As most brides are walking down the aisle the last thought going through their heads is most likely how difficult it may be one day to open up and be vulnerable with their husbands. Likewise, the grooms waiting at the front of the church are probably in the same boat, with the thought of being “themselves” with the woman walking down the aisle towards them will never be something they may struggle with. But day in and day out, couples walk into my office for marriage counseling and they struggle with being open, honest, vulnerable, and just plain “them” in front of their spouse. Often spouses get frustrated when their partner can open up to me or a group and have a hard time with them. Why is this? How do we go from looking forward to a life of bliss with our best friend to waking up each day to someone we feel we do not know much about.
When we marry someone we are asking them to be in charge of loving us more than anyone in the whole world. This is a great feeling when they are loving us well, but inevitably there will be times they will hurt us. If we have given them the power to love us more than anyone, when they hurt us it is worse than if someone else hurt us. Even if it is the most unintentional issue that causes us pain, it still hurts. As humans we are imperfect, and therefore we will hurt the ones we love at times. It will just happen. The problem is we have let our guard down with our spouse when we are vulnerable, so the hurt, even if small, can feel like a punch in the face. What is the natural reaction if you get hurt? People retreat and pull away. This is the start of the cycle of losing vulnerability.
After the first time you feel hurt it is easy to bounce back. To be honest if there are just a series of small hurts over time in a marriage, most of the time the couple is still able to be vulnerable with each other. They have bounced back from small hurts before so they know it can be done and they can recover from pain. But things become more complicated when the hurts start becoming bigger and bigger. When the hurts get bigger the recovery time gets longer. We may recoil more and stay away longer. This eventually takes its toll and both people start to put up their walls for protection. With our walls up we cannot really open up and be “us” with our spouse. Before you know it there is a so much you don’t know about your husband or wife. It is important to stop cycle early. How vulnerable is your marriage?