We have often advised straight spouses to follow the ten steps for distancing, and to establish safety away from unsafe people. Unsafe people might include their LGBT ex, or the ex’s new love interest. But unsafe people may also be found among our social and family connections too.
We can only begin to heal, and even forgive if we choose to, when we are safe. If we are not safe, then healing and forgiveness can seem to be ways to be more vulnerable.
Here are some ways to identify unsafe people. We thank the American Psychological Association for these.
Unsafe people are:
1. Unwilling to admit their weaknesses. They focus on YOUR weaknesses instead
2. Religious instead of spiritual. They’re big on using religion as a hammer against others, or cling to an organization and its rules to avoid their own issues. (Many devout churchgoers are also spiritual and prayerful)
3. Defensive. Unsafe people are not open to criticism or feedback
4. Self righteous instead of humble. These folks set themselves above others, often projecting their faults onto other people
5. They apologize without changing their behavior. Its easy enough to apologize, but not recognize that the actions need to change.
6. Unsafe people avoid facing their own issues. They blame others for their problems, and dont have empathy for someone else’s troubles. They often fail to forgive others for their mistakes
7. Flatter you instead of talking to you. If someone truly cares about you, they share concerns about you with you. Someone who does not care will just try to keep you liking them.
8. Demand trust instead of earning it. Trust must be earned. Unsafe people want you to trust them right away and often belittle you or pressure you if you don’t.
9. Unsafe people lie. For us, often the fact that we have lived someone else’s lie to us and to themselves is the most damaging aspect of being a straight spouse. Rebuilding our lives in truth becomes a challenge, as many are not confident in their ability to see what the truth actually is. Everyone lies sometimes, but with unsafe people, it is a pattern.
10. Unsafe people don’t grow. Everyone has areas that need improvement. Safe people are open to acknowledging these areas and working to develop them. Unsafe people shut off growth through patterns of deception, blame, projection, and avoidance of the truth.
It’s very important that when we are vulnerable and hurting, we don’t trade one unsafe relationship for another. This happens when people marry to leave abusive parents, or leave an abusive spouse and connect with another abusive person as a lover. Recognizing safe people can help us be safe people ourselves, and build solid boundaries that allow us to heal and grow stronger.