently, when they celebrated her birthday together last month during the September unveiling of the Lotus Emeya.
Jodie Turner-Smith celebrates her birthday with husband Joshua Jackson at the unveiling of the new fully-electric Lotus Emeya on September 07, 2023 in New York City.
Brian Ach/Getty Images for Lotus
Despite seeming particularly happy and in love, perhaps the writing was already written on the wall even then. In the past, Jodie has been very celebratory publicly about her love for her estranged husband, even boldly recounting their love story for the books in a 2021 interview with Seth Meyers.
When Jodie and Joshua met, it was while at his birthday party in 2018. Their relationship was hot and heavy from the start, with Jodie openly noting that they began as a "one-night stand." During her 2021 interview with Seth Meyers, she jokingly referred to their love story as a "three-year one-night stand." She shared:
"First of all, I saw him before he saw me and when I saw him, I was like, 'I want that.' And then when he saw me, I just pretended like I didn't see him. He had to yell across the room to me, and I was wearing this T-shirt from a movie called Sorry to Bother You and [actress] Tessa Thompson plays a character called Detroit, and she has this T-shirt that says, 'The Future Is Female Ejaculation.'
"And so, he shouts across the room, 'Detroit!' He comes over and… does this really cute, charming thing that he does and just all night -- he just basically followed me around the party."
The couple were together from that moment forth, and even made things "Instagram official" less than two weeks later while on a dinner date. Joshua would later clarify to Insider that the night they met in 2018 was not a 'one-night stand' or a 'three-year one-night stand' like his then-wife joked but instead, it was "technically a three-night stand."
"It was sealed with a kiss that night and then we didn't leave each other's sides for, well, three years now," Joshua continued at the time.
In a July 2021 interview with Jimmy Fallon, Joshua dropped more details about the why behind getting married. He revealed that he didn't know he wanted to get married to Jodie until "the moment she asked me."
"She asked me on New Year's Eve. We were in Nicaragua. It was very beautiful, incredibly romantic, we were walking down the beach and she asked me to marry her."
He added, "I did not know [she would propose], but she was quite adamant and she was right. This is the best choice I ever made."
Joshua Jackson Reveals Jodie Turner-Smith Proposed To Him
Jodie received quite a bit of flack for proposing to Joshua because it goes against tradition and what society sees as acceptable for a woman to do to a man, and proposing isn't one of them. No matter how much time has passed, the viewpoints around who should do the proposing and who should be proposed to are still very traditional.
After being on the receiving end of such backlash, Joshua would later clarify to the media in a separate interview that it wasn't just Jodie's proposal to him that sealed the deal of them getting married, he proposed to her too. She might have initiated it, but Joshua followed through.
"I accidentally threw my wife under the bus because that story was told quickly and it didn't give the full context and holy Jesus, the internet is racist and misogynist," he explained to Refinery29 that same year. "We were in Nicaragua on a beautiful moonlit night, it could not possibly have been more romantic."
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
He continued, "And yes, my wife did propose to me and yes, I did say yes, but what I didn't say in that interview was there was a caveat, which is that I'm still old school enough that I said, 'This is a yes, but you have to give me the opportunity [to do it too].'"
"She has a biological father and a stepdad, who's the man who raised her. [I said], 'You have to give me the opportunity to ask both of those men for your hand in marriage.' And then, 'I would like the opportunity to re-propose to you and do it the old-fashioned way down on bended knee.' So, that's actually how the story ended up."
Joshua and Jodie would eventually marry in December 2019. Shortly thereafter, Jodie gave birth to the couple's first child, Janie, in 2020.
In a recent interview with Elle UK, Jodie shared the ways becoming a mother to Juno helped to heal her of her wounds from colorism she experienced in the past. "It's interesting because I had a lot of resistance to becoming a mother and, throughout my life, I always said if I were to have children, I wanted to have Black, Black babies so that I could affirm them as children with the love that I felt I needed to have been affirmed with by the outside world," Jodie shared with the outlet.
She continued, "Then I fell in love with my husband and we talked about having kids. I did have this mini pause, where I was like, 'She's going to be walking through the world not only having an experience that I did not have, but looking like people that, in a way, I'd always felt a little bit tormented by.' Now that I've got this little, tiny, light-skinned boss, I feel like it’s the universe teaching me lessons. I've been given a daughter who looks this way to heal my own conversations around colorism."
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by Amy Sussman/Getty Images