There are few things that bring two people closer together than vulnerability. Being physically, emotionally, or spiritually vulnerable with someone is a powerful force welding two hearts together. And the more times you’re vulnerable, the stronger the bond. There is a certain intimacy of vulnerability that can become precious between you.
It’s scary to be vulnerable. You might get hurt! There are many times where it’s not appropriate to be vulnerable. But where two people of good will are in a relationship together, being vulnerable is one of the most intimate things they can do.
When either Al or I are feeling bad in some way we are free to share that with the other. On one particular evening I was especially tired, both emotionally and physically. I had worked some long hours, and was feeling anxious and weary over several professional issues. Al took me in his arms and held me, and in that moment I completely let go. He told me later how intimate and special it was to him that I was so vulnerable in allowing him to “take care” of me for a moment.
Vulnerability may look a little different for men than for women, but it’s just as vital. Al has allowed me to see where he is afraid or anxious or emotional. I treasure those times!
What does vulnerability look like in a relationship? Here are some ideas:
- Honesty about physical problems. Yes, this includes the normal aches and pains. But it also includes sharing about things such as changing looks, stamina, or vitality as one gets older, medical illnesses, tests, or treatments, or just plain fatigue.
- Fears, hopes, and dreams. Talking about such things gives the other a window into one’s soul. It’s emotional vulnerability at its best.
- Struggles with integrity. Whether it’s an addiction, pornography or sexual struggles, or other challenges, honesty here can be extremely vulnerable. Having one’s spouse as one’s accountability partner is not enough in itself, but it can be indispensable in recovery.
- Praying together. This may feel especially challenging for men, but praying together is very intimate – and vulnerable. It’s truly worth finding a way to make it happen.
Vulnerability can be a double-edged sword. If you’re vulnerable with someone who is not your spouse it creates instant intimacy – and that’s dangerous. And if you’re not married to someone who is willing to be vulnerable also, your openness may leave you feeling hurt.
But for all its risks, there’s much to be gained by being vulnerable. And its risky nature is the very reason it creates such intimacy.
If you want to increase the vulnerability – and intimacy – in your relationship, here are a few steps to make it happen:
- Take the first step yourself. Don’t demand your spouse be vulnerable if you’re not being open yourself. Let down your walls in some way. Take a risk.
- Recognize the risk. If you’re vulnerable in some area and don’t get the response you wish, that’s OK. Talk about it. Evaluate your own expectations. And try again.
- Be safe. Nothing kills intimacy quicker than a critical, negative, or uncaring response. Make your heart a safe place for your spouse to risk sharing himself/herself.
I treasure moments of vulnerable intimacy with my husband. I hope you are experiencing those moments in your relationship as well.
Your turn: Is your relationship a safe place for both of you to be vulnerable? If not, what can you do to make it safer? I’d love to hear from you.
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