We all want to feel safe and carefree with our partners. Naturally, it requires us to be able to create a safe environment for each other where we don’t feel judged or embarrassed for who we are. Having a partner who is open-minded and non-judgmental goes a long way in creating such an equation with each other. While we may all judge someone or the other at some point in time, it helps if you are willing to suspend judgment when it comes to each other. At the very least, we should be willing to give each other the benefit of the doubt when a situation triggers our judgmental instincts. This is where our values or moral systems come into play. It’s hard to not judge someone who is explicitly violating our most sacred values. Having similar values, at least the ones most important to us, helps in building a safe space between each other where judgment is unlikely to play spoilsport.
While there may be thousands of values people may hold on to, our moral attitude towards these values fall into 3 categories:
- Categorical morality: these are actions that you consider wrong irrespective of their consequences. For example: you may think it is wrong to kill someone even if it would save a million lives. Such values are hard to change, making it very difficult to overcome mismatch in these values.
- Consequential morality: these are actions you consider wrong only because their consequences are usually wrong. You might not judge such actions too harshly if they didn’t cause a lot of harm. i.e. there is more scope for resolving incompatible values in this category.
- Circumstantial morality: these are actions you consider wrong only in special circumstances where they are likely to have harmful consequences. For example: unwillingness to tell a small lie in order to save you from being grounded by your parents. Conflicts in circumstantial morals are better resolved by avoiding such circumstances when possible.
Further, most people have a certain degree of moral flexibility that is different for people in their in-group vs everyone else. Some people hold their close ones to a higher standard than strangers. Others may be more lenient towards people they care about. Usually, it is easier for people to understand this dichotomy if their partner has the same in-group inclination as themselves.
There’s a simple way to tell how safe two people feel with each other – the level of laughter and silliness that flows into the space between them.
Takeaway: Partners who can be non-judgmental, at least with each other, is essential to create a safe space for the relationship to thrive.