How your willingness to be vulnerable can make or break your relationship
I sometimes think of love and deep relationships as a type of dance. You waltz around your partner, feeling graceful, waiting for the right moment to lean in, hoping (praying???) that she is on the same page, ready to meet you. Life is GORGEOUS when she meets you where you are and you’re ready to do the same for her – it’s almost like nothing bad can ever happen. You move this way – she moves with you. She goes that way – you’re with her. You’re the perfect dance partners connected in
But what if when you lean in to connect she is doing her own dance – breakdancing or something? You were feeling so great, in the FLOW, sure that she was right there with you. But then she’s over there doing THAT??????
I know I don’t want to keep doing a beautiful waltz for her in the living room if she’s wearing a white glove while moonwalking into the kitchen!
So I’m talking about dancing here, but obviously what I’m REALLY getting at is the razor thin line that exists between connection and rejection in a relationship. The draw and power of a romantic relationship is that it has the ability to deeply connect us to another person emotionally, sexually, intellectually.
However, in order to meaningfully connect we have to make ourselves VULNERABLE. And with vulnerability comes the risk of rejection.
We can break it down to this simple formula:
Vulnerability = Possible connection
Vulnerability = Possible rejection
With this formula in mind, I see couples follow a general common pattern in their relationships:
During this time, couples typically are very vulnerable with each other in all areas of their lives. They are open and interested in each other sexually. They share intimate details (sometimes even secrets) about each other’s lives. They are typically more open emotionally, sharing and showing strong feelings about the other and about themselves. They are wanting to share all aspects of their life with their partner, including their interests, intellectual ideas, and social circles.
Following the initial period of vulnerability, couples enter a time of “mixed vulnerability.” This can last for years (in some cases through the remainder of the relationship) and looks different for every couple and every individual within the relationship. Broadly speaking, as people become more used to each other (i.e., less infatuated) they also become more protective of their own emotional safety. In other words, couples become unwilling to withstand the feeling of rejection – this leads them to become less and less vulnerable with each other
Final Phase (can go one of two ways):
1) Couples become increasingly distant and protective of their own vulnerabilities. In the worst case scenario, partners become enemies who hate each other and literally are not emotionally safe because they are trying to hurt each other. In the best case, they fall out of love, no longer feel connected, and do not see each other as a source of support or joy.
2) Couples begin to recognize their individual and relationship patterns of increasing distance and protectiveness. They may be hurt, angry, or scared, but most importantly, they want to make their relationship better. They want to feel close and connected again and are willing to do whatever they can to make that happen.
It is that second group of the final phase that I tend to see in couples therapy. You are the ones who are ready to be close to your partner again. You are ready to be vulnerable by looking honestly at how YOU contribute to issues in the relationship. You are ready to talk openly and begin sharing parts of yourself again.
When I see couples move from a pattern of protectiveness and lack of trust to one of openness and vulnerability the results are THRILLING!! It’s why I do the work I do! Couples find it thrilling as well – there really is nothing like learning that you can be truly safe and connected with the person you care so much about, and that you can do it while being YOURSELF!
If you’re ready to experience the thrill of dancing in vulnerability first hand, we are here to help. Schedule an initial consultation or contact us to learn more about how couples counseling works. We’d love to hear from you!