Vulnerability is an interesting concept all about being able to be transparent and allowing others to see your true self, and not this face that we all put on that life is going well. I listened to an amazing podcast by On Being who had guest speaker Helen Fisher, anthropologist and researcher for Match.com, speak about Love and Sex and Attachment. In this, she sparked my interest on the idea that gender norms create tensions when it comes to vulnerability and has made me think about whether or not vulnerability is one of the biggest causes to failures in relationships.
A note before I get into this post: My apologies, but I will be focusing on cisgender, heterosexual relationships, because I believe this is the easiest way for me to talk about this issue because of the gender binary ( which sucks a ton by the way).
As I pointed out earlier, gender roles suck. Not only because they put people in a box and societally try to force people into roles, but also because it can destroy relationships.
While growing up, boys are told to not show their emotions and to “act like a man” while girls are taught to be “delicate” and are told that it’s okay to show how they feel. This, in general, is extremely problematic, but also as individuals in society grow up, this can create even further problems, especially in relationships.
A lot of people in society struggle with being open and vulnerable about the issues they are experiencing with their significant other. This is both men and women, in a heterosexual relationship. At the same time though, it fits the “norm” for women to be able to communicate their views about the issues in the relationship. Once she does this, then it is okay to have a more open dialog about this situation.
However, let’s say the male in the relationship is the one to express how he is really feeling, everything is very different now. First of all, in most relationships influenced by gender roles, the man in the relationship should not be talking about his feelings. He has no space to display them unless someone initiates the conversation. On top of that, if he does decide to be vulnerable, he will not be looked at as the same “man” he was beforehand and will be looked at as if he is now weak.
In a very anti-feminist relationship, the women in a relationship want a strong man. As soon as he shows any weakness, she’ll get thoughts of how she can’t be with a man that’s weak. I have had multiple experiences where my female friends go on dates with guys and refuse to go on dates with them again because the guys were “too emotional”.
What the fuck is too emotional? Don’t you want emotion in a relationship? I have no idea why you would think because a man is vulnerable, that he wouldn’t be a good significant other. If anything, I think he would be a Better significant other. He isn’t afraid to talk about how he feels and is willing to be open and real with you.
There is also more of an issue than just this. When men don’t have the forum to discuss their feelings, they bottle them up instead. Keeping emotions inside and not talking about them is never a good idea. This can lead to stress, emotional outbreaks, and other situations that no one want’s to deal with.
If I had the ability to change one thing, it would be to all those wives out there, if your husband decides to be vulnerable with you about something, do not look at him any less. If anything, you should be looking at him with more respect. It is so much harder to talk about something than it is to keep it inside and with the way society has forced roles onto people, it makes it even harder for men to be open without facing aggressions.
Vulnerability is not weakness, vulnerability is strength.