The Secret Strength of Vulnerability
We hear a lot about courage and vulnerability these days. Are you curious why they are getting so much attention? These are two essential elements in building relationships. Intimacy requires vulnerability and courage! Willingness to be vulnerable to one another is an essential feature of a successful relationship.
Vulnerability. . . Risky?
Vulnerability can be described as emotional risk, or exposure. Without vulnerability, we cannot make human connections. As humans, we must make connections to survive. When we put up walls, physical or emotional, we disconnect and disappear. We sacrifice that life- giving intimacy. When we are hiding behind our walls, we struggle to find purpose.
In the beginning of relationships, we usually put our best foot forward. Sometimes we struggle with showing our authentic selves for fear of rejection or judgment. But if we stay in this place of safety, no one can get to know our authentic self. Vulnerability is often likability! No one wants to fall in love with a phony.
This process of revelation is especially painful if you are struggling with shame, or you think that something is bad or wrong with you.
Vulnerability Takes Courage
As Brene Brown discusses in her book, Daring Greatly, vulnerability gets a bad rap. People tend to confuse vulnerability with weakness. People misperceive vulnerability as a failing or a liability. But as Dr. Brown so wonderfully points out, they are, in fact in opposition!
Searching, finding, and identifying one’s vulnerability takes true courage and builds strength. Loving someone who may not love you back takes courage. Taking risks and showing our true selves takes courage, and requires vulnerability at the same time. Saying “I love you” first in a relationship takes courage and vulnerability. And that is anything but weakness.
Even within the safety of marriage, couples have difficulty with vulnerability.
Vulnerability Builds Trust
When we feel pride or arrogance as defense mechanisms we are hiding our vulnerability. When we practice those speeches (you know, the ones where we pretend to give our partner a piece of our minds) we are feeling and hiding vulnerability. When we escape our feelings through numbing and addictions, we are hiding vulnerability. When we numb our feelings, we numb all of our feelings, even the good ones.
Intimacy in your relationships requires that you meet each other at your deepest level and needs. It requires that you expose your imperfections and that you do not see your partner’s imperfections as inadequacies.
To build trust, you must acknowledge your partner’s vulnerabilities and protect them. We find that part of the joy of intimacy is that by showing our vulnerabilities, our partner loves us not despite our imperfections, but because of them.
By breaking down our walls and exposing our true selves, we gain the truest, strongest protection there is: unconditional love.
What bold vulnerable act can you take in your relationship today?
About the Author:
Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group.
Imagine Hope Counseling Group provides marriage, couples, individual and family counseling for adults, children and adolescents. Based out of Indianapolis, Indiana, Imagine Hope’s desire is to inspire hope for life and relationships, understanding that Hope is one of the most important things a person needs in order to keep pressing on when life gets tough. Alexa has specialized experience in helping others in the areas of depression, anxiety, infidelity, communication, addictions and grief.