Vulnerability

A few weeks ago I facilitated a discussion about vulnerability. The discussion was about why it is important to a relationship that both people are willing and able to be emotionally vulnerable. The other important part of the discussion was how one allows oneself to be vulnerable a partner. Many of us have suffered significant emotional pain from past relationships as well as childhood issues that linger into adulthood. We can find it nearly impossible to open up to another person and allow ourselves to let anyone close enough to us to cause us additional emotional pain. Many of us have a strong desire to have a close connection to another person. But, our fears inhibit us from realizing this desire. Too many times people jump from one relationship to another in order to avoid the emotional pain of a break-up. Allow yourself the time to go through the grieving process and to heal before you attempt to engage in another intimate relationship. This is the first step toward making ourselves available for an emotionally healthy relationship.

Building trust is an absolute requirement for vulnerability to be present in a relationship. In order to build trust there must be honest and open communication. We need to reveal to our partner who we are and what is important to us. We need to be honest about our thoughts and feelings. We must also be forthcoming and responsible for our actions even if there is the risk of conflict. Part of a healthy relationship is dealing with conflict and finding ways to resolve it. Most of us fear being judged and rejected. For a person to truly love us they need to know and accept us for who we are not some façade that we project.

Before getting involved in a relationship, work on the issues that have caused problems in previous relationship. Get some counseling if needed. Face your past in order to overcome it. Give yourself to time to grieve and get to know yourself again. We tend to lose ourselves in the “we” of a relationship (especially the long term relationship). Practice the skills of open and honest communication and take emotional risks. This is the way to find the type of relationships we desire.

Communication: The importance of Honesty

When we first meet someone most of us tend to be pretty open about whom we are, our likes and dislikes, as well as our sexual preferences. After all, we have nothing to lose and can easily move on to another potential partner. I have observed over the years that couples tend to become less open and honest about their feelings, thoughts, or desires because of potential conflict or being judged by their partner. Over time they have more and more of an investment in the relationship and more and more to lose.

They eventually get into a pattern of being whom or what they think their partner wants them to be and hide who they really are. They are not intentionally deceiving their partner. They are, “not wanting to hurt them” or “avoiding a potential fight” or “they won’t understand.” They take the path of less resistance. In fact, this attitude and belief places barriers to communication and intimacy. This is very destructive to the relationship and lays a foundation of false security and can be very manipulative (even if that is not the intention). Ultimately it is disrespectful of the partner and the relationship.

It can be very difficult to maintain vulnerability with a partner and risk being judged by someone who’s opinion of us is extremely valuable to us. But, in order for relationships to continue to grow and be healthy both partners need to take the more difficult path and stay open and honest even if we are certain our partner will react in a less than positive manner. Without the facts, you and your partner will be unable to explore differences and resolve conflicts. You just pretend.

When couples come for counseling, all the things that were unsaid, all the anger and resentment that grew over time shocks, surprises, hurts, and angers the partners. They find out all the things they never knew. It is far easier to deal with these issues as the surface than having them all dumped at one time.

My advice to couples is to stay honest and open and vulnerable. If your partner is to have a relationship with and love you, then make sure it is you they see and not some version of you that you are trying to project. Who you are is good enough whether your partner agrees with you or not.