My friend and I had a discussion the other day about the hardest part of dating someone new. Even at our age (celebrating the 14th anniversary of my 29th birthday this year), we still have issues when it comes to dating and getting to know someone new. She decided, for her, it was getting naked. I couldn’t disagree. That can most definitely be an insecurity. However, I took it further and said “vulnerability”. That encompasses being naked physically with someone, but it also is about being naked emotionally with someone as well.
Being open and vulnerable is so difficult when you have experienced heartbreak and/or betrayal. The older you get, the more baggage you accumulate and it becomes harder and harder to let that wall around your heart come down. Its easier to keep it up and not open up to anyone and, therefore, not risking rejection.
How do people in middle age who have been hurt and had their vulnerabilities exposed learn to trust again? One of my favorite lines comes from Bruce Springsteen’s song Human Touch:
Oh girl that feeling of safety you prize
Well it comes with a hard hard price
You can’t shut off the risk and pain
Without losin’ the love that remains
We’re all riders on this train
I just love this because it really is true. In order to feel again, we have to be open to everything–love, rejection, being exposed and trust. We can’t experience the good or the bad if we don’t let down those walls and become vulnerable.
Why am I writing about this subject this time? Because I’ve come to realize that no matter how much you want to be vulnerable with someone, he might not understand it and return it making you feel completely rejected. Normally, I’m a very open girl. Being vulnerable hasn’t really scared me because most of my relationships have been open to it. I could talk to those guys. I can still talk to them. Those of my exes who allowed me to be vulnerable, I have a level of respect for them because they know me better than most people. Even though we weren’t long term matches, they still remain special to me because in my vulnerability they took a piece of my heart–and that’s okay.
However, I wasn’t in love with any of them. Despite letting my guard down and opening up, I got over the hurt of the breakup because I wasn’t in love with them. My heart healed just fine despite the piece they took.
What I didn’t realize was how much harder it is to be vulnerable when you are actually in love. Opening up to that one person you are in love with and want to be with long term magnifies the fear of rejection. I wanted desperately to tell him how I felt and what I wanted or needed. Unfortunately, he would shut me down when I tried forcing me to feel instantly rejected. I don’t even think he knew he did it. But I do know every time he put his own wall up to keep from being vulnerable, my heart would break just a little more and I would shut down. It does tie into the intimacy I wrote about last week. If you can’t bring emotional intimacy into your relationship, you will never be allowed to be vulnerable which will kill any kind of relationship.
I like being vulnerable. I like opening up and sharing myself with a man who respects me and wants to know me. In return, I want him to know he can be vulnerable with me. Being with a man who can be vulnerable with me makes me feel loved and needed. Luckily, I am a girl with integrity and honesty and I will never hurt him the way I’ve been hurt. I will want him to KNOW he is loved, cherished, respected and admired.