When we enter into a relationship, we want it to be mutually pleasing and we want it to last. But so often, this is not how our relationships go. They end up turning painful and they fall apart. And when this happens, so often we have no idea why.
It just so happens that the most common reason that relationships fall apart is because of safety. On a subconscious level, even though our relationships grant us a sense of safety, if we perceive that something about a relationship makes us unsafe, we care more about our own safety than we care about the other person’s experience and we care more about our own safety than we care about the health of the relationship itself.
In a relationship, when something makes us feel unsafe, the aspects of our personality that are designed to keep us safe take over. And these aspects of us are very self-centered. Even when they employ techniques to keep us safe that seem self-sacrificing, they are doing so because they think those techniques are the ones that will keep us safe. If you want to learn more about this concept, watch my video titled: Fragmentation, The Worldwide Disease.
In a relationship, when we feel unsafe and these protector parts of ours take over control, we start to behave in ways that are self-preserving but often detrimental to the other person we are in a relationship with. In other words, they start to turn the relationship into a zero-sum game. And this creates a relationships downward spiral. The reason this creates a downward spiral is because when we do this, it causes us to behave in ways that cause the other person in the relationship to feel unsafe. And as a result, their protector parts take over. And they start to also act in ways that are self-preserving and detrimental to us. They also start to turn the relationship into a zero-sum game. And when they do this, it causes us to feel even more unsafe and thus double down on this self-preservation mode. Which causes them to feel more unsafe and double down on theirs. And this keeps amplifying the degree of unsafety and pain in the relationship until the relationship itself is destroyed.
So that you can really grasp this concept, here is an example: Myles has been in a relationship with Rebecca for 2 years and he’s been living with her for one year. Recently, Myles was laid off and he hasn’t yet decided to take another job. As a result, Rebecca has felt like she is under more financial pressure. This has made her feel like she is carrying the both of them, which is not something she wants to do. As a result, she has developed some resentment and this has been causing her to act more uptight and shorter tempered with Myles. Myles doesn’t feel that she is delighted to see him anymore and doesn’t feel as respected by her as he once felt. His self esteem has taken a hit. Subconsciously, he is starting to feel unsafe in the relationship. He has started to feel like he is either headed towards being left or towards being stuck in a house with a person who is constantly negative towards him. As a result, Myles’s protection strategy kicks in. It just so happens to be that his protection strategy is to regress. He starts to escape to a younger stage of development. He starts behaving like a child. He stops cleaning up after himself. He refuses to engage in adult conversation and checks out mentally for hours on end working on his model cars. He binges on whatever snacks are in the house. He has even started wetting the bed occasionally. By doing this, Myles is trying to return to a stage in his life where he felt more secure and when he had a caregiver that could rescue him out of his insecurities. Subconsciously, he hopes that he can solicit the same behavior from Rebecca that he used to get from his mother. Such as caretaking and being comforted and supported. But that is not what happens. Instead, the behavior that he is doing to try to establish safety for himself is making Rebecca feel incredibly unsafe.
Rebecca feels like she is not in a relationship with a man anymore. Instead, she feels like she is in a relationship with a little boy. She feels alone in the world and extremely burdened. Her future seems painful and bleak. As a result, Rebecca’s protection strategy kicks in. It just so happens to be that her protection strategy is to become dominating and criticizing. By doing this, Rebecca feels less powerless to the situation she is in. Subconsciously, she feels doing this will pressure Myles into correcting what he is doing that is causing her pain. But this does not happen. Instead, it makes Myles feel even more unsafe and thus double down on his regression behaviors so that now, instead of even looking for a new job, he is making excuses for why he can’t find one and is pouring all his energy into play. Which makes Rebecca feel even more unsafe and thus double down on her dominating, critical behavior so that now, she is yelling at him every day and is making threats to leave him.
If Rebecca and Myles don’t manage to caretake each other’s insecurities and unsafety, this relationship death spiral will continue until the relationship falls apart.
We can get into this unsafety spiral in any type of relationship. What I mean by this is, parents and children can get into it, siblings can get into it, colleagues can get into it, bosses and employees can get into it, businesses can get into it, lovers can get into it, friends can get into it. Wherever there is a relationship between two entities, this can happen.
It is very difficult to focus on caretaking someone else’s insecurities and unsafety in the relationship when we are trapped in a self-preserving mode, which we are when our protector parts are engaged. But in order to stay out of the safety death spiral or to pull out of it, this is what we must do. We must reach beyond our narcissistic bubble to access our care for the wellbeing of the other person and our care for the security of the relationship.
If you want to avoid this pattern, recognize when you feel insecure or unsafe in your relationship and very quickly initiate re-establishing security and safety with the other person. In alignment with this, caretake the insecurity and unsafety of the other person in the relationship. If you want to learn more about this, watch two of my videos. The first titled: How to Create a Safe Relationship. And the second titled: Trust (What is Trust and How to Build Trust in Relationships).
It is not possible to fix a problem if you don’t even know what is going on. Most people don’t actually know that the perception of unsafety and the plethora of behaviors, strategies and coping mechanisms that people employ so as to re-establish safety for themselves, is the most common problem in relationships. It is one of the most common reasons that relationships go from wonderful to terrible. It is one of the most common reasons that relationships fail. When people are desperate to protect and preserve themselves, they do things no matter the impact on the other person. The perception of unsafety can make even the most loving person behave in narcissistic ways. It is easier said than done, but now that you know what is going on, it is possible to fix the problem.