When Getting Vulnerable Feels Like Answering the Door in Your Underwear
By Janel Breitenstein
In front of your spouse, you’ve finally laid down that big rock your brain or heart’s been carrying around. But they respond with … crickets chirping. Distraction. Interruption.
You’re wishing to be emotionally held. They’re oblivious.
Sometimes what’s in us feels so sacred, we’re ready to run at the faintest raise of eyebrows. What if she doesn’t understand, or know how valuable this is to me?
But those of us who wait for perfect friends may end up isolated.
Comforts to keep in mind when opening up to your spouse:
- Just because someone doesn’t 100% understand doesn’t mean they can’t relate.
- In a tough season, ask a friend or your spouse to sit down with you, listen, and ask good questions.
A fatal accident while we lived in Uganda rattled me to the core. My husband asked me to find one friend who’d help me process. My friend was honored to be asked—and I began to push through something that could’ve broken me.
- Eliminate mind-reading and unspoken/unagreed-upon expectations.
Sometimes it helps to tell my husband, “I’d love you to be excited about what I’m about to tell you, but you don’t have to be.”
Who knew asking for what you’re hoping for could be so rewarding?
- Burned? Don’t give up.
True, at times you may need to redraw your expectations for what is, not just what you hoped for. But like you, your spouse is in process. Ask for what you hope your marriage to be, rather than complaining.
- Practice bravery. Challenge yourself one step beyond your vulnerability comfort zone.
Numbing negative emotions, explains researcher Brene Brown, doesn’t happen without numbing positive ones, too. The more we don’t deal with our hurt, holding ourselves back, the more it affects our present-day happiness, contentment, and relationships.
Sharing your story is a step to finally healing.
That untold pain is likely a bottleneck between your slavery and your freedom. Past abuse, addiction, vivid shame, scathing anger?
None of it has to determine your future. Or that of your marriage.
The good stuff: We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13)
Action points: When you’re honest, what keeps you from the next step of vulnerability with your spouse? Could it be unforgiveness? Trust issues? Inability to acknowledge need? Distill your core reasons for hiding from vulnerability, and assign yourself one next courageous step.
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