The paradox of vulnerability in relationships, the path to connection, is to allow yourself to be both strong and vulnerable at the same time. When you do, it allows your partner to get to see the real you with your defenses down. This means no hiding. Not from yourself, not from your partner and best of all no hiding from the truth.
Recently we had a conversation with our friend George which was quite telling about how men in this society are taught to deal with vulnerability. George told us about how he grew up on the streets of Manhattan, and you just didn't show any signs of weakness. If you did you were dead. He went on to explain that he would now confide his feelings to both his male and female friends much more quickly than to his wife (if at all). George loves his wife, and there is a deep bond between them but, he doesn't want her to perceive him as being "weak".
Plain and simple, George is typical of most males in our society. They are taught -- don't show vulnerability. It's the sign of weakness.
Women in our society are taught to let a man lead. Women are taught to wait for a man to call them for a date, for men to open doors for them, to ask them to marry them, to initiate sex, and much more. Whether consciously or unconsciously, even the strongest women in the corporate world find themselves allowing the lead in relationship.
Dotty was a very successful labor consultant. Making three times the income her husband made. Her friends were astonished when she confided in them that she would have to ask her husband if she could buy a new pair of shoes.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable in relationship is the fuel that propels the relationship to move forward and grow. If you don't allow yourself to be vulnerable, what you are doing is building walls to keep others from being able to hurt you. As life and business philosopher Jim Rohn says "the walls we build to keep out the sadness also keeps out the joy".
Mona Lisa Schultz reminds us that it's not healthy for your relationship, your emotions, or your body when one partner has all the power and the other has all the vulnerability. In fact, either position can be painful. You have to learn the joys and benefits of the opposite position -- of being vulnerable -- when the occasion calls for it, and seizing power when necessary.
In our relationship, we consider ourselves partners who maintain a healthy balance between power and vulnerability. Like many couples, our previous relationships were not that way. Even though we were married for many years to our previous partners, neither of us felt safe enough to truly be vulnerable with them.
In Susie's case, vulnerability was met with avoidance, distance, and perfunctory solutions to problems. In Otto's relationships, he never felt safe enough to express vulnerability, but did whatever was necessary to just "get along" and somehow make the relationship work.
This doesn't mean there wasn't love in our previous relationships. It only means there was an imbalance of power that didn't serve either partner or the relationship. When you don't feel safe enough to tell your partner anything, in fear of how they might react or what they might say or do, the passion dies and the relationship shortly thereafter.
Should You Stay -- Should You Go? Compelling Questions and Insights to Help You Make that Difficult Relationship Decision
by Susie and Otto Collins.
This book contains an experiential process of questions, stories and insights that will help you take a thorough, heartfelt examination of your relationship. It will also help you to clarify your next logical steps—whether those are to formulate ways to make the relationship better or to devise a plan to leave the relationship with grace.
Susie and Otto Collins are spiritual and Life partners who teach others how to create outstanding relationships of all kinds. Susie and Otto regularly write and present workshops on Spiritual Partnership: The new model for relationships that really work. Their message comes straight from the heart, their own experiences and from an intense study of other teachers and writers on relationships. Visit their web site at http://www.collinspartners.com and sign up for a FREE newsletter filled with tools, tips and ideas on creating outstanding relationships and ideas to help you on your spiritual path.