Joe says that when he chose to marry me he knew he had to give me enough power to completely destroy him.
When he says, Tara, you could completely ruin me- that’s the highest compliment he could pay me. It means I’ve earned a very high level of trust- enough to bring ruin to his life. It’s like if you give someone the keys to your house, or the passwords to all your bank accounts. You make yourself vulnerable.
I’m a big language lover and I especially love Latin. Our word “vulnerable” comes from the Latin word, vulnere, which means to wound. So vulnerable means you’re in a position to be wounded. You have no defenses. Laid bare. Someone can use your weak position to hurt you.
We teach our kids to be aware of their weaknesses, to not to be too trusting of anyone you don’t know well. Be strong, be safe, protect yourself.
So why would we ever purposefully put ourselves in a place to be wounded?
Because vulnerablity doesn’t just lead to being wounded, or being betrayed. It also brings the power to grow intimacy. It is opening up to share the weakest parts of you. The embarrassing parts. It’s the opposite of being defensive. If we really want to grow trust with our spouse, we have to give something to trust them with. That trust is what makes our marriage strong.
Joe had a hard time learning vulnerability.
Because of his past, he doesn’t like putting himself in a position where he can be hurt. This is where some of his Safety Freak tendencies come from. I won’t let you hurt me.
Even after we married, and he knew I wasn’t going to hurt him, he would communicate, “I’m good, I’m strong, I got this,” even though that wasn’t how he was feeling inside. It took a really tough season where God had to break down the pride in his life so that he could admit where he wasn’t doing well. He had learn to be completely vulnerable with both God and me and let me in to the pain and shame he carried.
It was in learning to share his deepest hurts with me, to admit that he wasn’t “all good” that our intimacy grew by leaps and bounds. There was power in that vulnerability. It took strength in sharing weakness, and also in accepting it in each other. To be fully known and still loved. This is the kind of love Jesus has shown us- seeing us in our weakness but loving us fully.
Fragile, Handle With Care.
Sometimes it can feel like those moments are few and far between. When your spouse just doesn’t let their walls down, ever. But in a marriage we do have an opportunity to see those moments, however small. You may have to look for them. But how we respond is the key. If it is followed by rejection or doubt or a look or sarcastic word, then we avoid vulnerability like the plague.
Don’t use vulnerability as a weapon.
If you have a weapon, then you’re not really vulnerable, right? I’ve noticed that in arguments, I let my deeper vulnerabilities come out—but not until the end, when they come out looking like a weapon. As in “Ha, this is your fault you didn’t know this about me! Don’t you know I struggle with this?” That is a form of pride, saying it’s on you, to automatically know this about me. Vulnerability is being willing to lead with your weakness. Not using your weakness to boost your pride or win an argument.
Vulnerability can grow intimacy fast, which is why you also need to be choosy with how you use it. If I’m being vulnerable and open and honest with others but not my husband, then I will see those relationships grow faster than my marriage. Over time, my husband will realize he’s out of the loop, and we will become distant.
You know you’re being vulnerable if it doesn’t feel completely natural. It should feel risky. But for true intimacy and trust to grow in our marriages, we need to be willing to take that step. It is in our weakness that He is strong!
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor. 12:9