“We are the most in-debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history…We numb vulnerability.” – Brene Brown
Jen and Ben bit the dust. It made me sad, I had higher hopes for these guys. 10 years! Wow, says the media – they really made it for ten whole years. Well, some psychologists think that the way to ‘divorce proof’ your marriage lays in one word – vulnerability. The Huff even wrote about divorce-proofing your marriage through this ‘super secret method’ years ago.
A bit ago, I had lunch with old friends. They spent the entire meal picking on one another, insulting each other and showing their ugly at my table. It made me uncomfortable and I can only imagine how it made each of them feel. My husband and I are certainly imperfect. I am sure I am guilty of the same behavior at times in our lives – but, I can and want to do better for both our sakes.
Vulnerability begins with educating our children on their emotions. You have to be vulnerable to teach vulnerability. It’s sort of ridiculous to never let your children see you cry, see you afraid, see you fail at anything. Parents are super people, right? So very wrong. If you don’t show your children that you’re human they will try to become super people too and that’s just not setting fair or realistic goals. My children know I have a fear of heights. My children have seen me cry, fight, fail. But, they also know I wipe away my tears, resolve, move on and function. Those are important lessons and ones they cannot learn without being vulnerable to them. They need to be vulnerable in return – letting them cry on your shoulder, say their “I hate yous!” (and hopefully apologize later). It’s part and parcel of growing up healthy. Don’t believe me? Read this and learn more.
Vulnerability is scary. You can dump your stuff out of the drawers and have someone laugh, cry or get angry at the mess you made. So you have to do it with someone you trust, right? Well, yes and no. I have learned that you can be vulnerable in smaller ways and sort of test the waters. Share something and watch how they react. Humans are a beautiful beast – sometimes they exceed our expectations. And, for those that don’t well, screw em. You’re better for trying to connect. I realized that so few of the married people we know share a deep, obvious connection with their spouse. They bicker, they pick on each other, they make fun of one another and say hurtful things in public. They seem so full of resentment and anger. This person you selected out of all the people in the world you’ve met. This person you’ve had babies with – is suddenly public enemy #1. You can either live a life filled with yuk or you can open the dresser drawers and see what falls out.
Vulnerability is not gender specific. There’s some misconception that women can and should be vulnerable and men should sit and learn to be better listeners. ‘It’s weak to show your feelings’ ‘Men can’t do it’ I’m sorry, this is just simply not true. If a man is having issues with being vulnerable it’s simply because he wasn’t taught the skill or shown acceptance. And, yes, it is a skill. Hand him this and have him read those articles – there are primers, facts, psychological studies and real stories of men learning how to open the door to sharing their feelings. And, ladies it’s our turn to be better listeners and not attack him when he does it.
About 20 years ago, an old friend of mine got married to a guy after 3 dates. I freaked on her. How could you marry someone when you haven’t even had your first fight? How do you know he’s the one? I tried to shake sense into her. But, she said “I can see that I could love him.” And, with that they married. No vulnerability, no openness, no obvious mutual respect or love. She just saw potential. Naturally, they divorced a few years later and she called to tell me I was right. Never marry a person you haven’t had a fight with – let them be vulnerable and show you their ugly. If you can take it and show your own ugly in return, you can live a beautiful life. At least that’s what I’m hoping!
Infusing Vulnerability into your Marriage In response to so many things in each of our lives, both my husband and I committed to living life with more vulnerability. We were going to spend more date nights out – not stressing over what we were going to do (which is now typically just sushi dinner out) but sitting face to face with one another and opening up our proverbial drawers. In the beginning, being completely vulnerable for anyone is sort of scary. Allowing your angry, messed up thinking to come to the forefront can open a huge can of worms that leads to fights, arguments, disagreements, bad places. Or, at least, that’s what I thought. But, if you take a moment to carefully select your vocabulary (using “I feel” and focusing on how I feel, rather than “you do…”) being vulnerable and open is cathartic and brings you closer as long as your listener does his job – acceptance.
After nearly 20 years of marriage, you would assume you know all there is to know about the person you sleep next to every night (except when a little one sneaks in between at 2 am) – but, vulnerability and openness really showed me that there is always more to learn. Fears about work or money, stresses about social changes as we age, obligations that suddenly felt overwhelming. Sometimes, I didn’t even know that by being vulnerable we were both tapping into parts of ourselves we didn’t even realize we had!
Vulnerability leads to Intimacy – the ultimate payoff. If you are able to achieve connections through your vulnerability your payoff will be intimacy. Media often equates intimacy with something sexual. And, that is not always the case. Intimacy, I have learned is a deep connection, warmth and comfort you feel with someone because they know your ugly, can share their ugly and think it’s beautiful. It’s a level beyond the ‘relationship’ – it’s the ultimate happiness to truly feel intimacy with someone.