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Relationships Require Vulnerability

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After almost 40 years of working to help couples, I offer a podcast of substance on what relationships require to last for the long haul. I use books & movies to illustrate the points I’m trying to make. I offer challenges of things you can actually do in your own relationship at the end of every podcast which is under 10 minutes.

Listen on the player Above or Read Here:
Episode #18 Relationships Require Vulnerability

We all create facades because we want people to like us. That’s one of the things that makes dating so difficult. Underneath the facade is a lot more substance. It’s exactly the underneath part that we need to know more about to head towards building a relationship worth a lifetime of commitment.

So what do I mean by substance? Being able to say I’m sorry. Taking responsibility when you mistreat someone else instead of making excuses. When you’ve owned your dark side, you don’t play past it & pretend it’s not there. You are able to sacrifice for someone else & to appreciate when someone else makes a sacrifice for you. Substance is about growing more character.

Character begins with more truth telling. I feel awkward….are words that you learn to say to someone you love. Vulnerability begins by sharing the beginnings of being awkward & uncomfortable. The chief ingredient of growth is uncertainty, the facade is all about coming across with certainty. If you want to grow your intimacy with someone else you must be awkward, uncertain & uncomfortable.

Our culture is all about facades: showing off wealth, being skinny enough, dressed well enough or how happy our pictures are on Facebook. So risking vulnerability with someone else is daunting. Vulnerability is not valued in the culture at large. So it is ordinary for there to be a breakup without any honest explanation beyond we’re different, we grew apart. Usually the one who breaks up is quick to tell everyone else all the gory details with lots of blame for the other person without taking any honest assessment of themselves.

So try being more honest about your problems, fears or doubts with the person you love the most. Let them know who you really are
underneath the facade of people pleasing.

Vulnerability is about taking risks. Sharing & not knowing whether or not you will be judged as unworthy.

The 2001 treasure of a movie Monsoon Wedding captures exactly this theme of truth & vulnerability. It is a movie that captures your heart with what real love is all about. Watch how the heroine struggles with her need to tell the awful truth to the groom. I hope you will take time to rent it on amazon or netflix because keeping secrets destroys trust.

There are all kinds of movies with the opposite theme. So many spouses on film keep secrets from their partners, though it rarely bodes well for the future. To name just one there is the 2001 French movie, Time Out, about a husband who does not tell his wife or friends that he has lost his job.

Keeping secrets about jobs, money, “friendships” that are deep connections or emotional affairs begins with suspiciousness about things not adding up & progresses into destruction of trust.

If it is particularly hard for you to be vulnerable with someone you love there are at least 2 possibilities why it might be hard. The first are those who have suffered from real trauma. It’s important for a soldier to not be vulnerable in battle, and they can find it hard to reverse that process when they return to their family. Someone who is sexually abused by a relative may easily reach the survival conclusion to build walls.

Trauma requires help & the hard work of therapy. Therapy is a place to begin to practice vulnerability.

The second reason it might be hard to be vulnerable is for those who have solved their anxiety problems by being a perfectionist. Perfectionists will not be vulnerable because it would undermine all their hard work to do everything right. Perfectionists have a tough time sharing or being exposed in any way besides together. Vulnerability requires being out of control, not knowing what will happen.
If you are perfectionistic watch the 2 videos on the bottom of my perfectionism page on therapy ideas.net.

My suggestion is that you practice greater vulnerability with the people you love the most. When my kids were small I wanted to build trust & would apologize when I made a mistake. Honesty about your own mistakes builds trust with kids, instead of hiding behind the thin veneer of “I’m the adult, I know best.” While that may often be true, it is certainly not always true.

The take away today is to think about the people you trust the most & feel closest to; they are the people you can be the most real with. A teacher told me about the lovely honest valentine she got from a student “You are my second favorite teacher”…..truth is the path to vulnerability. Share your dark side, be real about it and you will begin to grow.

My challenge to you today is to ask yourself when was the last time you shared something you were ashamed of? Do you have any secrets from the one you love most? Is that something you can begin by imagining sharing? Be honest with yourself, that while you may believe you can predict what will happen but you are really stepping into uncertainty. Ask yourself how often do you present your partner with a “christmas letter viewpoint of the day” instead of sharing the part that was hard?

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