Our nervous systems are doing everything in their power to stop us from being in danger. When we open ourselves up to loved ones we put ourselves in the cross hairs of being wounded. This is why vulnerability is so uncomfortable. However, the pain we cause by not being vulnerable may be worse than the discomfort of showing our true selves.
It is natural to move away from being vulnerable.
It is very natural for all of us to not want to feel discomfort. We are setup to stay away from that. This is one of the reasons that we stay away from being vulnerable with our loved ones. Vulnerability is going to be uncomfortable and we cannot change that. Showing our soft underbelly leaves us open to getting hurt.
Yet, the reality is that not being vulnerable also causes pain as well. And, when we deny our feelings we limit our connection to those we love.
So then, how does this work? When we are in relationship with someone and they want to connect to us better they will ask us how we are feeling. Usually we give the easy answer of, “I’m good.” There is a brief pause to make sure this statement is accurate and then the couple can move on. These are moments that are missed.
What is missed is to share the depth of feeling that may connect to one’s vulnerable self. To respond to the earlier question with something like, “I’m feeling pretty ‘off’ today and I don’t know why,” allows our loved one to share in our struggle. They can then provide support. When this happens we get a deepening of intimacy.
Intimacy is the shared closeness that I believe we all long for in our lives. It is why we sign up for the challenges of long-term relationships. In order to form intimacy we need to learn about each other. We need to share our secrets and our longings. We need to be vulnerable.
By not going into our vulnerability we limit the degree of intimacy we have in our relationships. Furthermore, for many couples, this lack of intimacy can be described as feeling off with each other. There isn’t a connection or a closeness. Often times they don’t really know why.
In my work with men and women, their dissatisfaction with their relationships often times lies with this lack of intimacy. However, for years they have bolstered their childhood strategy to remain safe and not express anything vulnerable.
This is the challenge we face with being vulnerable.
We must move out of the safety of not sharing out true emotions and step into risking hurt by showing our true self. The pay off is big. A deep intimate connection with another person is one of the great satisfactions in the human experience.
The hurt we are all trying to avoid is really just someone not fully engaging with us and being there for us when we do express our pain.
Maybe, in that moment, they don’t have the bandwidth to fully support you. Or maybe they aren’t used to having someone share deeply with them. But when we step off the plank of vulnerability and nobody is there to catch us it hurts.
My experience is that this is momentary and something that a loved one will want to repair immediately. When we really share our vulnerable self with someone it is rare that they can’t feel the sacredness of that moment and want to meet us there. And if for some reason they don’t we can talk through what happened and express our discomfort and they can express their regret at not being there for us. This is also vulnerable and creates more intimacy. Thus, we limit our relationships by not risking a minor hurt for the pay off of intimacy.
I encourage you to check-in the next time your partner asks you how you are feeling.
Really notice how you are doing and if you are “okay.” Not looking for some drama but your actual emotional experience. At that moment you can decide if you are willing to share this. Notice how uncomfortable it is and then see if you can take the risk.
If you or someone you know is looking to increase intimacy in their relationships please reach out.
Wishing You The Day You Need To Have!