How To Overcome the Fear of Vulnerability in Relationships

Lately I’ve been thinking about the way our upbringing affects our relationships as adults. I am the youngest in a family of three girls and for the most part, I exhibit typical last-born/baby of the family tendencies. I love being the centre of attention, I’m a little bit self-centered (only a little!) and I can talk/write my way out of anything.

I was like that as a child and I’m the same as an adult. Along with my last-born tendencies, I have one first-born/only child tendency: I am a fixer. Think Olivia Pope. She finds people in a bad situation and handles it. When someone is in a mess too deep for them to cope with, she swoops in and rescues them. It makes sense, she’s an only child.

Fixing is pretty cool when you’re a pretend-character in the White House, not when you’re a real person in a relationship. I made it a point to find people I thought needed fixing and make friends with them. I called the ‘friends’ but they were really projects. I would identify the problem, draw up a solution and apply the fix.

The problem with people is that they’re not computers. They have opinions and dissenting thoughts. They have feelings. They don’t like being fixed and will eventually rebel against The All-Wise and Infinitely Knowledgeable Fixer’s advice. Every fixer knows this. So like a good fixer I always had a plan in place to make them do what I thought they should do using my powers of persuasion.

I was happy if you were doing what I wanted you to do; if you were who I wanted you to be. And if you disagreed I would first try and reason with you and then pressure you and then withdraw until you did what I wanted. Because as long as you were disagreeing with me, you weren’t allowing me to fix you and if you weren’t allowing me to fix you I couldn’t get you to be the person that I wanted you to be.

The term people use for people like me is ‘strong personality’, but there was nothing powerful about the way I behaved. The correct words to use are: manipulative control freak. I manipulated because I felt weak. My thinking was that as long as I was in the director’s seat I could control the course of the relationship and the person and their ability to hurt me.

Sounds crazy, right?

The underlying cause of manipulation and control isn’t strength – it is fear. So maybe you’re not as crazy as me, but if you look closely at your relationships you’ll see that you’re motivated by the same thing – fear.

You see vulnerability as a weakness that opens you up to rejection by people.
You never share the deep parts of yourself with anyone.
You have multiple personalities that you alter to fit the audience.
You withdraw when you don’t have your way.
You hide your fear of a failed relationship in spiritual excuses for why you don’t date.

You never disagree because you don’t want to offend.

Fear prevents intimacy. It creates a situation where you’re always trying to find ways to protect yourself from what the other person might do. It fosters an environment where it’s impossible for people to know you and to love you. I thought I was strong, but I was really a weak and afraid woman.

Here’s the thing I had to realise: Being powerful is not about controlling people’s love towards you or their ability to hurt you; being powerful is about managing your love towards other people, regardless of their ability to hurt you. That one truth is what began this journey I’m on of finding freedom from fear in relationships.

In what ways has the fear of vulnerability hindered growth in your relationships? Can you trace it back to how you grew up? Leave a comment!
In what ways do you see fear being the motivation in your relationships? Leave a comment!

3 Valuable Gifts That Every Woman Needs From Her Man

Zininzi likes Simba. He is kind, handsome and is actually interested in her, which is more than she can say about her previous crush. Every Saturday at 10AM she goes to the same cafe and orders a red capuccino because she knows she’ll see Simba there. She’ll sit at the table and pretend to be doing something on her phone but actually be looking at him.

Zininzi is an accountant and has only ever imagined herself with a professional – a lawyer, a doctor or an engineer. And her attraction to Simba has been unnerving for one reason: he’s at the coffee shop every day but he’s not a customer. He’s the guy who takes her order, recreates heaven in a cup and shapes the foam so it looks like a heart. He doesn’t own the coffee shop, he’s a barista.

She feels conflicted because she likes him but is unsure about giving him a chance because, well, he makes coffee for a living! People actually go to school for that? Sure, he seems like a great guy but what about his career? Should finances be an issue? Will he resent her for earning more? Is she okay with being married to a house-husband for the rest of her life?

Along with her accounting degree, Zininzi OBVIOUSLY has a Masters in getting ahead of herself. The guy hasn’t even asked her out on a date and she’s already living in their first year of marriage. And yet her thought process is common, isn’t it?

Every woman has a MUST-HAVE list. There’s an invisible app running in the background that tells her who’s eligible and who’s not. When she asks about your degree she’s auditing your potential earning power. When she asks about your job she’s comparing your average salary with hers. When she asks these things that’s her way of admitting that she has a mortal fear of marrying a broke scrub who thinks he’s fly but is living off his wife’s paycheck.

A woman’s desire for financial security is legit. It’s not gold digging.

But every woman must remember that, ultimately, you’re in a relationship with a person, not a bank account. If it was true that money can buy happiness then rich people would have the happiest relationships in the world. Money has its place, but it isn’t enough to sustain a relationship in the long run. Think practically about finances, but don’t let that be the primary reason why you choose to say yes to someone or to reject them. What you should be asking yourself is: Is this man generous?

“Anyone can give away something expensive, but only someone who understands sacrifice can give away something valuable.” Kris Valotton

Scientific research shows that women with generous husbands have better marriages. What we mean by ‘generous’ is “giving… good things freely and abundantly”. So it’s not the guy who declares, “This round’s on me fellas!” in the club. Or the dude who offers you a monthly allowance to cover your rent, water and weave. Or even the guy who’s paying for the education of his three siblings, two nephews and his cousin twice removed.

Generosity is about the heart. A truly generous man doesn’t just give expensive stuff away, he gives away what is truly valuable, which is himself. In relationships, what’s of primary importance isn’t how much a man can contribute financially, but rather how willing he is to sacrifice himself for your good. These three gifts will be far more valuable in the long run than any material things that he can offer you:

1. The gift of words: Is he an encouraging person? 
A truly generous man will not only give you gifts of expensive jewelry but he will adorn you with his words. He calls out the best in people, always. He reminds you that you are beautiful, strong and wanted. He expresses appreciation. He doesn’t use his words to control, tear down or manipulate. He uses them to build you up.

2. The gift of grace: Is he willing to accept people’s weaknesses and work around them?
Often the difference between a strong relationship and one that’s doomed to fail is how we respond to the weaknesses of those we love. If he’s a perfectionist who can’t accept your weaknesses then you’ll be crushed under the weight of his expectations and his disappointment. A truly generous dude understands that you can’t change the fact that you always leave drawers open when you take something out, but he’s willing to be the one to come after you and close them.

3. The gift of forgiveness: Is he quick to forgive the failures of those close to him? 
If he’s the kind of guy who never got over the fact that his little brother broke his favourite Power Rangers action figure when was five, then he’s not the kind of guy who will forgive you when you mess up. Forgiveness is choosing to let go of your right to claim what someone owes you. It’s acknowledging that they wronged you and choosing not to get your pay back. Forgiveness is generosity and a truly generous man doesn’t hold grudges against those who have done him wrong.

Nothing will cost him more than giving up his ego and if he thinks you’re worth it, he will be willing to give it up many times over. Don’t get caught up in whether he can afford you and forget what’s really important – not the balance in his account but the condition of his heart.

Do you think financial security is important? Why?