How do you let yourself be vulnerable again? How do you let go and let yourself love and be loved and cared for? It’s not easy to do and although many of us have decided that we are not going to let our exes keep us from moving into another relationship we have not decided that we aren’t going to let our exes keep us from accepting love and being vulnerable to love.
Being vulnerable is scary because there is inherent risk in being vulnerable. The definition of vulnerable is capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt. That definition is not very inviting but along with taking a risk there is the other side of vulnerability in being capable of or susceptible to being loved and cared for. When we decide to date again and start a new relationship after a another relationship doesn’t work out or ends badly we sometimes forget about the vulnerable aspect, the intimacy that needs to exist to sustain a love relationship. I see this on many blogs and self-help advice for women that we need to not let a past love get in the way in the way of us finding new love. That is very true, it’s not right for us to close ourselves off to love because of what some other man did. But just because you let a man into your life doesn’t mean you’ve let him into your heart. Those are two different things, one just requires that you two be physically in the presence of one another, the other requires you to be vulnerable. Oh it’s so hard to trust that you’ll be able to handle what may happen if you’re vulnerable. It’s scary and for many black women who have been disappointed by men in their families, vulnerability does not come easy. I have been hurt in the past by someone I loved and in a marriage where I expected the person to love me unconditionally but who’s fault was that. Yes, I certainly didn’t make the best choice in a husband with my ex but it also didn’t have anything to do with me that he betrayed my vulnerable self.
We want to blame ourselves fully for failed relationships or we want to blame the other person but we each must take ownership of what we did that contributed to the failure. The good news is you didn’t do everything, the bad news is neither did they. I was particularly hard on myself for my failed marriage, which caused me to be wary about being vulnerable with another person. I felt I couldn’t trust myself to make good decisions with relationships and if that was true I had to make sure I shielded myself from possible disappointment. What better way to do that than not to ever appear or be vulnerable with the person I was dating. How I ever thought this was going to lead to some happy, fulfilling relationship I don’t know. But I knew I wouldn’t get hurt. The reason you don’t trust the guy is not that he hasn’t proven himself, because after six months to a year he’s proven something to you whether good or bad, no it’s because you don’t trust yourself. Being susceptible to love and pain are two sides of the same coin. I had to do some self-reflection and I did that in prayer and therapy. I wanted to know what was wrong with me because I knew something felt off. I had this nice guy, he’d been steady and consistent, he was loving and generous, compassionate and sensitive. Why was I so wary of giving my full self to him? Why was I wary of being vulnerable?
Well first, I thought he’d just take advantage of it. Now nothing he did was saying he would but that’s what had happened in the past and well, I couldn’t trust my decision making skills, I could only trust my past. My past said when you trust someone you will be screwed over. I had to let go of the past and past mistakes. That is tough because we have such little compassion for ourselves and we just love beating ourselves up, it was easy for me to do. I hadn’t even really acknowledged all the pain that I’d been in because of the loss of my past marriage. When I finally acknowledged my pain and showed myself some compassion for making a mistake, I was able to release the past. We show compassion for so many things but I swear we can be so hard and cruel to ourselves. If I didn’t acknowledge my pain and suffering, I couldn’t have figured out I had the strength to overcome it. In that revelation I learned that even if I became vulnerable to this man and he broke my heart I could actually recover from the pain, let go and move on. Aw hallelujah! What a revelation. I could enjoy the good thing we had in the present without ruminating over the past mistakes I had made or obsessing about the future, which I have no control over anyway.
Secondly, I had to trust that I had some sense or had gained some from my past relationship. I have no idea why we think as people we have to remain the same. Years had passed since I had dated my ex-husband and I was such a different person then. I had also taken lessons from that relationship so I had learned a lot. It was time to stop thinking I was the ultimate dumbass when it came to men, I was not. I was smarter than I gave myself credit for and I needed to acknowledge that and have some confidence in my skills in making decisions on who to date and who to trust. My eyes and my heart were both telling me, he’s worthy. Even as I tried to prove that maybe he was untrustworthy by attempting to sabotage the relationship in the beginning although that didn’t work and he proved me wrong every time. I was tired of acting like a fool, I thought one day you know I can throw this man back because of my foolishness and some other woman is going to come along and see the treasure I tossed out. When I thought of him as someone to be treasured, something clicked. He was precious to me, I wasn’t going to let him go, I was going to fight for him even if I had to fight my doubtful self. The better of me won, I opened myself him and the most amazing thing happened he filled me with his love. He had room to pour even more love into me and I had more love to give to him. What I learned in my stupidity in trying to keep myself from pain, I’d also kept myself from being loved more.
Now I’m vulnerable and in fact, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me and my relationship. Our level of intimacy and love has just grown. I don’t know exactly what the future holds but the present moment is dang good and that’s all I care about.
Next Up: Dating in the Age of Dumba$$es-Will Anyone Love Me For Who I am? or How I Overcame Feeling Awkward and Old When I Started to Date Again-Pt. 3