Allowing yourself to be vulnerable after abuse is difficult at best and if you look up the definition it means being weak, unprotected, naked. But being vulnerable also is being brave and strong and when you find that right person, the one you want to be vulnerable and open with, it can literally allow your heart to feel true pleasure just as Marley’s quote suggests.
But showing your family dysfunction or your own shortcomings takes trust and you have to be prepared that no matter how much you trust someone, you will at some point be met with resistance and possibly judgement and that will hurt.
We all want to be accepted for who we are and when we are not, especially if you have been in the hands of an abuser, it wrecks havoc with your insecurities and anxiety. Will this person you so willingly and carefully opened your heart up to and your life, not be able to bear witness to the insurmountable pain you have faced? No matter how much work you do, and how hard you try, you will revert to responses that were meant for the abuser. You will yourself, by your very response, create hostility and usually it is because you feel attacked. It’s not on purpose. Anyone who has lived day to day with an abuser will eventually crack when too much has been placed on their shoulders. You keep it together going about day to day life, being a single parent, living with children who have some of your exes traits, trying your best to always put your happiest, most cheerful face on because you believe in living in happiness and then the pressure of a situation you have no control over, the response or tone of one of your children, sets you off and you act like someone that you don’t like but worse than that, you act like that in front of the person you have chosen to trust and be vulnerable with and now the two of you are faced with a very uncomfortable situation. Partly because they would’ve handled it differently and partly because they did not know you were capable.
For some couples this would be a deal breaker. For others it will be a demonstration in love and growth in their relationship. Only someone who appreciates the vulnerability you have gifted to them will be able to guide you through the next part of your healing. We, as targets, can choose to shut down and hide in a corner and not communicate with them out of embarrassment and shame (because after all, we lived in shame our entire relationship with our abuser and shut down to keep the peace) or we can continue to share how hard it is to feel like you failed as a mother because they do talk like their father. We can try to share the pain their actions or words cause you and we all know they will never truly get it. As they watch your children doing this, they will never truly understand that you lived this every day with your abuser and it was worse. Far worse with physical violence, emotional abuse and verbal abuse attached.
If you are smart and if they are willing, you would be wise to self-reflect on any advise they have to offer you. As an outsider and someone who loves you and hopefully accepts you are not perfect and that your life is not either, they can rationally advise you on how to deal with certain aspects. One of the biggest things that helped me this week was after a blow out, my son, then 20 mins later, said something and my partner simple squeezed my hand and patted it. It was his way of saying, “don’t engage” and that simple gesture and show of support was overwhelming to me.
You may meet someone that is unwilling and no matter how much you have given of yourself to them, they will leave. All you can do is know that God has a better plan for you. Move on. You’ve lived however many years not being good enough with your abuser. Don’t ever beg anyone to be good enough for them again. Understand that if they walk away, you still need to be vulnerable with the next person you trust. Being vulnerable can make your life infinitely better.
Not being vulnerable limits us. Being vulnerable opens us up for trust, creativity, belonging, love. It brings us closer to the one we love emotionally. Being vulnerable makes sex closer, better, more intimate. Not being vulnerable emotionally shuts down opportunity. The opportunity to have the greatest love story of your life.
And it is going to hurt at times. You will feel like he is slipping away. That you are failing in some way because of your short comings and it will crush you. Understand that these are driven by old feelings towards the abuser. You will feel uncertain, hurt, worried, insecure. But step outside of your comfort zone and trust the person you trusted to be vulnerable with. Ride the wave. Because you have to have growing pains to grow as a couple. No one wants a stagnant relationship and anyone who wants to settle for comfortable is really only looking for a roommate. You can be comfortable in many aspects but staying comfortable for the sake of peace is not making the most of your relationship. These life events are what bonds you together and if you shut down, you are not doing yourself or your partner any favors. Feel pain. Listen even if it hurts and blossom. These difficult times will prune your relationship so that it may blossom and grow.
It’s now time for me to do some pruning of my own with my boys. It’s time to let go of the dead stalks and face some hard things so that we may grow and blossom ourselves and I am blessed to have someone by my side to text, squeeze my hand, give a glance or offer advice.
I am a work in progress. I am fierce and I will climb over this next wall that challenges my life’s path.