Have you ever been hesitant to tell your partner they have hurt your feelings? Or felt rejected after making a bid for connection that wasn’t reciprocated or even acknowledged? Is it hard for you to admit when you feel unsure or a lack of confidence in your abilities? Do you refrain from sharing things with your partner because you might be judged? If so, you are not alone – vulnerability is an issue for many couples.
In the spirit of this spooky season, let’s begin with the fact that being vulnerable is SCARY. As a child, you learn how much of your true self is safe to show others and may experience the fallout of engaging with and trusting people who don’t truly accept you. This may lead to the development of an inauthentic sense of self in which you feel like no one truly knows or understands you. As an adult, you might feel like you have an idea of how the world works and have likely developed coping mechanisms that keep you safe but closed off from truly connecting with others, most likely your partner.
For example, if you were ridiculed for being emotional at some point in your life, you might learn that expressing difficult emotions in the presence of others is unacceptable or that being emotional is shameful. This experience might impact your ability to explore your own emotions and express yourself to your partner or hold space and be present for them when they are being emotional. In turn, you may come off as cold, distant, or even apathetic, however unintentional. For many, these types of experiences lead to a deep sense of disconnection and loneliness from both their partner and the rest of the world.
Vulnerability is a skill we refine over time. Showing your true, authentic self to another person requires a unique combination of courage, trust, and resiliency. Vulnerability sounds scary because opening yourself up to others puts you at risk for judgment and rejection. However, it also creates an opportunity for connection and understanding – two important tenants of an intimate, lasting relationship. One small step to shifting this dynamic of disconnection is to first recognize how you struggle to be vulnerable in your relationship and the impact it may have on how connected you feel to your partner. After this reflection, I encourage you to open up a dialogue about this with your partner and learn more about their experience so that you both can make the necessary changes, together.
As always, if you are struggling to have meaningful and/or constructive conversations with your partner I recommend making an appointment with a qualified couples therapist at Together Couples Counseling. We are here to help!