What does it mean to be vulnerable in a romantic relationship?
Becoming vulnerable, in relationships, is an opening to the rawness and the richness that love extracts from our heart to expose our authentic self through another.
The Webster’s Dictionary defines vulnerable as:
Susceptible to physical injury. 2. Susceptible to attack. 3. Subject to criticism or censure. b. Liable to yield to temptation or persuasion. 4. Being in a position to receive greater penalties or bonuses.
Let’s look at this definition and think through the heart. To first consider a blow to the heart, an injury of the deepest kind, where no Band-Aid can just heal the wound, it must air out and coagulate to seal and renew. We can be physically sick by love; sickened with grief, disbelief or pure disappointment. When we open to love and become vulnerable we will always have that possibility of being injured and be subject to attack as we are wearing our heart on our sleeve. It is easy to catch a snag on our sleeve when we come too close to something sharp and rigid as we are trying to remain supple and exposed to our needs. With this search for symbiosis we can be giving love in ways we want to be loved and then be a target for criticism or worse silence if we should choose incorrectly. We can then become offended and take things to a personal manner with a subtle temptation to give in and change just what it is we are actually craving; all of this done for love. And, in the end, these sequences of letting love become vulnerable as we are exploring love without fear can be the most rewarding gift we can give to each other. We are here to be loved and give love. It is worth the pain to receive such a pleasure.
So, now that we know a defined idea for vulnerability, how do we manage what happens when we express this adjective through emotional, mental and physical components of our relationships?
When we decide to partner with someone, take the plunge and try each other out there really are more people involved than just two. When we open our heart to love we bring all our past loves along. As we are the mirrors to each other we are actually healing something from within that we cannot do alone. We all have had instances where a feeling or an image has come up after our partner has said or done something and felt as if a trigger response was necessary as they have hit something soft inside. When we are open and aware of our thoughts and our own energy we can stop and pause before we react. But let’s face it, most people, male or female, are just not that evolved yet in their heart. This is not a judgment toward people it is the baseline for our meeting each other in the first place. This is where the other comes in, the one from the past. The person experiencing this cut into the gut, the one where you don’t want to re-enter has two choices: to react or to retreat. This may be a time where we say to our boy/girlfriend, why so quiet all of the sudden, what is wrong? Or, why would you even say that, I never do those things. Hurt, unsure or just confused both people don’t know what to say. This is the moment to be vulnerable.
Communicating impaired feelings from previous love relationships breaks the barriers for real healing to begin for each other. Our first reaction may be to run, hide and act like things just can’t get better now; we have been open to our greatest fear; we could be repeating the past. But, no, this is exactly the moment to move into this old pain and squeeze out its final meaning. Our vulnerability will overshadow any type of personal attack from the other person when true love is in accord. Love knows not the wrongs we think we have labeled on ourselves. We are not to judge but indulge into the truth the person is sharing with us – their personal story of challenge and denial. It takes two willing and holy intended people to invite this pain into that moment and start the dialogue for truth. Each person will have to offer a clear channel for listening as most times this may be what we have wanted, to just be heard. Compassion, not sympathy, will create a new bridge for two, leaving the third person on the other side of nowhere. This important stage of relating is a set up for reminding us we have a past, to review our inner feelings and how they may still be affecting us and revising our position in our current relationship based on the present feelings and emotions tied to this new person.
As we continue to move through our love relationships we come to a place of not just being satisfied with the physical connection. As important as having this sensual personal union is we can still feel like something is missing. As we practice being vulnerable we create the yearning for true intimacy. Intimacy is the bond that transcends and blends all the senses into a silent security blanket that makes us feel totally loved and accepted. We carry these thoughts of being intimate with someone on the chest pocket of our heart. These are the memories that bring the smiles and the reassurance of a requited love. We must also acknowledge there needs to be a foundation to this relationship which is friendship. Putting out our vulnerable self and exploring intimacy without a shield needs the mutual respect that friendship fosters. We have to provide a safe place for just about anything to occur because life happens. We can try things and fail, get angry for no reason, make mistakes and use blame to hide our insecurities. Friendship honors all pieces of us; love admires, adores and delights in our individuality. All these beautiful opportunities come into fruition because we have learned to be vulnerable.
Is there an inherent risk to being vulnerable? Yes. We do have an opportunity to grow even if a situation reveals itself as incompatible as we have still learned something about our self. Remember we are the mirror and the mirror really has one face. We may be in this relationship to endure patience, tolerance or just a willingness to give love. Being vulnerable also means we can be tempted to flee when the wounds feel too painful and then we may miss the lesson we were intended to receive. This is where friendship comes into view as being an essential element of creating a successful, vulnerable and intimate relationship as we would not leave a friend in pain, we would give them space to come back into balance. Stay open, allow love to flow in and out of our lives, and like the definition expresses when we are vulnerable we position our self to receive great rewards. Love courageously!