I ask all the couples I work with this very question during the assessment process. Sadly, for a lot of people the answer is “no.” This is in part largely due to the type of emotional attachment that they had with their parents. If their parents were emotionally and physically available for them when they were in need (example if they: fell down on the playground, were hurt by a sibling, were teased at school, had a fight with a friend, or were dumped by a girl/boyfriend) and we able to offer them comfort and acceptance (“it makes sense that you are hurt, afraid or sad”) then they most likely would be able to be vulnerable in adult relationships. If you had parents like this then you probably learned two very important things:
1. My feelings are valid, understandable, and they matter.
2. Someone will always be there for me to comfort me when I am vulnerable.
Unfortunately most people were lucky if they were able to have one parent that was nurturing and supportive. Plus our whole society works to socialize boys and men through the “Boy Code” that their vulnerable feelings are shameful and weak. So how does this impact us as adults in intimate relationships? Well if it’s not ok for us to feel afraid, sad, or hurt then we usually do one of two things:
- Shut down our feelings, numb out, withdraw and keep them to ourselves
- Get angry and attack our partners when we feel hurt or afraid (it’s easier to be angry then it is to be vulnerable)
Regrettably when we use these strategies we don’t usually get a loving compassionate response filled with the reassurance and comfort we need. We usually get either no response (because were not sharing) or a very defensive attacking response as our partner’s fight to defend themselves.
Fortunately there is a solution. We need to learn how to embrace our vulnerability. We need to learn how to stop for a minute, tune into what we are feeling, reach out from a place of vulnerability, believe and trust that are feelings are valid and that our partner will be there for us, allow ourselves to be comforted and reassured by our partners, and rest in their arms.
At a Path of Heart Counselling Services we can help you get out of negative communication patterns and find your way to embracing and sharing your vulnerability. We offer couples counselling as well as an Eight Week Group for Couples that will be starting Feb 21st. For more information please see our website at http://www.apathofheart.com/groups_and_workshops.php
Please also check out this great link which shows you a 20 min video all about vulnerability http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html