It’s a word that, in my opinion, people are way too obsessed with. Way too often, our therapists, friends and family tell us that we need to “allow ourselves to be vulnerable.”
For years I have obsessed over this word. I have spent countless hours reading articles on exactly what it means. Well, the best I could find was that, essentially, I needed to allow myself to be at risk of getting hurt.
The idea of vulnerability has made me sick to my stomach for so long. My excuse for absolutely not wanting to be in this state stems from my past of really seeing how it can completely backfire on you. Divorce does weird things to people.
If you’re like me, you over-analyze literally everything. You over-analyze the small things like how in the hell pigeons know they need to mate with other pigeons instead of a crow. You over analyze the big things like whether or not any of the relationships around you are even genuine. (God knows you’ve seen many that aren’t.) So, I am going to over-analyze vulnerability for a minute.
Vulnerability, coming from the Latin word for “wound” is, in a nutshell, a term used to describe someone that has a quality of being easily hurt or attacked. For a lack of better words, these people are a target to getting picked on. They’re open to injury.
We live here, and we don’t even realize it.
In everything we do in our daily lives, we are putting ourselves at risk. Every day we get into our car we take the risk of not making it back home. I could go on and on for days about everything we do and how those activities could potentially kill us (that’s just the over-thinker in me).
It makes sense; honestly, we have to be at risk if we want to live.
If you really want to know how to master vulnerability when it comes to relationships, stop now. It is not possible to convince yourself to want to be in emotional danger. You’ll have your days where maybe it’s working out and you think, “Hey, I didn’t pick a fight with my boyfriend today. How exciting.” And then you’ll go right back down into the, “I just can’t do this” mode. It’s just too hard to try and be okay with being vulnerable.
If vulnerability means what it means, why don’t we treat relationships the same way we do driving? I wear my seatbelt, I look both ways when crossing an intersection (except this week when I totaled my car), and I am surrounded by airbags and fancy designed framework. I do my research (well, my guy friends and dad do) on the safety and reputation of a vehicle before I make the purchase. Yes, driving puts me at risk, but all of the safety measures I take when I am in that vehicle really lower my chances of actually getting hurt.
Although I think it is important to look both ways before crossing and do extensive research (my old boss taught me how to look up someone’s criminal record really easily), there are three ideas that have made me feel a little better about accepting that I have to be vulnerable.
My seatbelts are my morals and values.
When you’re in a relationship trying to be vulnerable, it becomes difficult to really trust someone’s intentions when they are trying to sway you to act a certain way. Keep your seatbelt on.
Know who you are and what you believe in. Know what is right and what is wrong. Know your definition of love and your definition of hate or indifference. In relationships, there are so many gray areas you really have to know your blacks and whites.
Why does this matter in the long run? This is how you know that you are going to stay true to who you are so that when everything crashes and burns (well, if it crashes and burns, you have a 50/50 chance here), you still have yourself. When you think of it, you are the only one who will truly get you through a tough time once it’s all said and done.
So sure, be vulnerable…but keep your seatbelt on.
Your people are your airbags.
When you find yourself in a crash, your airbags are there to soften the blow a little bit. They are there to make sure you don’t completely bash your head into a hard steering wheel or a glass window.
Never ever let your relationship take you away from your family and friends. First of all, that is a red flag of control and manipulation. This is my one and only argument I need to make my case. Your relationship has not yet passed the test of time that your friendships and family have passed. If and when that relationship fails the test of time, you need your people to soften that blow.
If you ever find yourself heartbroken once vulnerability reared its ugly head and you don’t have your airbags, it hurts 100 times worse. Quite frankly, this is why a lot of people withdraw their significant others from their family and friends. They do it with the idea that it’ll be much scarier leaving them knowing they’re all alone on the other side.
Knowing that I have an amazing support system (I keep my circle insanely small) to be there for me when everything else seems to be falling apart is sometimes the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.
Nothing is forever.
Even those amazing relationships that last “forever” are severed by “death do us part.” This isn’t to be morbid, but rather eye opening to vulnerability and how much it lives in us even when things are going great.
Framework is the world in which you live in. Framework is your hobbies, passions and careers. Risk isn’t only accepting that someone could break up or divorce us. Risk is also accepting that someone we love so deeply is going to be taken away from us too soon.
I have seen amazing marriages where the husband or wife was taken away by death. One of the hardest things for that person to cope with is how they are going to get through their day-to-day without them—because they literally did everything together.
We should always have our own framework of our world. We should be able to do something in our day that doesn’t remind us of the other person. Otherwise, what do we have when they go away? What can we do to help us heal and keep moving on in life?
Knowing that we have something for us in the end brings with it a sense of comfort and confidence.
Just because we are vulnerable, doesn’t mean we can’t protect ourselves too. Just because we have to run the risk of getting hurt, doesn’t mean we have to accept a complete emotional breakdown.
We can be vulnerable but still protect ourselves. We can be dangerous in the safest way possible.
Author: Jaclyn Fleming
Editor: Travis May