September 3, 2009
Both are willing to take the risk of being vulnerable with each other.
Vulnerability defined: “Allowing yourself to be in a position with another person who if they chose to, could hurt you; when they don’t, then the result is an increase and improvement in relational and emotional intimacy”.
Improving intimacy by increasing vulnerability
The desire for vulnerability seems to be a basic need that all of us human beings were born with. If you doubt this, just spend a little time observing a toddler over the course of several months of his or her early years. As he learns to navigate both physically as well as relationally, he seems to be fearless; he isn’t afraid of falling, doesn’t seem to fear water, dogs, hot stoves or criticism from others. And-much to the chagrin of Mom and Dad-that little kid doesn’t at first seem to fear strangers either.
But ever so slowly, and as a result of imperfect relationships and life experiences, he begins to conclude that, “this vulnerability thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be! I just got hurt! I’d better start protecting myself from any further hurt in the future”.
Just like that toddler, all of us have learned over the course of our lives to trust less and to guard ourselves more from being hurt by others. And for many of us, it becomes easier and safer to simply settle in to a life of self-protection, rather than to pursue a life that involves taking risks in the relationships we value most. And needless to say, it is easy to bring this baggage of guarding ourselves from being hurt into our marriages. When we do, we miss out on the benefits of greater intimacy that being vulnerable can bring. And this self-protection and fear of being vulnerable can prevent the development of deeper relationships-something I believe we all want and value, but don’t always attain to a satisfactory degree.
The key (in a nut shell) then, to overcoming your fear of being hurt, disappointed, let down, (or whatever your specific fear might be) is to step outside what you have grown to feel safe with-your comfort zone-and to call the bluff of any “catastrophic expectations” that you fear might come along with being vulnerable. Doing this will go a long way to weaken any life long patterns and fear-based behaviors that are negatively affecting your current relationship.
Needless to say, all of this is easier said than done, but it IS possible. And your efforts are bound to bring significant changes for the better to the most important and potentially most satisfying relationship you will ever have. Step outside your comfort zone with each other, take risks, allow yourselves to be in a position with each other where you could be hurt. If you are hurt, then address it and use it as a vehicle for growth; when you are not hurt-even though you could have been-then the intimacy between you will grow, and your relationship is bound to grow as well.
Ed Wimberly, Ph.D., author of Parenting with an Attitude....21 Questions Successful Parents Ask Themselves