chickadee handWhile discussing our New Year's Resolutions here at The Stir, I flippantly threw out that I was going to try to be less of a sarcastic jerk when talking to my husband -- you know, for the sake of my kids.

Yes, it's true. I have caught my boys -- even the 4-year-old -- using some of my own special brand of sarcastic quips or passive aggressive phrasings, and it has made me wince. Deeply.

However, when I really started to think about this resolution and dig to its core, I realized there's something more critical at stake here -- my tossing off flippant words and remarks is not only teaching my kids how to behave poorly, but it's teaching them how not to deal appropriately with their real feelings. It's showing them, in fact, how invulnerability works. And probably even more critically, it's working against me and my marriage.

If you can't be vulnerable in your marriage, where can you be vulnerable? Marriage is supposed to be a safe place, if not the safest place. And I must say I feel incredibly safe with my husband. He is not judgmental, he's forgiving, and he accepts me for who I am.

However, somewhere down the line, along the paths in my life that led me here, I learned to hide my vulnerability when it comes to the deepest, most precious feelings that come up inside. When I'm deeply hurt, I usually act mad. When I'm stressed, I go on the defense, blame others, or point out other people's faults. When I need to be loved or noticed, I shut down, pull away, or, you guessed it, pull the angry card again. And probably the worst is when I'm afraid. When I am experiencing fear, just steer clear.

Don't you want to be married to me?

And can I just say that this is so extremely lame? Lame not just because I can be a gigantic asshole but lame because I am then never ever getting my actual needs met when I express myself this way. In fact, I am deferring my needs to some belief that being a jerk will make someone feel guilty or sympathetic to the needs I'm not even expressing authentically.

I realize this makes no sense. But in my emotional makeup, it does. Of course, it still totally sucks.

Most the time, when someone has a fear of being vulnerable, it's because they're afraid of being hurt, rejected, or attacked at their core. And when I dig deep, I must admit, this is why I can't give into vulnerability. Not so much the rejection or attacks but the hurt. I am deeply afraid of saying what I want and need and not getting those things in return. Which, of course, if I dig even deeper, means I am not truly loved.

Of course, this defense mechanism of lashing out or being a jerk isn't exactly upping the odds of my getting those wants and needs met either. Not by a long shot. It's also not making me very lovable. Ugh!

So, and this is a biggie, I am resolving to show more vulnerability in 2011. How will I do this? Well, there's a long list of things I can do, but I'm going try to focus on just a few of them in particular. It's my goal to: 1) tune into my true feelings, 2) disclose those true feelings (admit when I'm wrong, admit when I'm afraid), and 3) take into consideration the feelings of others and be open to their emotional processes (especially when they're unlike mine). Gulp!

I'm not expecting anything near perfection, but I hope that by making this resolution, I can begin to further understand the true triggers behind my emotional reactions and ultimately learn to better address them and express them in order to get my own needs met. And hey, if I'm lucky, maybe save my kids a tiny bit of money on therapy later, too!

Do you find it easy to be vulnerable in your relationships? Why or why not?

 

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