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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