Safe place to land
Doesn’t it feel good to have a safe place to land? When you think about it, what comes to mind? How does it feel in your body? I feel softening, my body can relax a little, I notice that my breath becomes fuller. It feels lighter.
This is a tool you can use any time you or your partner feel stressed, frustrated, anxious, agitated, sad. There are many difficult emotions going on, maybe you don’t even know how you feel or why you are feeling this way. It’s not really important, what’s important is that you need a safe place to land. ( or you can offer one if you sense your partner needs it. )
This is one of the tools we practice in couples counselling, in sessions, and in between.
IMPORTANT: this exercise only works if your strong feelings or upsets or stress are NOT about your partner or your relationship. There are much better tools when it happens than this.
How it works:
You see your partner stressed or having the feels, or maybe you are that partner.
You start with asking “Do you need a safe place to land right now?" or ask, "Can you give me a safe place to land?"
It can look in many different ways.
Maybe you need a hug and a shoulder to cry on. Maybe you need to vent. Maybe you feel like you are falling apart and need reassurance that it’s ok. Maybe you need to feel that you are not alone. Maybe you need a cup of tea, for someone to run you a bath or to get under the blankets and snuggle.
Couples can create their own special way to create a safe space like this, it can become your ritual.
If you are a partner holding space or a listening pattern, what’s important here
is to remember:
it’s not time a space to give advice or offer your opinion
It’s not a regular conversation (it’s not about you)
It’s not time to problem solve
It’s ok to ask questions, but don’t bombard your partner with them. If they need to talk, gently ask questions that will help them share, that will let them know there’s no judgment here, help them unload.
Hold “I’m on your side” intention. You don’t even need to say anything (and sometimes it’s helpful if you do), it’s about the space that says - I’ve got your back, we are in this together, you are not alone. I’m here, with you.
It is time to offer empathy and compassion, it’s time for gentleness and kindness, your job here is to stay grounded and strong, to hold space of acceptance (no judgment).
Receiving partner - set your partner up for success. Let them know what you need. Do you need them to stay silent and just listen? Do you need words of reassurance? Do you need a hug? Do you need space?
Please don’t ask them to figure it out. When asked if you need a safe place, you can say:
yes, but I don’t want to (or can’t) talk, can you just stay here with me (words might come later, or not. It’s ok)
Yes, can I please tell you all about my day and can you just listen
Yes, I have a big cry coming up, could you please hold me and tell me I’ll be ok.
Give your partner reassurance that they are doing a good job, that it’s helping you, that it is what you need. Or ask for what you need.
It’s hard for a lot of people to see their partner upset. We want to fix, to take the pain away, to solve, we worry that we don’t know the right thing to say. The more we worry about that, the less present we usually are. It’s ok. It’s very human
It take practice. It’s takes communication. You get better and better at this
What helps some couples is to set a timer for 5-10-15 minutes. You can renegotiate at the end if you need more time. Make sure you are ok if you find out that you need more time but your partner is at their capacity. It’s not a sign of failure, it’s about learning about each other and learning what works. Different people will have different capacities - focus on what works and not on what’s lacking, appreciate the effort. For some people it’s a big stretch.
You don’t have to wait until you have a big upset or are really stressed. This can become a daily or weekly ritual, a safe place to land after a day of work, or staying home with the kids.
I know a couple who has a weekly hot tub date. It’s their safe space. They both can show up as they are, and know they’ll be held and supported. Deeply heard and understood. They know that's the time when they can share anything that bothers them. They built that level of trust over time.
You’ll have to protect that place. Set strong boundaries about it and hold them together
No complaining about your partner.
No problem solving.
No judgment ( you don’t have to agree, but you can understand, deeply).
Offer empathy, not advice.
Hold space of profound kindness, radical acceptance and let your partner feel that they are not alone.
Talk to your partner about this practice. Discuss wha it can look like for the two of you. Start practicing. See what happens.