Vulnerability, or staying soft in a hardened world

Vulnerability – Susceptible to emotional or physical injury or harm.


Hm. Since the world thought pattern really centers around defense, this seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it, to practice or embrace vulnerability?  Emotional vulnerability is required though, for deep intimate relationships to form. This thought has been on my mind since someone posted about not realizing how hardened and tough they had become.  The statement has caused me to reflect and  ponder on my own standing in this area.

My frame of mind up until about three years post-widowhood was one of numbness.  I went through some start/stop activities about finding a partner though, off and on through that time.  They didn’t last long.  I wasn’t ready.  That time frame differs from person to person, and it is notably different between genders.  Men seem ready much quicker than women, for whatever reason.  I think either is valid, and it is personal, and should not be judged at all.  For me, I was too busy trying just to make a life, heal, and let go of my former love.  I would get lonely once in a while, but not terribly so.  After three years had passed, my friends and family started to make noises about me not dating or seemingly showing any interest in dating.  I made a conscious effort to attempt to date – kind of like a task list really.  Go out more. Sign up for a dating site.  Actually accept a date from said site.  Etc.   It is basically marketing yourself.  How do you do that without sounding either arrogant or kooky?  I had a few dates, and dropped off of the sites.  I just didn’t care for it and it seemed too forced, stilted, something.

When I met  ‘Busted Flush guy, I wasn’t looking or even really thinking about a relationship.  We enjoyed conversation about common interests, and he had to tell me he was interested in me in a male/female way before it registered.  That’s how not thinking about it I was – I didn’t even recognize interest beyond friendly discussion.  I mean, I liked him and found him interesting and engaging, very knowledgeable.  But I dislike presuming anyone’s interaction with me is anything other than friendly interaction until they come right out and say so.  Yes, I like to be hit over the head, thank you, so there is no misunderstanding on my part.  Then too, I can encourage or discourage before it gets too far, if I don’t feel a similar thing.

Now that the adventure and being dumped is behind me, I realize I’m even more skittish than I was before that experience.  I will sometimes even go to great lengths to let males know that I am NOT interested in them in any way other than common interests and friendship, so that no one misunderstands ME as well.  That’s kind of silly, and perhaps arrogant in a way.  That’s like assuming someone is romantically interested when they aren’t.   I realize that I am now so afraid of getting hurt, or, even worse, accidentally hurting someone else, that I’ve got all of these rules and barriers inside of my head, when before I was just kind of moseying along and taking things as they came.  And I have come to the realization that I have a ‘just not interested’ air about me.  Someone mentioned it to me at work the other day and it took me by surprise.  Of course, I am not interested in anyone at work.  It is…work.  I just don’t believe in mixing work and dating.  I’ve seen people do it successfully, and I’ve also seen it go terribly wrong.

It has been my belief that men and women can be friends without anything else getting in the way.  *I* can be friends with men I have no interest in as a prospective partner.  But my brother and some other men I’ve been close to swear that it is not possible.  Guys, they tell me, don’t have women for friends unless there is an ulterior motive.  But how can that be?  Don’t you have to befriend someone even in order to get to know them, to know if you wish to know them better?  I talk to all kinds of  people I have no partnership interest in, including men.  Does every man I talk to think I’ve got a thing for him?  I talk to old men, very young men, married men, gay men – and yes, single men in my preferred age grouping for partnership.  I guess I see a separation in people; I can be interested in a person’s life, their skills, their experiences, and yet not be interested in them in any physical or emotional way.  Heck, I even talk to people at work that I don’t like!  There is still something interesting usually even about arrogant asinine people.  Granted, I don’t have many of those conversations, as the negative vibe of their personality overpowers any pleasure from exploring a mutual topic of interest.

Can we love anyone who lets us in; is that how the trust that underlies love really begins?

Can we love anyone who lets us in; is that how the trust that underlies love really begins?

Since it takes vulnerability  for emotional intimacy to develop, how do I get back to that place?  How do I get back to just the ebb and flow that used to come so easily to me?  Maybe I just need to not worry about it, and if/when someone appears in my life that is easy to talk to, whose interaction I enjoy again, it will just fall away, this…hardened exterior that I feel forming around me.  And I hope if he feels it too, he tells me, lol!  Otherwise I’ll just be enjoying a friendship, blithely not knowing anything.  If it is this difficult for a woman, how much more difficult must it be for men, who come with some kind of Teflon coating anyway, most of them, when it comes to feelings, emotion and vulnerability?  Teflon boxes maybe, where they shove stuff they don’t want to deal with or let get out of hand.   I don’t want to have to pick at someone like I’ve seen people in restaurants go digging around for crab meat, into nooks and crannies  inside a cracked open shell, in order to get at the good stuff.  And I don’t want to make someone have to go through that to get to the soft parts of me either.  But I am honest enough to know I’ve been wearing that nifty ‘tough’ armor for a little while now. Where is that nice balance found?  Can I handle another crowbar to the soft parts of me?  Seems that is the price to pay for remaining open – the potential for hurt and damage.   The alternative is even worse though – to close up, to reject others off-hand, to be empty of passion and joy.  I simply do not believe that you can close off vulnerability without losing some of the best parts of being alive.  I want those parts.  So I will choose to practice pragmatic vulnerability – hah! (I think I just made that up).  Because in the end…

Yeah, this.

Yeah, this.

C’est la vie, eh?

Here is a toast to practicing pragmatic vulnerability – remember, you read it here first <smile>

Be well.


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