The Power of Vulnerability.
Webster's dictionary defines "vulnerable" as "capable of emotional or physical harm". Technically, we are all vulnerable all the time. But that's not what I'm trying to communicate here. I'm talking about allowing people into your life and becoming vulnerable in meaningful relationships. I have been extremely closed off for the last decade and am just now, after 2+ years of marriage and almost 8 years of dating my spouse, opening up.
In 2006, I married my son's dad. Without getting into the horror story that was that season in my life, I'll just say it was an extremely toxic relationship. You know how they describe things and say "people died!" when it got really bad? Well, no one technically died, but the person I became was a complete 180 from the person I was before that relationship. I trusted no one. I felt like everyone was out to get me. Unfortunately, I didn't learn from my mistake and surrounded myself with people who continued to lead toxic lives and it took me years to break out of that cycle.
In 2009 I dated a guy I had a crush on in high school. I found out a few months into that relationship that while he said we were exclusive and I was being monogamous, he very much wasn't. He was dating a girl I was on cheer with. We found out at a party and that ended that relationship. (HOWEVER said boy STILL tries to contact me almost 10 years later. I have had to block him repeatedly. He got a new number and started texting me at the beginning of August of this year. Weird, huh.)
Shortly after that relationship, I dated a string of people where we did NOT bring out the best in each other.
The returned missionary I was head over heels for, but then ended up being a whole lot more "un-Christlike " than I am.
The guy who did everything he could to make me happy, but because I was so messed up in the head, thought he was secretly manipulating me and I was so awful to him. (He's currently married with at least one kid and I am SO happy for him)
The guy who I ended up marrying (not JD) who treated me so poorly that even other guys thought it was pathetic. Looking back now I have no idea how I gave him another chance. One short example, at parties he was heard saying to friends multiple times "try to get Forsberg drunk so I can go hit on other girls". We were "dating" but he was always sneaking around with his ex girlfriend. I'll talk about this saga at some point, I'm sure. There's a lot of baggage there.
FINALLY, after about 2 years of disaster after disaster, I met John Charles Doyle the fifth. Back then, he was called "The Hot Pool Boy" because he worked (and lived) at the apartment complex I lived at, and I happened to see him for the first time at the pool. In that season of my life, I had just gotten out of a short relationship with a boy I knew from school. He was a drug addict. I didn't know until the end of the relationship when I struggled to help him get clean. That resulted in my computer, camera and other valuables from my house being stolen and sold for pills. I was so depressed.
I was angry at the world because I felt like I would never be the kind of woman who would attract the kind of man I wanted to be with.
Cue Hot Pool Boy. I still remember the first time I saw him. The first time we spoke to each other weeks later. The memories of that summer in 2010 are more vivid than any other time in my life. Johnny told me he was falling in love with me less than 3 weeks into dating. I was right there with him. The fireworks and the force drawing us together were unlike anything I had ever experienced. That romantic movie level attraction you always think you have, until you meet the one.
Unfortunately, we were 21 years old. We were young and dumb. We are the most stubborn people you'll ever meet and between him trying to decide what direction in life he wanted to go, and me trying to figure out who the hell I even was, we broke up. We broke up A LOT. We would fight and break up, only to get back together weeks later. We never screamed or yelled at each other, nothing like my first marriage so I was okay with it, but it wasn't healthy. We wanted different things at the time. We didn't even know what we wanted.
At one point, we broke up for what we thought was for good. I started dating rude boy from above (get Forsberg drunk!) and things seemed to be working out. I never stopped thinking about Johnny, but I thought I was making the right decision by moving on. Other guy and I got married less than 5 months after we started seriously dating. I've never publicly said this, but I almost pulled a runaway bride that day. The morning was so hectic and all I remember is my dad walking me down the aisle at the Grand America, realizing I was probably making a huge mistake. I was too scared to stand up and do anything, so the wedding happened and we stayed married for less than 9 months after that. The whole 9 month marriage is a story for another day. All I'll say now is that he is married to the right person now, and so am I.
Johnny and I got back together shortly after I left my second husband, and here we are today.
After my very long and destructive history of dating, I grew this rigid wall around my heart and my brain. I felt like I didn't have the ability to be open with Johnny or tell him how I really feel about a lot of things. If you've met me in person, you'll probably think I'm SO FULL OF SHIT right now. I can come across as an open book, and in many ways I am. But when it comes down to the super deep parts of my life, I have a very hard time being open and honest. It took losing our daughter for me to realize that life is way too short to be anything but open with the people you love.
Obviously I have to soften my words sometimes and speak my truth in a way that will allow me to sleep in the same bed with Johnny every night, but I'm learning that I need to be completely honest, open and vulnerable if I ever want to have a meaningful and long-lasting marriage. I have to share with Johnny that when he gets a text late at night and doesn't open it, that I immediately go back to the two previous marriages and infidelities I had to deal with. Has Johnny EVER cheated or done anything remotely sketchy? No. But that's where my brain goes. I had to learn to share the things that made me anxious or scared or frustrated. Before losing our baby, I was the queen at passive aggressive and guarded behavior. If I don't tell him I'm insecure about something, he won't know I'm hurting and I'll be "tough". The thing about losing a child is, you can't be tough. You can't be guarded. There is nothing in the world that can prepare you for the pain and destruction of losing a child. I didn't have the option to be tough. There was not a single cell in my body that was capable of putting up those walls anymore. I told him how I felt about everything. Granted, I was miserable and that's to be expected, but I told him all the fears and regrets and things that I had never shared with another human being. He opened up as well, and instead of crumbling under the weight and stress of the 3 month period when we lost our daughter, bought a house, I got laid off from my job and two car accidents, our relationship was stronger than ever.
I became vulnerable, I shared the things that I knew could come back to hurt me emotionally, and yet I was stronger. I was happier. I felt like this huge weight had been lifted from me and I no longer had to hold on to these secrets and insecurities on my own. I had a partner in this. I had someone to hold my hand and know that while I felt insecure and unstable, I wasn't alone. I am so grateful to my husband for being there for me while I undid years and years of trauma. The PTSD from losing our daughter was more severe, but not as long-lasting as the PTSD from my first marriage. Even today I am still undoing lies and manipulations that I've lived with for the last 12 years. (Just because I was a young mother does NOT mean that I'll never accomplish anything in my life! - One of the lies I am undoing. A lie that was told to me daily during that disgusting 3 year relationship)
The choice to become vulnerable with myself and my spouse has completely changed my life. I am not worried about what Johnny thinks of the inner workings of my brain. He knows what's in there. He knows I'm a little crazy, kinda dark and disturbing sometimes, and also have one of the softest, mushiest hearts out there. Most people just think I'm a bitch. (To be fair, y'all aren't wrong. I can def be a huge b word!) Those that I am closer to, those that I trust and have allowed myself to be vulnerable with, know that I'm more than that.
My goal now is to become vulnerable as a rule, not as an exception. I have no idea how long it's going to take or what the journey will look like, but I know it's one that is crucial to my progression in this life. I don't want to be the girl with RBF forever. I want to be the girl who people reach out to for help or support because "she looks nice". I don't look nice right now. I look pretty damn mean. And I'm really not, but my body and face have been trained for years to look like the picture below. "THAT'S JUST HER FACE" is said regularly.
See all those smiling, happy girls having a fun night at the food trucks? Now check out the b word on the far right with the worst RBF I've ever seen. Oh yeah, that's me. I am determined to change that. I'm determined to be the happy, friendly girl who radiates positivity and light wherever she goes. Not the girl who makes people think she hates them. I get that a lot, too.
I know I have such a long ways to go, but I'm so glad I tapped into the power of becoming vulnerable with the important people in my life.