Trust and vulnerability are key ingredients in any successful relationship.
I don’t know why I’m still amazed at the media’s double standard re gender. In an article in this week’s Wall Street Journal, about the supposed need for a new masculinity, the author (who’s female, because no man would write such a thing) wrote that asking for help is hard for men “who value independence and self-reliance. It requires admitting vulnerability, and then sacrificing control.”
Funny, when I suggested women do this exact same thing in their marriages or relationships, the media elite’s horns came out. Duly noted: men should become vulnerable and relinquish control, but women should never do such a thing. Got it.
There’s just one problem: trust and vulnerability are key ingredients in any successful relationship. Which means those who don’t trust struggle in love.
We see this dynamic play out in films all the time. In Leap Year, for instance, the main character Anna (played by Amy Adams) prides herself on her fierce independence. Toward the end of the film, her love interest, Declan, says to her,
“Why don’t you stop trying to control everything in the known universe? It’s dinner. Have a little faith that it will all work out.”
To which Anna replies, “I’ve heard that one before.” She then launches into why she’s the way she is. Namely, because her father couldn’t hold a job, which led to constant financial instability—including her family home getting repossessed. When Declan responds to this information with genuine surprise and compassion, one detects in Anna a moment of vulnerability. But she quickly resumes her controlling ways.
Women like Anna exist for a number of perfectly sound reasons. Maybe they’re a product of divorce and don’t trust love. Maybe they had a poor relationship with their father, and as a result don’t trust men. Maybe they’re a child of an alcoholic. Or maybe, like Anna, they grew up in a home where money was scarce; and they became determined to make their own way in life.
Whatever the reason, the end result is the same: Women like Anna believe, erroneously, that as long as they’re in control, life will work out as planned. No one will get hurt. So they never let go and depend on anyone for anything, least of all a man. And our culture reinforces this fear by insisting that women are oppressed, and that the only way to overcome said oppression is to be wary of men and marriage and to prepare for ultimately being alone.
But that attitude sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy. By dragging your past along with you, and listening to culture’s negative view of men and marriage, you get exactly what you expect. People tend to live up to whatever expectations we set. If we expect someone to fail, he or she likely will fail. Conversely, if we expect someone to succeed, he or she will likely succeed.
Trusting your man is a leap of faith, but it has the fortunate side effect of creating a landing spot for success in a way that not trusting him never will.
To find lasting love, you must shift your paradigm.
Begin by rejecting the idea that men take advantage of women who let down their guard—even if this happened to you or to someone you know. Second, reject the idea that wanting or needing a man makes you weak. By conflating weakness with vulnerability, you create a barrier. You have to be vulnerable to have love in your life. Without vulnerability, there’s no trust. And without trust, there’s no intimacy. And without intimacy, well, you get the idea.
So decide today, right now, to face your fears. What are you afraid of that makes you feel the need to be like Anna and take control? What happened in your past that made you skeptical of love? If you’re in danger of being hurt, that’s one thing. But unfounded fear, or fear that’s not a result of anything your husband has done, undermines love. No relationship can last if one person is mentally preparing herself to get burned by the other.
You need to let go. Your not letting go is what keeps intimacy at bay. You have to choose which one you want because you can’t have both. You can be in control, or you can have intimacy.
And I’m not talking about sex, although that’s an inevitable byproduct of trust and vulnerability. I’m talking about closeness. Connectedness.
Isn’t that what you want?