“Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of the human experience.”
– Brene Brown
Every one of my coaching couples lead busy lives. Most of them have to juggle their schedules to even find time to be alone and intimate together. They’re effective in getting things done, building careers, organizing kids, and planning life.
The management they bring to every part of their busy lives however, doesn’t work when it comes to vulnerability.
Vulnerability can’t be slotted into a busy day. It can’t be added to the to-do list. Vulnerability is not another skill to master, like running a meeting or throwing a dinner party.
When couples come to see me about love and intimacy they sit down to have one of the bravest conversations they can have as a couple.
I appreciate how challenging it is to hear our partner’s dissatisfaction or unmet desires. We’re not comfortable hearing about our partner’s pain. Rather than listening with a desire to understand, we want to bypass the hard stuff and move directly into fixing and solving.
We hold tight onto our armor and use whatever strategies we’ve developed over our lives to deflect, what feels like arrows coming our way. Anger, blaming, judging, withdrawing, are all strategies we use to fend off what we fear the most, becoming vulnerable and laying down our shields.
Vulnerability is reached when we dig down below emotions like, anger, blame, judgment and any other reactive emotion that protects our position of victimhood.
When we’re vulnerable we take ownership of our feelings, and accept responsibility for our reactions to life.
Vulnerability is actually a gift that descends upon us when we stop pretending to have it all together and admit to our human flaws and fragility. It’s a gift we give to ourselves and our partner, because it shifts our state from one of closed-off superficiality, to one of feeling and deep sharing.
When one partner in a couple opens the door to vulnerability, they create space for their partner to join them there, and it’s in that space of shared vulnerability where hearts connect and intimacy is experienced.
Vulnerability is a prerequisite to love, intimacy and connected sex. Without it, we live our relationships skimming the surface, avoiding deeper conversations, and feeling emotionally stagnant.
Welcoming in vulnerability is one of the scariest and bravest things a couple can do together.
Vulnerability and Trust
Before we allow ourselves to become vulnerable, we first need to trust that our partner will hold our vulnerability with care, and they’ll become attuned enough to our feelings, to know what we need to feel safe in that vulnerable place.
Supporting your partner in their vulnerability and building trust means:
Talking less and listening more to what our partner is expressing
Not trying to fix them or solve their problem in the moment
Asking open-ended questions to help them express themselves fully
Being judgment free, even if you’re not in agreement with their perspective
Empathizing with words or body language of support
Accepting that they have a right to feel what they’re feeling
Every time we show up for our partner in their vulnerable moments trust is being built. Our partner learns from experience that it’s safe to be vulnerable with us. They learn they can trust that what they share will be heard and honored as their truth.
Vulnerability and Intimacy
Vulnerability is sexy.
When we open up sexually and let our partner not only into our bodies, but into our hearts, fears, dreams, insecurities, we’re building intimacy.
When we risk asking for what we want, and being seen as less than perfect, when we open up to the rawness of orgasmic pleasure, we’re building intimacy.
In our vulnerability we experience the kind of sexual intimacy that’s not represented in mainstream porn or media.
Vulnerability is the foundation to great, mind-blowing sex.
That’s a fact!
If a couple loses their ability to be vulnerable with each other, sex becomes functional or transactional. We go through the motions, feeling disconnected, unmet, and emotionally unfulfilled.
Disconnected sex leads to loss of interest and desire, which is the number one reason most couples seek out sex and intimacy coaching.
Here are some of the things my couples have found helpful in supporting vulnerability:
Share about your day from a ‘feeling’ rather than ‘doing’ perspective.
Practice radical honesty from a place of love.
Admit when you’ve made a mistake.
Ask for what you want clearly.
Confess disappointment without blaming.
Experiment with keeping your eyes open during sex or making out.
Show your vulnerable feelings. Don’t be afraid to cry.
Be curious about your partner’s experience.
Ask questions that lead to vulnerable conversations.
If we think of our relationships as a garden, imagine vulnerability as one of the ingredients needed to keep your plants growing strong and bearing fruit.
Tend to your garden daily with deep watering that sinks down into the roots.
Deep feelings and deep sharing will nurture deep love and desire.
If you want to know more about how to nurture your relationship with vulnerability that leads to intimacy, reach out and let’s talk about what love, sex and desire looks like in your life.
My female cousin was a primary contributor to my early sex education, when I needed it most. For instance she clarified that I couldn’t get pregnant by dancing with a boy, no matter how close we got. She also confirmed that I wasn’t the only person who touched themselves (down there), and most importantly, she showed me that ‘wellness massagers from Sears were used for things other than sore necks and shoulders. A few years later my boyfriend introduced me to the real deal. A vibrator made specifically for genital arousal. It was a cream colored, hard plastic, shapeless cylinder with a twisting on/off switch at the end.
This week a client told me she was doing a Marie Kondo on her closet. She was getting rid of what no longer gave her joy.
We went on to talk about her sex life with her partner and the nagging resistance she has to being touched.
Somewhere along the line she formed a belief system about touch. She couldn’t identify a particular incident that informed that belief system. There was no trauma or abuse. She just knew that when she was touched (even by her loving partner) her body would recoil and she’d shut down.
There’s no getting away from the fact that couples in long-term relationships impact each other profoundly, in small and large ways. If you’re a couple who live together there are moments throughout each day that bring you together to discuss something, to work on a task, to accomplish an errand, to share a story, or listen to one. Partners flow in and around each other with such symbiosis, that we can sometimes feel like we’re one mechanism with a shared mind.
Even in the midst of this unprecedented time, the holiday season is once again upon us. If you’re fortunate enough to have one or more loved ones around you, you’re probably giving and receiving a gift or two. I’d like to share a few thoughts I have on gifting.