I was once challenged by vulnerability. I was more comfortable masking my buried emotions because I associated uncovering my real emotions with frailty. Vulnerability was difficult. It shed light on areas of my life I left unturned, neglected, and honestly, injured. I did not realize that while I was craving intimacy with my husband, I was miscommunicating this need with a mask of anger and frustration. The deeper contributor was truthfully unforgiveness. Yet, I was afraid of being perceived as weak, believing that I would be hurt in the process and so I kept the mask on, convincing myself that my husband would weaponize my vulnerability and use it against me.

Arguing was easy and it was even easier to argue so I wouldn’t be seen. She’s just upset. Again. If I say this, will he leave? Would it deepen the wound I didn’t share before? I did not want to be seen and I was fearful of being seen as my whole self. This fear hindered my marriage, a vehicle of sorts, and it was not until I began to check into my emotional ‘fluid’ that the intimacy in my marriage shifted. It was then that I learned that vulnerability is a communicator. It is what drives the marriage vehicle.

Consider the working functions of a car. Each car has its own make, model, and design. It functions at its highest capacity when it has all of its fluids at max levels. In fact, each fluid has a responsibility and when the fluid is low, the car communicates the need for more. A warning light dings when certain fluids are lacking or when one is less abundant in partnership to another. If the fluids are not properly balanced, the vehicle is bound to malfunction. This was me; in order to keep the engine of my marriage running healthily, I had to go before God for some maintenance that would result in an increase of my vulnerability and the performance of my marriage overall.

Here are some steps I took that I believe will help raise your vulnerability:

Understanding my own emotions: Transmission fluid helps to lubricate one of the most important parts of a car: the transmission. It also helps to facilitate gear shifts and maintain the temperature of the transmission at a perfect cool. I liken the transmission fluid to understanding our emotions. I had to become comfortable with feeling all of my real and raw emotions in order to share them with my husband. I tapped into myself and owned that I was not taught the healthiest way to communicate. I also had to disconnect from the denial that all I saw growing up was to project anger and leave. It was time to go outside of myself and get the support needed to help me address all of my emotions (e.g. reading books about attachment styles, how to effectively communicate with your partner, and the truth about feelings, etc.)

Validating my experience: Power steering fluid helps to bring power to a car’s ability to steer. I was draining the power steering in my marriage with self-judgment. I knew what I was feeling, but I was seeking to validate it for fear of judgment. I committed to meditation and a process of releasing judgment around my feelings without thinking that I was going to be punished. I felt all my emotions on purpose. Truth is, it’s really okay for you to feel how you feel. It’s okay to feel annoyed. It’s okay to feel upset. What you do with how you feel and what you do to confront each, however, is what matters.

Determining what to say: Coolant keeps car engines from overheating. It’s important to practice not sharing everything you think and feel, especially if you have not taken time to properly process. Learning myself and my partner helped to know what and when to articulate my feelings. I realized I was triggered by the thought of not being heard so I began to pay close attention to the difference between assertion and aggression. This is what I know I want to say, but how should I say it? Using “I” statements (e.g. This is what I am hearing…) positioned me to receive what my husband was saying and articulating what I needed him to hear me say.

Being present: Brake fluid is what helps to transfer movement and force when pressure is applied to a brake pedal. While it is not a fluid that greatly impacts the significant functions of a car, it does impact how a car moves and at what manner of force. How does this relate? It’s important to not collapse other situations into what is happening in the moment. It is deciphering what you want to share based on what is occurring in real-time without merging it with what happened before. It is being in control of what movement allows for a healthy exchange of communication and what does not.

Letting go: Engine oil helps to avoid damage to the engine by causing it to run smoothly and effortlessly. My engine oil was low due to unforgiveness. I had to forgive myself. I had to forgive him. In order for me to be vulnerable, forgiveness needed to be a conscious, personal decision. My heart raced and tension built up in my body, like a wall, when unforgiveness consumed me. It caused me to feel like a powerful revved-up engine, and this was a bold lie. The reality was that I was powerless in wanting to show up as powerful. I had to accept that forgiveness was available for me too and extending forgiveness was not giving permission to the hurtful behavior nor was it allowing myself to be weak. Forgiveness is what gives us clearance and elevation. It opened me to freedom and removed the weight I was carrying.

What does this mean for you and raising your vulnerability? Vulnerability is the engine behind healthy, emotional intimacy in your marriage. A marriage without a functioning engine does not work. A marriage without operating vulnerability malfunctions. When you are vulnerable, it invites your partner to be vulnerable with you. When either of you are lacking in vulnerability, the warning lights are made known to you. Approach vulnerability as a team, dismiss the fear that comes with being vulnerable and lean into having a healthy marriage that begins with owning vulnerability on purpose.

Shivonne Davis | Marriage Coach