How To Use ‘Windows’ and ‘Walls’ To Bolster Your Relationship for the Long Haul – Well+Good

Just like a house, a stable relationship requires a few key elements—not just to function or thrive, but also to weather any storms. Perhaps the most clear is a strong foundation, which you can build brick-by-brick with a partner through shared experiences and emotional connections. In this framework, you could imagine the “walls” of your relationship “house” as the boundaries between your partnership and external forces. To go one step further, if you and your partner were each a “room,” you might just be separated by a clear “window,” reflecting open and transparent communication between you.

Coined by psychologist Shirley Glass, PhD, in her book Not “Just Friends,” the concept of windows and walls in a relationship is a metaphor for the ways in which two emotionally involved people can develop and maintain intimacy—that is, by creating some degree of openness between them (the “window”) and some buffer against the outside world (the “wall”).

“A committed relationship needs this safe space or bubble to thrive,” says relationship therapist Genesis Games, LMHC. “And within it, an open floor-to-ceiling window with your partner allows the two of you to feel seen and heard by each other with full transparency.”

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Why it’s helpful to create and maintain “windows” and “walls” in a relationship

A “window” simply signifies an open flow of communication between you and a partner, which is vital for you both to “understand each other’s worlds, stay on the same page, and clarify expectations, feelings, and desires,” says relationship therapist Jordan Green, LCSW, founder of relationship health and wellness platform Remble. “Open communication gives you an opportunity to catch the small issues and areas of improvement before they snowball into bigger problems.”

“An open flow of communication between you and a partner is vital for you both to understand each other’s worlds, stay on the same page, and clarify expectations, feelings, and desires.” —Jordan Green, LCSW, relationship therapist

For both people to feel comfortable sharing back-and-forth through that window, though, there also needs to be some kind of wall, creating privacy around the relationship. “Without that boundary, your person isn’t protected,” says relationship therapist Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT, founder of relationship-counseling platform Ours. “Consider the person who fails to think about how their partner is feeling and constantly invites other people over without a warning. Letting the wall fall casually in this way disrupts the sacredness of the connection.”

By contrast, knowing that there’s a protective buffer around your relationship, and that your partner is doing their part to uphold it, helps create a sense of emotional safety. That’s what allows your internal walls to fall and be replaced by a transparent window. “As you build emotional safety in your relationship, you will feel more comfortable communicating your inner world and discussing issues that come up,” says Green. “When we feel safe, we are able to listen, empathize, problem-solve, be creative, and be open to experiencing deep intimacy.” Doing all of the above then serves to fortify your relationship’s foundation.

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