How Vulnerability strengthens a relationship.
“DARKNESS CANNOT DRIVE OUT DARKNESS: ONLY LIGHT CAN DO THAT. HATE CANNOT DRIVE OUT HATE: ONLY LOVE CAN DO THAT.” – MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
Life is not all sunshine and rainbows. There will be dark clouds, storms and long unexpected stretches of darkness. This darkness can often completely engulf you and leave you in an inescapable pit, if you allow it.
That’s the thing with darkness. If you look for light to come and find you, the darkness will never let it happen. You have to banish this darkness with the light inside you. The brighter you shine, the weaker the darkness will get. The only way to get through hard times in life is to find the strength inside and push through them.
Of course, it will break you into pieces. But once you find your way out of the darkness you will rebuild yourself and become the strongest version of yourself. However, it can often be hard for us to share this darkness with the people we are closest with.
Showing your vulnerability is never easy. We are afraid of being judged.
Of being considered weak. So we face this darkness alone which often affects our relationships in an adverse way. But when you share your vulnerabilities with your partner, it can bring you closer than ever before and give the strength you need right now.
The pit of darkness
“WHAT HURTS YOU, BLESSES YOU. DARKNESS IS YOUR CANDLE.” – RUMI
A share like this is vulnerable to me. I’m not the type to seek personal support online. And yet I seek connection, more than support.
I was in a really dark place, about 10 days ago. Anxiety, panic, depression. A sense of the bottom torn out from under me. A hysterical undercurrent of – Would I live?
I’m undergoing a big transitional time in my life. Unwinding foundational pieces from the last 17 years. Ways of making a living. Financial security. Identity unraveling.
In this dark place, I felt ashamed to have forgotten things I knew, things about which I had written, upon having undergone a similar rupture several years ago when I left a 20-year marriage.
“Life’s cosmic forces are kicking your ass into the next part of your life.”
“Your soul [is saying], ‘No more. Something’s got to change.”
“In crises, we have the opportunity to grow and enter a new vision of life.”
In that rock bottom place 10 days ago, I had absolute amnesia. I couldn’t see the light. I felt trapped by my life’s circumstance, at least my perception of them.
Reading my own words helped. But what got me there first, was a voice within that said…
This is great – you can’t go much lower, only up.
Be present with the darkness, for in it, comes the light.
It can’t get any worse, only better.
And just remembering my access to my light, something shifted. I knew then — I did not have to divide against myself. I ceased self-judgments like – What’s wrong with me? How have I failed?
Shining bright in the darkness
“YOU NEED TO SPEND TIME CRAWLING ALONE THROUGH SHADOWS TO TRULY APPRECIATE WHAT IT IS TO STAND IN THE SUN.” – SHAUN HICK
From years of training, I knew I could make friends with fear and anxiety. In fact, I could commit to the truth of my experience of fear and anxiety. That meant residing in sensation, not story. I stopped thinking… and felt.
It hurt a lot.
But soon, the undercurrent of – Will I live? – lightened, and I came back home to myself. Over the next few days, the suffering began to diminish.
I share this because it is the core of my work — to relieve suffering in the world. To teach others how to turn the light back on in themselves. It’s the work of self-relationship.
And it sets the foundation for a fulfilling and energized partnership, which is what I teach. Two people cannot have such a relationship if shadow dominates one or both.
I waited several days before sharing this down cycle with my partner. In part, because I did not want to burden her. But more so, because I was aware that the down cycle was for me.
It was a gift, to be nourished, space for me to be with myself. A bone to suck the marrow out of. A way for me to be in strong, empowered, healthy self-relationship.
Over the years, I’ve gotten more efficient with fear, anxiety, and depression. Many years ago, this would have lasted weeks, even months.
A lot of people think if you’re coaching others you should be immune to this. The truth is, no one is. It’s just how skillfully we manage it.
Finding strength through a vulnerability in relationship
“THE STRONGEST LOVE IS THE LOVE THAT CAN DEMONSTRATE ITS FRAGILITY.” -PAULO COELHO
Some of us must go into our own poisons to bring back medicine for others. That’s been my path – to enter a deeper layer of poison and medicine.
When I did share with my partner a few days later, she was honored that I trusted her to be seen this way – down, weak, vulnerable. She said I was strong in being weak. I understood and appreciated her words.
“It just hurts,” I said. And in her arms, I felt hard feelings. Trusting the storm. Sensing the sky would clear.
My partner and I often say to one another things like…
“I trust you to take care of yourself.
That makes me safer with you.
That deepens my trust with you.
I trust you to not disconnect from me when you disconnect from yourself.”
And this speaks to one of the greatest challenges I see in relationships. Partners disconnect from one another when things get tough. When they are going through hard times. Going it alone, weak, annoyed, even angry.
And in those moments, they lose one another. If only they knew that staying connected would deepen trust.
Staying connected starts withholding one’s self, not dividing with self. This is Sovereignty. This is a healthy, responsible self-relationship. It is the most powerful foundation for solid partnerships.
If I’m not connected to me, I can’t be connected to you.
I am grateful I came out of my dark spell. And yet I have no illusions it’s the last of it. But every day, my light grows brighter.
For a quick sovereign practice, check out below.
SOVEREIGN PRACTICE: Befriending Fear to Not Self-Divide
“VULNERABILITY IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF INNOVATION, CREATIVITY AND CHANGE.” – BRENE BROWN
Take a moment alone. Sit somewhere quiet. Take a deep breath.
When you’re ready, think about something in your life right now that you fear. Maybe it’s money or a relationship. Maybe it’s about a lack of or a not having. Feel it for a moment. Notice what happens to you.
Do you judge yourself?
Do you leave yourself?
In this space, could you be available for your partner or a friend?
Now take a breath. Leave thoughts and stories and feel the physical sensations. Feel the sensation of fear as a shape, a color even. Now breathe through sensation – from head to groin and back up, and again, and again. Take five deep breaths this way. Notice what happens.
A calming maybe. A place to get back to yourself. Stay with that. Come home to yourself.
Note: If when doing this, greater fear comes up, even terror, then take time away and try again another time, when and if ready.
Emerge, don’t drown
“THERE ARE DARKNESSES IN LIFE AND THERE ARE LIGHTS, AND YOU ARE ONE OF THE LIGHTS, THE LIGHT OF ALL LIGHTS.” – BRAM STOKER
Darkness can be scary. Especially when you are stuck in this dark place without any hope of ever getting out. But that’s exactly when you need to look deep inside and find the light that makes you, you.
You have to find the strength to stand up when you most need to. You have to allow your partner to step into that darkness and guide you towards the light.
You need to accept all the love you receive from your partner and ignite the light inside and shine your brightest.
That is how you fight the darkness. That is how you get stronger. That is how you strengthen your relationship.