As a man, one of the most challenging hurdles I’ve encountered is in being “vulnerable” in my love relationships. Yes I’ve had my moments of vulnerability, but my relationship with Dana has proven time and again that earning my graduate degree was by far easier to achieve.
I love the quote, “In Life, you either get “results” or you’re giving “reasons and stories” as to why you’re not.” So although the following may sound like a story, it’s not for me and for most men for that matter.
Unfortunately, vulnerability never came easy for me. It was not taught in school and my father was not the ideal role either. My male friends growing up never mentioned it and it wasn’t until after college that I got my first taste in “not” being vulnerable. I remember being called out by a woman I was dating when she suggested I should “open up” and share my feelings with her. What was that you said?!?! Are you saying that I’m superficial??? The nerve of her!
Of course she was right. If I’m to be perfectly candid, I knew at the time how I was showing up and not sharing myself with her. It’s what Dana likes to remind me about when we’re being truly vulnerable with each other and I’m in the shallow end and she’s in the deep end. She’ll coyly remark… Do you want to snorkel or go scuba diving?
We’re big fans of Dr. Brené Brown and her work on Shame and Vulnerability. People often confuse these two important terms. As Dr. Brown states, “Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is, “I am bad.” Guilt is, “I did something bad.”
Looking back in hindsight, I wish my parents would have provided a greater understanding and awareness of these two fundamental feelings that were cultivated in my formative years. In more times than not, I confused guilt with shame that left an enormous and indelible mark on my psyche. It’s through those events that I became friends with anxiousness, frustration, resentment, anger, pain and depression.
“Opening Up” has never been easy for me. More times than not, I’ve opted to be the Lone Wolf instead of being vulnerable and sharing my pain that’s ultimately kept me stuck in old self-destructive patterns.
The good news is that Dr. Sue Johnson and her book, Hold Me Tight has brought a renewed sense of inspiration for me to truly be the best version of myself that I so dearly desire. Like a lot of men who desire vulnerability but are not quite sure where and how to share, Dr. Johnson’s work is based upon Emotionally Focused Therapy (“EFT”) and showing couples how to shape a secure loving relationship and effectively manage disconnection and conflict that will inevitably show up.
Dana deserves a great deal of credit for not only introducing me to EFT but for hanging in there and helping me to open up and be more vulnerable in order to have a more dynamic and loving relationship.
I used to believe that you couldn’t teach old dogs new tricks. Fortunately for this somewhat “mature” dog, I’m still eager, open and available to learn more about being a better man, lover, friend and partner.