“Being vulnerable is the only way for your heart to feel true pleasure.” -Bob Marley
Last week, my therapist assigned the book Conscious Loving by Gay Hendricks. I read a lot of personal development, so I was thrilled to be given a suggestion based on what I’m currently working on. I didn’t know, though, just how on-point the book would be. So far, I’ve been learning how to shift from co-dependent behaviors to co-committed behaviors within relationships. As I began to read, it became amazingly apparent just how co-dependent I had become in my current relationship.
Jeff, my therapist, and I talked about the importance of vulnerability and how much I struggle with it.
“Anne, how do you think things would have been different if you had been vulnerable about your feelings in that moment instead of acting out with anger?”
“But…if I was vulnerable and shared my feelings, and then they weren’t received well then I would fear feeling rejected.”
“And what would happen then?”
“Then I’d have to actually feel that and that sucks.”
“Bingo. You’d have to feel.”
It sounds so easy, right? Share what you’re feeling so you don’t escalate to the secondary emotion: anger. Sometimes certain feelings don’t seem worthy of being shared. Certain issues seem trivial, nit-picky, etc. But as I was reading this week, it started to come together, “The act of telling the microscopic truth about something seemingly trivial liberates the energy to uncover what is really going on at a deeper level.” Well shit, that’s pretty easy when the issue is, “I miss you and want to spend time with you.” When the truth behind something tackles self-worth, that’s where the journey gets a bit more uncomfortable.
Yesterday I went for a run. I’ve been training for a 10-mile race that I did for the first time last year. Within the first 5 minutes of my run, I started to struggle. My mind started telling me how incapable I was and the thought of running for 10 miles with Richard as my first time ever running with him started the negative tape:
*You’re not good enough to run with him.
*How shitty of you to slow him down.
*Do you think he actually wants to run with you?
*Think about how stupid you’ll look if you have to stop and walk.
*This just proves you’re not really an athlete.
My next thought: You have to tell him. You have to tell him how much you’re struggling with the thought of running together. I came home and immediately texted him, telling him I was struggling with my running confidence and asked if we could chat later that night. Later that night, we talked. I explained how running has always been MY thing in the past. I was inspired by a friend to do a race and that was all it took. I started challenging myself a bit more each year to see what I was capable of. The competitive part of me liked that even though I inspired Charlie to start running, I was better. I was the one who did the longer distances. When I met Richard, I loved that running was something we had in common, but now the competitive part of me was comparing the 2 of us. It feels like HIS thing I’ll never be good enough at. His response stung a bit. Not because there was anything wrong with it, but simply because it’s not what I wanted to hear. I don’t know what I wanted to hear and honestly, it doesn’t matter. I had to remind myself that I was being vulnerable for ME. The purpose of my vulnerability was not for a specific response or even to “feel better”, but just merely to get it off my chest.
“It’s not realistic that we’ll run every race together. It’s not realistic that we’ll run most races together, but if there’s a specific race you want to run together we can.” What I heard? “You’re not good enough.” My eyes started to well with tears and I knew that’s where the pain was. “Emotions are not good or bad, they’re just information” is what Jeff tells me. It reminded me of what it was like growing up with a brother who was better at violin than I was. No matter what I did, I always felt I was in his shadow. It reminded me of all the times I wanted Andrew to teach me how to play guitar, but when it came time to play in front of him I would shut down, afraid of looking stupid. I so badly want to share a common interest with my partner and learn from him. So, I will just have to learn how to share a hobby with Richard, while creating space for myself to be at whatever level I’m at.
I thought back to words from a friend earlier that day: “Remember that he wants to do this with you. He is actively choosing to meet you where you are. That is so powerful. He loves you. He might have more experience than you but that only makes him a good teacher for you. Throw the competition out the window, or the appearances and choose to receive his love and his help. This is how couples grow.”
Last night, as Richard fell asleep he was curled up on my shoulder. I was awake reading with the quiet sounds of his inhales and exhales in my ear. In that moment, I felt such intense love for him my entire body tingled, I felt amazingly alive and I started to cry. All I could think was, “This is it. This is what it feels like to be completely full of love and gratitude.”
This morning I went to church and everything I’ve worked on for the last 2 weeks came full-circle.
*Take off the armor.
*Peel back the layers.
*Be vulnerable, no matter how painful.
*When 2 people allow themselves to go through the pain of vulnerability, it is there they can truly be seen for who they are and deeply love one another.
*Create space within yourself to allow yourself to really feel.
This week, I commit to gently guiding myself through the rawness and discomfort of vulnerability to continue to show who I am at my core, one layer at a time.