So far we have gone over what jerks are and how not to be one, the Love is Blind phenomenon, and the five categories we can think about to strengthen our marriage from Dr. John Van Epp’s book, “How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind.” In this article we are going to be talking about Dr. Van Epp’s thoughts about safe relationships in marriage. He explains what it takes to have a safe relationship and a safe zone we need to try and be in.
Dr. John Van Epp created the idea of the “safe zone.” His one rule that goes along with it is to “never go further in one bonding area than you have gone in the previous.” You might be thinking, “Well what are the bonding areas?” The bonding areas are known and categorized in a model called the Relationship Attachment Model also known as RAM. This model has five different areas that are important to your relationship. They are: know, trust, rely, commit, and touch. He basically has found that a couple must know each other first, for example how good friends know one another, in order to trust. After the trust has been built up enough they are able to move to relying on one another for any reason. After they have been able to prove they are reliable they can go on to the commitment level. The high enough commitment level then goes onto touch.
Van Epp says that each of these relationship levels are needed in your relationship and marriage. They all need to be in balance for everything to work out smoothly. Van Epp said, “Slipping out of the safe zone explains the most common mistake people make in relationships: emotional bond becomes unhealthy and you tend to overlook crucial characteristics of the other person that should be exposed and explored.” We are able to overlook the five categories easily. Keeping the RAM levels up contributes to the strength of a bond you create and have with your spouse.
Do not worry though. He said, “There may be times where there is an imbalance between the five.” But understanding that there may be one acting up can be important in fixing it quickly. If it is not pointed out then there could be some consequences. He goes on to say that, “Unhealthy love is blind because the mind disengages in order to maintain the imbalanced attachment of the heart.” In other words when we do have a problem we are more prone not to fix it. We are thinking more with our heart instead of both our heart and head. This relates to our previous article about our head and heart knowledge.
We need to try to work with our heart and our head because they were created to work together Van Epp said. “Each one making a vital contribution to the experience of love and attachment, when the safe-zone rule is not followed, the heart and mind are not in harmony” is how he explains why you need to keep them both working in order to have the healthy marriage you want.
When you are within the safe zone you are more prone to have a longer and healthier marriage and good relationship with your spouse. It will be stronger and stable as long as you tend to it. He has a great thought about what married couples should do that is just so great it shouldn’t be shortened! He said, “Ideally, married couples should work through conflicts in ways that strengthen all five of the bonding dynamics. However sometimes sex is used to heal the wounds of an argument because loving affection can be so effective in dampening grievances and rekindling closeness. Other times trust is compromised, and you need a heightened commitment to steer you through the rough waters. Under these circumstances persevering commitment empowers you to lovingly stand your ground while facing a crisis.”
Having a safe relationship with your spouse is the ultimate thing that you should work towards and hopefully accomplish. Dr. John Van Epp even said that it can improve your marriage and elongate it as long as you nourish it and help it become stronger. Tend to your marriage each and every day because you promised you would.