Being vulnerable in a relationship is healthy, attractive and necessary for growth. Without vulnerability in both you and your partner, relationships can lack meaning, depth and put a halt on healthy progression.
Being vulnerable is difficult. We are essentially exposing our true and honest selves. We are letting our guard down. We disclose details about our strengths and weaknesses. It is an ingredient in only the healthiest relationships.
So, if this is the case, why do we get repeatedly hurt, disappointed and rejected when being vulnerable in our relationships? I will give you two reasons, Timing and Safety.
1. Timing is crucial.
I meet with so many clients who have exposed themselves verbally, physically and spiritually in a relationship much too soon. They are always hurt and very regretful. One of the reasons it is so difficult to move slowly is the constant message we get from the media, maybe even our peers and heaven forbid our partner, to move faster than we are comfortable with.
Don’t give in!
Can you imagine a sales person coming to your front door to try to sell you some hand cream?
And you invite him into your home.
Can you then imagine inviting him up to your bedroom so he can tell you about the ingredients in the hand cream?
Can you imagine telling him all about how your mother died last year?
He then offers you a discount on the cream if you pay for a year’s supply. You both then decide to sit on your bed so you can discuss payment options.
By the way, he still has his dirty boots on.
This seems absurd, doesn’t it?
I am even having a difficult time writing it. Most of us would never do something like this, yet we make very similar decisions and do very similar things in our relationships. Making ourselves vulnerable in a relationship is healthy, but never before the right time. That time typically comes slower than you think.
2. Safety is mandatory.
Think about this for a moment. Bring to your mind a very intimate detail about yourself that you do not share with people. Maybe you have never shared it with anyone because it is embarrassing, shameful or even humiliating. Maybe it is something you do not fully understand, so you lack confidence in communicating about it.
Now try to imagine having to tell someone that detail about yourself.
What would you need in that person to be able to disclose the information with ease?
What would their body language have to look like for you to feel safe?
What kind of eye contact would they make for you to feel they are listening?
What kind of words would they say or not say?
Would you need them to be totally focused on you or would they be distracted with their phone?
How would they handle the information later for you to continue to feel safe and secure?
Would they share it with others?
Would they share it online where virtually anyone could find out?
Or would they treat the information as sacred. Would they show a sense of reverence around that topic, knowing it was difficult for you to share?
Think about it.
You need to create safety to be vulnerable. You need a safe environment and a safe person. You need to know ahead of time, what types of behaviors help you feel safe and comfortable in a relationship and what behaviors do not so you can communicate this to your partner. You will be much more successful at being vulnerable if you create a safe place to experience it in.
And lastly, the same goes for you. Ask your partner what you can do to help him feel safe and then follow through. Good Luck!
Barbara C. Murray, MSW, LCSW
How To Overcome the Fear of Being Alone
This is such an unending topic of conversation. How many of us have remarkable intentions and countless ideas floating in our head? Some of them have been there for years! I wager you could identify one of your own right now. Something you have wanted to accomplish for a long time but well, you just have not been motivated to get it done. I truly believe each of us have an innate desire to progress, to improve ourselves and our relationships. You are not alone in recognizing the difficulty in getting started and then staying on the road to completion.
Here are 5 things to combine with your goal to get motivated.
#1 Do not expect to find motivation in the middle of feeling unmotivated.
Will power is a limited resource, do not rely on it when you do not have much (or any) at the time. It is extremely difficult to make knowledgeable, smart decisions in the moment. There are too many temptations that hit us daily that are not in line with our goals. We need to plan ahead.
#2 Make a Plan.
Every night before you go to bed, make your plan for the next day. Pick a day of the week to plan your week and every year around the same time, plan your year.
What are your long-term goals this year? How can you break that down?
I would include in your daily planning how you will feed yourself on a spiritual level and how you will feed/hydrate your body. Where will you fit in vegetables tomorrow? Where will you fit in fruit? How will you fit in all the water you need to be drinking? I recently planned for this one for myself by the way. I decided I needed to drink more water each day (I am not a big water drinker). I researched the healthy amount for me in addition to talking to my doctor. I fill up half that amount the night before in a designated container and place it by the kitchen sink and my goal is to drink the entire amount by noon. Then as soon as I am finished, I fill it up again and drink the second half by 6pm. I have proudly been doing this for several months now and it has made a significant positive impact on the way I feel each day.
We need to plan for when and how we will implement a behavior with the goal of it becoming automatic. Once a behavior becomes automatic, we do not need to rely much on will power anymore.
#3 Thoughts precede behavior.
In Tommy Newberry’s book: The 4:8 Principle, he talks about making a “To Think List”. A “To Think List” is essentially creating a list of thoughts we will have about the next days planned activities. Include truths about our potential, past successes, and desired attitudes. This helps us become intentional thinkers and in turn very intentional doers!
#4 Know and review frequently the bigger picture.
Whatever it is you want to be more motivated about, know why it would be worth it in the end. List the benefits and memorize them. Hang a representation of that end goal somewhere you will see it daily and review your desired result frequently with a trusted support person. This will be especially necessary to review every time you relapse into unmotivating thoughts and behavior.
#5 Celebrate your accomplishments especially the small ones.
At the days, weeks and years end, reflect on all you accomplished and decide what you would like to keep doing. You can even do this as a part of your planning time at the end of the day. Small wins help us to continue taking action and move on to bigger ones. Recognizing your achievements is important to help maintain the right perspective when you feel like you’re not getting any closer to your end goal.
Barbara Murray, LCSW
No one wants to be alone. We find comfort in healthy relationships. It is an essential part of the human experience. When we mature, we especially find comfort in romantic relationships. They are intended to be synergetic, self-esteem building, growth producing. To wish to be in and stay in a committed relationship is an admirable goal and makes sense!
Here are some ways to prevent wasting precious time and energy on relationships that are not a good fit for us. Even if we already know it is not a good fit, these tools can also help us stop ignoring those red flags.
1. Make a “What I Know for Sure” list.
Get to know yourself and what you stand for. You are smarter than you think you are! You have many years of life experience where you have learned valuable life lessons. Include your values, standards and beliefs about characteristics of healthy romantic relationships. Also, list the things you know are never healthy in a relationship. It may come from your own experiences and/or what you have witnessed in other relationships.
2. What is your long-term goal for a romantic relationship?
It should include personal growth and joy. There is a lot of solid research about healthy long term relationship goals.
3. Make decisions ahead of time.
Decide how you will implement your list. Decide how you will defend this list. Identify those oh so subtle veers off your path and acknowledge and address them. ***Note that here is where your red flags will begin to pop up or not pop up!
4. Re read your list often.
Especially while you are in a romantic relationship with someone. Unhealthy characteristics of romantic relationships are literally everywhere, including pornography, so keep in mind that if you are not constantly careful and intentional it is very likely the relationship will veer off your healthy, planned path.
5. Nurture and give attention to the healthy relationships you DO have in your life (romantic or not).
The more time and energy you give to these relationships, the more likely you will attract those who are interested in being healthy with you!
Having a goal and plan for your relationships is very attractive. You are much more likely to attract those who fit into your definition of healthy if you do some homework. You may need to tweak it a bit as you gain more knowledge and understanding. Good Luck!
Barbara C. Murray, MSW, LCSW
Barbara Murray is a regular contributor to LoveEvolveandThrive.com and has been featured on multiple topics regarding relationships and women's issues. Read her insights below.
How To Deal With a Man Who Blows Hot and Cold
How To Be Vulnerable When You Have Been Repeatedly Hurt, Disappointed and Rejected in Your Past Relationships
Finding Motivation When Times Are Tough
Barbara C. Murray MSW LCSW LLC
If you feel the man you are dating is blowing hot and cold air.... act.
Men who send frequent opposing messages in a relationship probably feel confused themselves. Being engaged and attentive to you and your needs one day and withdrawn and in a bad mood the next may be a sign they lack confidence and feel unsure about themselves and their goals. They may also have a fear of committing or progressing in the relationship. It could also just be plain selfishness. When they need attention, they seek it and when they don’t, they withdraw, without a thought for how the behavior affects you. In this case of pure selfishness, it looks like the beginning of a control cycle. Men who can switch moods quickly and frequently may struggle with a mental illness and/or suffer from a traumatic past.
Regardless of the reason, it is not healthy to “sit” in a relationship with these characteristics. You would not be showing respect for him or yourself. Neither of you will progress in this type of relationship.
If you are unsure if what you are experiencing is accurate, you may want to run your thoughts by a close friend or family member-see if they notice similar confusing behavior.
So, first things first, know that you are not responsible for someone else’s mood swings. You are also not responsible for someone else’s traumatic past or mental illness. You can certainly be a support to him, but ultimately, he needs to take accountability for his behavior whether there is trauma or mental illness in his past or not. This may include him getting some professional help.
Address your concerns and goals with your partner and pay attention to his reaction. If you continue to get the same hot cold behavior, keep a distance.
It may be time to free yourself from this relationship. These are not characteristics of a healthy relationship. Act and get some help. Find support in your family and /or friendship circles. You may even find help with a professional counselor if you find it difficult to break away and set boundaries.
Everybody has a bad day occasionally. But in a healthy relationship, you both talk about and process those occasional bad days. You feel confident, safe and comfortable giving support and receiving support from him. The communication between the two of you feels clear and consistent. You both know for the most part what to expect from each other. You both have a desire to grow and strengthen the relationship and create a deeper friendship. You both have fun being together and getting to know each other better.
If it comes down to the fact that he just does not want to pursue the relationship with you, respect his choice. Remember not every man will want to be with you in a romantic relationship just like you will most likely not wish to continue a relationship with every man you date.
My best to you!
Barbara Murray, LCSW