In 1938, Harvard University researchers began a multi decade long study to find out what makes us happy in life. The researchers gathered health records from 724 participants from all over the world and asked detailed questions about their lives at two-year intervals for the last 85 years. As Christians who believe in the account of humanity’s creation as told in the Bible, the result will not surprise you: having positive relationships keep us happier, healthier, and help us live longer. The Bible says that after God created Adam, He said it was not good for man to be alone and that he would make him a suitable partner. God knew that a relationship between Adam and Eve would keep them both happy and healthy.
What constitutes a positive relationship may be more surprising though. Neurobiology is the study of the nervous system and how the brain works. Studying the nervous system helps researchers pinpoint what attributes of a relationship translate most to our feelings of happiness and joy "in our brains". Would you believe the latest research in neurobiology reveals emotional safety is one of the most important aspects of a satisfying connection in a loving relationship? More than affection, affirmation, and constant flattery, people need to feel safe before we’re able to be vulnerable and being vulnerable is the gateway to building trusting, supportive and loving relationships.
Naturally, you can’t be vulnerable with any and every one and therefore cannot, and should not, feel emotionally safe in all your relationships. But that’s ok! That same Harvard University research I mentioned earlier found that participants did not need a bunch of positive relationships to feel happy: just one or two will do.
Nothing puts a relationship’s emotional safety to the test like hard times and disagreements. Experiencing emotional safety in a relationship does not mean it will be without disagreements. But even through disagreements you will trust that the other person cares for you enough to want to see both of you come out winning on the other side. I pray you find a person with whom you can be honest, who responds to you honestly, and whose honest response, even when in disagreement, doesn’t threaten the trust upon which your relationship is built. Read that a few times and let it sink in.