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SAFE HAVEN Sharon Hart May, Ph.D. Safe Haven Relationships Understanding the Impact of Relationships on Our Lives. Psalm 91. God promises to be our safe place

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SAFE HAVENSharon Hart May, Ph.D.

Safe Haven Relationships

Understanding the Impact of Relationships on Our Lives


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Psalm 91

  • God promises to be our safe place

    “Those who go to God Most High for safety will be protected by the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “You are my place of safety & protection. You are my God and I trust you.”


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“This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge & understanding with your love…” Phil 1:9“Love your neighbor as you love yourself. If you go on hurting each other and tearing each other apart, be careful, or you will completely destroy each other.” Gal 5:15


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HAVEN OF SAFETY and more; that you will have knowledge & understanding with your love…” Phil 1:9

  • Importance of Emotional Attachment Bonds

    • the connection between two people is an attachment bond

    • we need these bonds in order to grow and thrive

    • we were designed by God to live in community


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Without Bonds We Wither and Die…Physically, Emotionally, Psychologically

Predicts Whether You’ll Be Dead or Alive 9yrs From Now

Impacts our Healing and Dealing With Stress

Shapes How we Make Sense of Life


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In Our Relationships we: Psychologically

  • are born and grow as a person

  • learn who we are, how lovable or unlovable we are

  • how trustworthy others are

  • how safe the world is

  • whether or not we can depend upon others to be there for us


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Relationships Over Our Life Psychologically

  • Temperament + Genetics + Experiences = Who We Are


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Importance Of Your Attachment Bond In Marriage Psychologically

Research * predictor of divorce * emotional connection

more vip than fighting

  • Crucial to your marriage = perceive spouse to be a haven of safety


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Our Bonds are A Safe Place when: Psychologically

  • we know we are loved, valued, accepted

  • we know someone will be there to love us, take care of us, be there


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ATTACHMENT BOND Psychologically

  • Closeness – physical proximity –

  • Safe Haven

    1. Trust

    2. Available emotionally & physically

    3. Responsive in considerate manner

  • Attachment Alarm System

    i. Protest ii. Despair iii. Detach


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Attachment Styles: Ways of Being in Relationship Psychologically

  • Secure Attachment Bond

  • Insecure Bond = Anxious Preoccupied = ‘you love me, you love me not’

  • Avoidant = uncomfortable with closeness yet long for it

    ‘you’ll reject me so I’ll be self-sufficient’

    4. Fearful Avoidant = ‘fear without solution’

    ‘come close, come close, get away’


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Ways We Respond When We Feel Our Loved One Is Not There Psychologically

1. Secure, Safe, Assured

2. Unsure, Anxious, Pre-occupied

3. Avoidant, Non-dependent

4. Fearful, confused, hyper-vigilant


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“I Know You Will Listen and Care for Me and Consider Who I Am Along With Your Own Perspective. You Know Me, and You Love Me. I Feel Safe Sharing Who I Am With You. You Will Be There for Me If I Reach for You. And I’ll Be There for You.”


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But “Yesterday’s Feelings Color Today’s Experiences. Am Along With Your Own Perspective. You Know Me, and You Love Me. I Feel Safe Sharing Who I Am With You. You Will Be There for Me If I Reach for You. And I’ll Be There for You.”Be Aware of the Filters of Past Experience Through Which You View Current Experiences.Be Aware of Where You Go to Feel Validated and Loved.”


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“I pray that Christ will live in your hearts by faith and that your life will be strong in love and be built on love”Ephesians 3:17


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THE END that your life will be strong in love and be built on love”


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WHAT IS AT THE HEART OF EVERY ARGUMENT? that your life will be strong in love and be built on love”Dr. Sharon Hart May


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When Your Safe Haven Doesn’t Feel So Safe that your life will be strong in love and be built on love”Something happens – event triggers dragon - 1. You are not emotionally available2. You do not respond to me in a considerate & caring manner3. I want what I want & I want it now (selfish desires)


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Attachment System Alarms Sound Off that your life will be strong in love and be built on love”

“Danger, danger, he/she is not your safe haven get him/her to see your perspective”

  • Criticism

  • Defensiveness

  • Contempt

  • Withdrawal

  • Harsh Start up + Failed Repair Attempts


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NEURO-BIOLOGY OF FIGHTS that your life will be strong in love and be built on love”

Senses take in information

Thalamus (receives, disperses)

Neocortex (evaluates, reasons)

Limbic system (emotions)

Amygdala (responds quickly-fear, anger)

Responds by priming body for action

Fight-Flee-Freeze-Please


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  • Sense other is not available, responsive that your life will be strong in love and be built on love”

  • Issues are triggered, dragons raise their heads

  • Strong emotions fuel rigid cycles

  • Negative sentiment over-ride + failed repair attempts + strong emotional response

  • Emotionally disconnect = not so safe


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Be Wise: Is it your fears & dragons that need to be dealt with so you can love freely – or is this person not your Adam/Eve? Marriage is hard work – but is this the right person for you to commit to for a lifetime?


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Woman – Pursuers with so you can love freely – or is this person not your Adam/Eve? Marriage is hard work – but is this the right person for you to commit to for a lifetime?

  • feels that if they don’t pursue, talk louder, they will not be seen/heard

  • “I nag because I feel he won’t listen to me. He’s just emotionally flat”

  • feels out of control, unlovable, rejection, abandonment, lonely


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Pursue – Withdraw Cycle with so you can love freely – or is this person not your Adam/Eve? Marriage is hard work – but is this the right person for you to commit to for a lifetime?

  • She comes over to his house and boyfriend is watching game with buddies – she thought they were going out. She ups the anti – he shuts down and withdraws


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Man – Withdraws with so you can love freely – or is this person not your Adam/Eve? Marriage is hard work – but is this the right person for you to commit to for a lifetime?

  • Overwhelmed by pursuer’s emotion

  • Feels helpless, not good enough, devalued, disrespected, inadequate

  • Physiologically reduce by getting away from anxiety, shut down


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CYCLE SET IN MOTION with so you can love freely – or is this person not your Adam/Eve? Marriage is hard work – but is this the right person for you to commit to for a lifetime?

  • Something Happens and It Means “You Are Not There For Me”

    • don’t mean to

    • let you down in the past

    • triggers familiar past hurt when parent/friend was not there for you

    • differences in personality, life style seems to mean they don’t care for you

      • He didn’t bring flowers, only took you to dinner


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Cycle Is Triggered - Get Stuck with so you can love freely – or is this person not your Adam/Eve? Marriage is hard work – but is this the right person for you to commit to for a lifetime?

  • Fighting is not always bad

    • If you are able to emotionally connect

    • Still feel loved, valued and respected


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Impact Of Your Cycle On Your Relationship with so you can love freely – or is this person not your Adam/Eve? Marriage is hard work – but is this the right person for you to commit to for a lifetime?

  • When pursuing or withdrawing – don’t have emotional space to be there.

    • “My boyfriend does not understand me. They don’t care how I feel.”

    • “There’s no way my girlfriend would understand me. I learned not to put my heart out there. Risking that would mean I’d be hurt again.”

  • No longer turn toward each other for comfort, support.


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Breaking The Cycle with so you can love freely – or is this person not your Adam/Eve? Marriage is hard work – but is this the right person for you to commit to for a lifetime?

What is your cycle? What happens when you and you & date fight/argue?

What is your part in the cycle?

Who pursues?

Who withdraws?

Understand what triggers your cycle


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Withdrawers: Understand what you are feeling – share your heart emotions rather than shutting down & withdrawing, Risk to Stick With It


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Pursuers: Learn to ‘Soften’ heart emotions rather than shutting down & withdrawing, Risk to Stick WithRemember that underneath your strong reaction is a heart longing to be heard, understood, loved


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BOTH heart emotions rather than shutting down & withdrawing, Risk to Stick With= Learn to Talk With Your Hearts, Not Your Dragons.


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- Share Your Heart Needs and Longings heart emotions rather than shutting down & withdrawing, Risk to Stick With- Emotions (Emotional Literacy) Be Able to Name, Understand, Regulate Them


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- Keep Them in heart emotions rather than shutting down & withdrawing, Risk to Stick With- Explode- Wear Them on Your Sleeve- Slow Down, Understand Them, Express Them in a Way That Draws (You And) Your Date in !


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Listen To Each Other’s Hearts heart emotions rather than shutting down & withdrawing, Risk to Stick With


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Talk From Your Heart heart emotions rather than shutting down & withdrawing, Risk to Stick With

  • Identify the emotion under the statement

  • Listen to it

  • Look beyond and look at your partner’s heart

  • Respond to the heart


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Healing Past Attachment Injuries heart emotions rather than shutting down & withdrawing, Risk to Stick With


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“You Were Not There for Me When I Needed You” heart emotions rather than shutting down & withdrawing, Risk to Stick With“You Abandoned, Betrayed Me, Now I Won’t Risk to Trust You With My Heart”

  • Emotionally reconnect

  • Risk to be vulnerable again

  • Offer understanding, caring, this time ‘be there’

  • Forgive


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Understand Each Other’s Perspective & Pain heart emotions rather than shutting down & withdrawing, Risk to Stick With(Not Defending, Blaming Criticizing)


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Creating Connections heart emotions rather than shutting down & withdrawing, Risk to Stick With

  • Give your partner your full attention

  • Listen with your heart, not your “to do list” “sensible list” “critical thing list”

  • When you want to be defensive….It means you need to understand partner more

  • So ask him/her to share: “tell me more about what you are thinking”

  • Then: listen until you understand (you may not necessarily agree)


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Pray for a Softer, More Genuine Heart heart emotions rather than shutting down & withdrawing, Risk to Stick With“This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge & understanding with your love…” Phil 1:9“Love your neighbor as you love yourself. If you go on hurting each other and tearing each other apart, be careful, or you will completely destroy each other.” Gal 5:15