Dear Harlan: How do I let my girlfriend know that I accept her no matter what? She always expects rejection and disappointment, because her childhood has been full of it. She has a lot of self-confidence issues. This is her first relationship. What can I do to make it safe for her to trust me? — Good Guy
Dear No Chest: It’s like getting behind the wheel of a car and promising her that she’ll be safe during the ride. There is no way to guarantee her complete safety. There is something inherently dangerous about getting behind the wheel of a relationship. No matter how hard you try, love leaves you vulnerable. Something could happen beyond your control and you could both get hurt. Make sure you start by always being honest with her. Honesty will help you build a foundation of trust. Trust will make it safer for her to open up and believe you accept her. Before making any promises, make sure you understand her definition of safety. Having a baseline of what “safe” means will help you understand what she needs. Explain that you want to work to make your relationship as safe as possible. Appreciate that she might not even know what “safe” means for her. Be patient if she needs time to figure it out. If she can’t explain it, understand how she has been hurt in the past and let that lead your actions. Let your actions speak for you, and be prepared for this to take time. As for making her feel safe, you can’t make her feel anything. You can only make it safer for her to trust you by consistently being kind, respectful, loving, supportive and honest.