THE first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of a 'safe word' in a relationship might be whips and chains, but the concept does not have to be restricted to the bedroom.
Just as couples use a safe word to let their partner know when they have gone too far during intimacy, safe words can also be used to indicate when a partner is on thin ice, emotionally.
Relationship and Christian life coach and author of the book Are you ready to say I Do?, Tameika Binger Fuller, says having a safe word can be key to a healthy relationship.
“Safe words, as the name suggests, is a safe way to indicate to your partner or friend that you are experiencing some level of pain, hurt or discomfort by the extent of their words, or a matter being discussed,” she explained to All Woman.
“It's similar to children playing a game of tag, and someone crosses their two fingers and yells, 'Cree!' However, in a relationship, it provides both parties the opportunity to check their emotions before serious damage is done,” she said.
According to the relationship and Christian life coach, safe words can also be used to test the psychological wellness of your partner in the moment before bringing up a matter that may be harmful.
“Safe words can also be very useful in the company of strangers. If your partner is discussing something that you're not comfortable with them sharing,” she added. “You simply tap them on the shoulder and say something like, 'Is that invictus, I smell?' That's a smooth conversation changer, if they remember the safe word, of course.
“One of the things that I encourage couples to do is to set some time for expectations and goal setting. In this space there usually is a lot of discussion surrounding the direction of the relationship. This can be a good time for either party to introduce the concept, and think of creative ways of selecting and defining their safe words,” she shared.
While it might sound like a new concept, she said safe words are not hard to come up with once the meaning is clearly understood by both individuals.
“Jamaicans have been using the safe words concept for years, but mainly in phrases like, 'Stick a pin'; 'Pause'; 'That cut deep'; 'Ouch!'; and 'Dat hot',” she noted. “It is important to remember that you and your partner are creative directors who give your own meaning to words, which you select or create.”
Binger Fuller emphasised that safe words don't have to be limited to intimate relationships, but can be effective parenting and group management tools as well.
“One of my personal favourites that I use with my teenage students is 'red light'. When I say this, the entire class understands that things are getting a little out of hand and we need to regroup,” she shared.
Need some ideas? Fuller suggested: “Some creative examples of safe words are 'bag juice', to suggest that you feel offended; 'flaccid', when you've lost interest; 'ventilate', [which means] I am hurt and I need to some air; 'Gaza', to say, 'You're making me angry, please stop'.”
— Candiece Knight