I’m finally getting around to responding to Eli’s guest post… It’s taken me a little while to finish this… starting and stopping several times. As Eli knows, this is a sensitive topic for me. Something I’ve struggled with in the past.
Vulnerability is scary and often unnatural to many people. I find the latter even more-so true with Africans given that our culture encourages us to suppress (and sometimes not even acknowledge (certain) emotions). One of the main reasons for this is that being vulnerable is viewed as a sign of weakness and exposes flaws…and within a relationship dynamic, this can translate into very real negative consequences, ie. your significant other discovering that they do not want to be with you anymore. So people keep quiet. They conceal themselves. Or become who they believe the other person wants them to be. And this is why many relationships/ marriages have shaky foundations.
Time is the unassuming key factor in this equation. Rightfully, it should have a multiplying effect on vulnerability in order to achieve intimacy. In my opinion, opening up to someone gradually makes for a stronger bond- there’s just something about getting to know someone intimately too soon which screams warning signs (that crash and burn scenario). I know people wouldn’t be able to handle all of me in the first conversation, nor would they be able to understand certain things about me unless there had been a foundation set over time… for example, appreciating that I’m really not as tough as I want people to think I am, first, will allow you to better understand that my feminist roar really masks my burning desire to be an amazing wife to a great man one day… To take care of him… be his support… his best friend and the mother of his children…
One of the tough questions that Eli touched briefly on in his piece is how long should one wait to become vulnerable with someone – emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically- and is there an order which guarantees success? Is it best done all at once? My roommate and I were discussing the romantic landscape of our current lives, and she said something I really connected with: there’s something unnerving about meeting someone out and beginning the relationship on a romantic level right away. Her desire, and frankly mine as well, is to develop a friendship with a guy and for things to naturally blossom. Is this too idealistic? Who knows. But in my experience, the best relationships last when a foundation of spiritual and emotional intimacy is laid first. If I’m to be frank about things, I can accurately predict whether a relationship will be short- or long-term depending on how quickly we’re physical.
Opening up has been a journey for me, even with close friends. I’ve been guarded a lot of my life, because there’s always been an implicit persona that needed to be kept up… ‘the academic one’ ‘the good girl’ ‘the tough girl’ ‘the African daughter from a respectable home’. How exactly does one admit to their fear of rejection when she’s known as the ‘haaard girl’, you know. Although I’ve become better at opening up, I still stick to the premise that one does not necessarily need to share everything with everyone, and that means your partner too. Some things are just for you and your Creator. However, your significant other should be the one person on this planet earth who knows the most about you and who you feel the most comfortable sharing things with: not your best friend(s), not your colleague(s), not even your family, but your significant other- that’s just how I feel.
But to eli I would say this, a lot of people do not share
your our view that love blossoms out of vulnerability. I can “love you”, be married to you/be in a longterm committed relationship with you, and that have nothing to do with my emotional, spiritual (and even physical) fulfillment in life. Rather, my love for you is in how I take care of you- monetarily… it’s how I respect you as a woman and the mother of my children… but not that I necessarily share my feelings with you (perhaps because I don’t even acknowledge my own feelings to myself). Do we look at that couple and say that the man doesn’t love his wife if that’s his definition of love?