The Pledge of Vulnerability

The Pledge of Vulnerability

By Janet Joyce

When people are asked about being vulnerable in a relationship their thoughts and descriptions often turn toward the negative. For example, “Being vulnerable makes me weak,” or “Vulnerability is a bad thing because someone can use it against you.” But vulnerability can actually turn a good relationship into an even deeper and more rewarding one if you learn how to use it wisely.

The Soft Under-Belly of You

If you think about what your vulnerabilities are in your most important relationships, they can be distilled down to the things that are the most secret, carefully guarded, painful or intimate about you. When couples have been together for a long time they know their partner’s vulnerabilities without even really knowing how they know. Just think about your own close relationships and how you just seem to know the emotional soft spots of your friends, children or partners.

If you’ve ever said, “He really knows how to push my buttons,” then you understand this kind of inner knowledge. To be able to push those buttons someone has learned your vulnerabilities, whether spoken or just implied.

Sometimes, when you are angry or hurt by what someone has said or done, these little bits of information, which have been carefully stored away, can come out in the form of ammunition; to seek revenge, to win a point, or just to make your own hurt seem less.

But poking at your partner’s weak spots can cause real damage to your relationship. It would be surprising to find yourself feeling more safe around someone who chucks the sharp zinger at you when there’s an argument. In fact, you and your partner will certainly become more guarded in your relationship if you anticipate that any juicy private tidbit can become artillery in a relationship war game.

Vulnerability Is a Magic Gift

It takes a lot of courage, strength and trust to share the tender parts of yourself. When another person shares those self-secrets, they have not handed you a newly modernized weapons system; they have bestowed upon you a sacred and magic gift. It’s up to you to treat it with reverence and make the conscious and open-hearted decision to regard this sacred knowledge as the precious gift it is.

Think how much more relaxed and secure your relationships could be if you knew that no matter what happened, your partner would safeguard your most sensitive information and never use it against you, nor would they ever share this sacred knowledge with anyone else. That’s the magic.

When you truly understand that this level of sharing can bring you closer together, you can enjoy a deep sense of safety and security in your vulnerability with someone else. That’s how vulnerability can actually be used as a type of relationship super-glue for your sense of closeness, intimacy and connection to another.

Take the Pledge

Have an open conversation about this topic with your partner. Make agreements about how you will treat each other so you can both feel safer to divulge private or sensitive information. This is especially important if this type of trust is new to your relationship. But even if you feel that you already have deep trust, it’s still important to name it and acknowledge this important rule of any good relationship.

So the next time you learn something deeply personal about your partner, or they open up and share something difficult, acknowledge this gift to you and to the relationship. Saying “thank you” is always important, but in this case it can cement the notion that this kind of sharing is something dear and precious.
You can even create a vulnerability pledge that you both agree to follow. Here’s an example:

I promise that when I learn your secrets, or you share your vulnerabilities with me, that I will treat these as sacred and precious gifts that I have been given. I will not share this information with anyone else (unless you want me to) and I will never use this information in any way that hurts you or makes you feel unsafe in our relationship.

When you and your partner both make this type of pledge to each other you can relax into a place where you feel protected and secure, and where you are free to grow and be nurtured in the safe harbor your relationship was meant to be.

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7 Responses to The Pledge of Vulnerability

  1. Earl Herbert says:

    This article is wonderful, it spells out clearly all of the things I thought of my partner, who is a wonderful & loving person. I love her very much and she also said she loves me a lot as well!

    I believe she uses Vulnerability often towards me! How can I deal with that without damaging our relationship with her?

  2. Janet Joyce says:

    Hi Earl,

    Thanks so much for your comments. I’m glad you found this article useful.

    In answer to your question, when you feel that your partner uses your vulnerabilities in a way that is not helpful to the relationship it is often a good idea to identify it in the open. For example, you could state (in not-threatening language) how you feel when this occurs. Usually you will feel either unsafe or in some way uncomfortable.

    So, without pointing fingers at all, you can simply state “When you say that it makes me feel unsafe in our relationship. I don’t want that, and (giving your partner the benefit of the doubt) I know that is not what you intended. So, can we have this conversation differently so that we both feel safe and nurtured?”

    Many times gently pointing out what is occurring, without blame or accusation, can bring this content into the open in your relationship where you can work with it and come to new agreements that benefit both of you.

    I hope that answers your question, and I wish you and your partner all the best in your relationship.



  3. Jennifer says:

    Hi Janet
    I love the tone of this article; I am learning to trust myself and others and to remain open ie vulnerable which can feel scary, but it is in only in this held space of openess that intimacy arises.
    Blessings and thanks from Glastonbury UK

    • Janet Joyce says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for taking the time to respond to this article. I agree with you that being vulnerable can feel scary, which is why it is so important to acknowledge, and to deliberately create a space where you feel safe in any relationship.

      I encourage you to keep up the good work, to believe in yourself, in your ability to take risks, and in the ultimate benefit of that openness where intimacy truly does arise.

      Many blessings to you,


  4. Lisette says:

    Thank u so much. This article has helped me. I was unable to communicate this concept of what this vulnerability is and how it should be handled in my relationship with my boyfriend. This article has given me the language and now I can tell them to understand that when I sure my heart I am giving him a gift and that I also see that him sharing his heart is doing the same. So I will be able to talk with him about thsee things more clearly so that we can feel secure and safe within our relationship. This article has helped me way more than I can explain thank you.

    • Matthew says:

      Hi Lisette,

      I am so gratified to hear that this article has helped you create the language to relate these concepts in your relationship.

      Often that’s the missing piece in being able to change something as important as this, and to bring your relationship to a new and more intimate level.

      Even if it still requires more work, please think of this as a process that might require some tweaking or adjusting before it truly feels like your own. And that too is a gift to your relationship.

      My very best to you, and thanks again for your wonderful comments!


  5. vasu says:

    Hi Janet,

    I am not in relationship currently. I often hear from my friends & other I am kind of aloof & in my own shell distancing away from others who want to be closer with me.

    I did some thinking about it and it seems to be correct to some extent. I do stay away from ladies and not interact with them in a casual way, don’t like to ask for help when required and try to fix on my own.

    I am willing to change this pattern.

    Please advice.


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