In relationships, does vulnerability matter? Joe Rutland offers insights about this question and the topic itself.
What’s the big deal about vulnerability? I mean, aren’t all men vulnerable and can’t women see that in us?
Sounds like the opening of a Jerry Seinfeld comedy bit. It’s not, though.
Vulnerability within the context of an intimate relationship takes time. It takes trust, authenticity and a willingness to put my shield down, drop my guard and have faith that being honest with the woman that I am dating – that I will be dating at some point – would want a man like that in her life.
I think of the multitude to stereotypes around masculinity, even at — gulp – middle age. “Be tough.” “Suck it up.” “Work, work, work … then work some more.” “Don’t let anyone see you cry.”
These same stereotypes may fall into categories for women, too, albeit with possibly different words. Maybe not! Hell, that’s a head trip in itself.
In relationships, what do I seek? Am I willing to be vulnerable with a woman? What if she doesn’t like that in me? What if she wants a big, tough, bad boy to rock her world in her heart and in the bedroom?
Am I going there? Yes I am.
Being vulnerable means taking off this mask of perfection that I have worn for so many years. It means listening to her, not just nodding my head and going “uh-huh, uh-huh, OK, uh-huh” until I’m blue in the face. It means making eye contact, eye to eye, and maintaining it. It also means allowing me to be open to healthy, nurturing touch.
This is a part about me that I don’t like sharing with the world because my fear is a bunch of people will call me soft and fire off a bunch of judgments my way. Really? That’s your stuff. Work on it, damn it. I go through periods of touch deficiency, like not having healthy touch, hugs or warm embraces. Before you laugh, scientifically it has been proven that babies – infants, OK – who don’t get a lot of regular hugs or healthy touch have physiological issues within themselves.
Babies! Little kids, man. Aren’t adults just big children in bigger bodies? And yes, I do have issues within my tissues and working on them all.
Vulnerability in a relationship also looks like saying “I’m sorry” when I muck it up. It’s also being open to accepting an apology from my partner, too.
Admittedly, I don’t have a huge history in the dating scene or relationship zone from which to draw upon. There are many others who have experienced far more than me. When I speak of vulnerability, though, I do see it as a positive trait within myself and others. Thank goodness I’ve been around a lot of men and women, while doing my soul work over the past decade plus, and watched them become vulnerable and find deep wells of inner strength that they didn’t know existed within their bodies. My hope is that they can say the same thing about me, too.
A vulnerable man is in touch with his own emotional landscape, one that goes far beyond a passive “I love you” or an aggressive “Get away.” Those are the extremes. There is a middle ground, I feel like, where a couple works to get in that gray zone and strives to stay there. I know relationships take work. Yes, I understand it goes far beyond headboard-shattering sex. It involves intimacy, both from an emotional and physical standpoint.
Without intimacy, whether in tender words or tender touch, a relationship loses its heart. When both partners are willing to open their vulnerable sides up to one another, then I choose to believe magic happens. Stars align. The moon dances. Birds sing in unison. Life feels wonderful, and nothing can stop its wonderful melody.
Men do have tender sides within them. I have one, and I say this humbly. Recently, I was in a business meeting with other men and they asked me who I was. My answer was this: “I’m a loving, caring, kind, compassionate, beautiful, handsome, sexy, healing man.”
That’s my truth. Was it the answer they were expecting? I don’t believe so. The go-to answer is “Well, men, I’m a writer, speaker, podcast host, author, columnist and journalist.”
In my world, that initial answer was being a little vulnerable … just enough to show my human side.
Maybe women want to see a man’s human side. The vulnerable side that shows them not everything is perfect and in place. Trust me, I do have parts of me that are congruent and others that are out of integrity. I’m always working on myself to learn more about who I am, how I can improve myself, and become more present in my own skin.
Another way for me to show my vulnerability is to write. With you, dear reader, I choose to be vulnerable without emotionally vomiting all over your keyboard or tablet. I do my best to hold up my own boundaries in this space. To me, this is what I term sacred space. It is one time in a full week when you and I share a moment that will never come our way again. When I write this column, the time in which I do it will never come back into my life. Seconds tick off the clock, and I open up my heart, soul and gut to you. In turn, my desire is that you can see my own vulnerability … imperfect as it is and recognize it for what it is.
Do vulnerable men have a shot in the dating scene? I choose to believe so. In this beautiful world (and it is beautiful even with a plethora of world and national events pulling us in different directions), vulnerability can be a beautiful trait to have.
Alanis Morissette put together a song about vulnerable men a few years ago. May it give hope to all vulnerable men in the world.
Photo: David Goehring/Flickr