Vulnerability has always been a place of anxiety. Despite how some past relationships have ended, I still had a hard time opening up with women. There was often a glaring disconnect between my mind and my heart. I, like the majority of men in their 30s, had experienced a relationship ending that was unplanned in its execution. I dealt with it and processed my feelings about it. Though the relationships following that I basically just went through the motions. As one relationship would end, I’d chill for a while then wind up in another one. It was a silly cycle. The consequence of that was living life with a wall up.
Then I met someone a few years ago where I wanted to let that wall down. Conversation by conversation, she slowly picked me apart. I hated it. But at the same time I loved her for doing it. It showed how much she genuinely cared about me; not just the “me” I was with her. Last year, her focus on knowing the real me lead me to a realization. Vulnerability in a relationship is stressful, scary, unsettling, yet so, so necessary.
If you want your relationship to be successful and weather life’s storms, your partner has to be the one person who knows you better than anyone else on the planet. In order for that to happen, you have to first be honest with yourself. You have to be open to criticism (constructive of course) and trust the insight of the person who has the capability to break your heart. For example, I have a temper. I’m not on Chris Brown levels of reacting, but when I get mad, I shut all the way down! She’s the complete opposite. My vulnerability in that was to become the guy who sits there and talks about something that I would normally keep to myself. I told her often that I felt weak or corny for expressing the hurt underneath the anger. When I chose the normative action of shutting myself off from her, I’d later me feel bad for letting us go to bed angry. It was a petty pattern on my part which she’d call me out on. When you’re vulnerable, you subject yourself to being told that how you do things is wrong. And nobody likes being told something they’ve been doing for years
(and seemingly has worked for them) is wrong.
I’ve always said that if you don’t change through the course of a relationship, it wasn’t love. When you love someone, it’s impossible to stay the same. That situation changed me in a way that I let go of the fear that allowing someone in to know and learn your inner intricacies equates to that someone will hurt you. Spending your entire relationship with that in your head will rob you of the joy that true love brings.
Love on its own can be hard, but having to fake your way through it is damaging. Being vulnerable at the core is about wholly trusting the person you’re with. Trusting that your partner can handle your truths, no matter how embarrassing they may be. In opening up myself to this person, I was able to be made aware of specific fears. With her, I was able to just like, then love.
I often think about the lessons in love I’ll pass along to my children. To my son, I’ll tell him about the importance of vulnerability in relationships and that when it’s right, it’s supposed to feel uncomfortable. Vulnerability allows us to pull the worst out of each other. There will be a chance to fix it or change it completely. And it’s okay. You’re doing it for the betterment of both of you. I look at vulnerability as an all or nothing concept now. When you love someone, you let it all hang out because when you’re happy, you’re willing to risk it all.