Vulnerability and Sharing "Vulnerable" Things in Intimate Relationships
The most recent “Love of My Life” helped me see and understand something I was unaware of.
She would share something about her inner life with me and I would listen attentively, and when she was finished I would thank her for sharing it. I love understanding my lover at a deeper level so any time they share their experience I am definitely interested. On several occasions though, she would pause when finished, put a hand to my forearm and say, “that was really vulnerable for me to share”.
“Oh!” I would say. “Ok”.
The reality is I have never really understood or agreed with the conversation around vulnerability in intimate conversations. I understand it now.
But often, I will share something, and the person (usually the woman) I am sharing it with will acknowledge how vulnerable it was for me to share. Except it wasn’t. Why? And, why not?
Let’s examine this together:
If you feel something is “vulnerable to share” that means you are psychologically and emotionally exposing your underbelly to someone when you share it. Like when a cat reveals their tummy to you - and as a natural predator, they know they can be gutted so this is a sign of safety and trust. - Following the metaphor when someone shares something vulnerable for them it means they either feel safe enough with you, mustered enough courage to share it, were able to set aside their fears for long enough, or “white-knuckled it” though their fears to share it in spite of the fact that they are emotionally very sensitive about the matter and your response has the power to devastate them emotionally.
It also means they are dependent on you for your approval at this moment to feel okay about themselves or about the thing they are sharing.
This is one of the many reasons supporting Agreement 1: Telling the Truth and Hearing the Truth.
If we are to be sensitive to them and their needs and we want to increase the level of intimate sharing from them, we would do well to be caring and kind when they share something that took courage or they had fear around sharing. The more we make it safe for them to share - meaning we make it no big deal with no dramatic reactions - and thank them and acknowledge them for sharing it and the courage it took, the more they will share and the more intimacy and connection you will experience with them.
They will open to you more and more.
That’s how we engage with them there. With kindness.
How we deal with it when the roles are reversed is very different.
Now, imagine it is you doing the sharing. If you feel it is vulnerable to share what this is pointing to your fear that they will judge you, shame you, stop liking you, be angry or hurt, or leave you when you share it. Setting aside any possibility that you are revealing you broke an agreement - that’s a very different animal - at its worst, this can be a sign of co-dependence. At best, it points to a lack of full self-acceptance as you are looking to them/hoping for validation or approval.
At this point, we can look back on both the sections on esteem for yourself.
Once you have fully accepted every aspect of yourself - meaning be willing to look in the mirror unflinchingly at all of your exceptional qualities, your faults, and everything in between - once you can face the truth about yourself fully - the whole experience of “vulnerability” fades away. Once you have self-acceptance, shame and shaming, and the fear of a lack acceptance from others and the corollary seeking or needing of their approval all evaporate - or at the very least you become immune in a healthy way.
This is an excerpt from Jason's forthcoming book on Evolutionary Relationships from the #RelationshipContinuum section.
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