By Stefanie, Laura Doyle Certified Relationship Coach
When you’re raised to be strong and resilient and, most of all, equal, the idea of becoming vulnerable is low on your to-do list.
Why be weepy when it can make you look “touched”–like a nut job with a screw loose?
Crying seems like something to avoid in favor of being rational.
Who wants to be sensitive and soft when what’s rewarded in the world is being undemonstrative and competent?
That’s what I thought too. Everyone knows boys don’t cry, and that includes girls.
Plus, whenever I did turn on the waterworks, my man would locate the nearest exit. Then I really had something to cry about.
But then I learned something that reversed this trend for good.
These days my husband loves to see me cry–for all the right reasons.
Here’s what I learned that brings him closer when I get misty-eyed.
1. Feeling My Feelings Is Freeing
I come from a French line of strong, undemonstrative men and strong, resilient women.
Being “too sensitive” would earn a quick, dismissive “Bap!” or being called a “petite nature.”
Somewhere along the line, I lost touch with my emotions and couldn’t even tell you how I felt.
Wearing my serious professor glasses, I prided myself on being ruled by logic, until I started doing a lot of work on myself in my thirties.
The stoic facade that had protected me so many years began to crumble. I started crying, not in spite of my self-improvement efforts but because of them.
Now I knew how I felt: sad. Or mad. Or glad.
If that was the extent of my emotional palette, so be it.
Even recognizing these basic emotions—just giving myself permission to feel them—opened me up to a whole range of feelings I had shut away somewhere, bringing me in touch with my feminine power.
Feeling my feelings took courage, and allowing these healing tears felt like real strength.
Just seeing someone who resembled my late father would trigger the thawing that made my eyes leak. Before, I had been too “strong” to grieve.
I work with a lot of women. One would end up a puddle of tears every time she shared. She’d open her mouth, and I’d think “Here we go.”
Yikes, now that’s me!
Learning to embrace my own vulnerability means I get to be present, not repelled, when others show theirs.
But that didn’t mean I liked the tears. I must’ve looked like a flake. A mad woman.
Crying still makes me uncomfortable sometimes. Like I have something to apologize for or be ashamed of. But I know that’s my ego talking.
Receiving others’ love and unconditional acceptance takes some getting used to.
It’s scary being this vulnerable with you right now, confessing I’m a big ol’ crybaby.
After all, I’m a relationship coach. What should I have to cry about?
Shouldn’t my relationship be perfect and as tear free as baby shampoo? Indeed—according to my ego.
Vulnerability feels a little out of control. And I’m a (recovering) control freak.
Vulnerability is scary. I also can’t control how you’ll perceive me when I cry.
But it’s freeing to be able to be my real self with you, letting go of the controlled persona I held onto for years so you would like me.
And I feel more accepted and loved now than ever, especially by my husband.
2. Crying Can Be Beautiful
I had been very emotional early in our relationship. Every time he left the apartment because he couldn’t take it anymore, the wailing would begin.
He left me! He abandoned me!
No, he’d just gone to the watering hole down the block to get a break from being within the same four walls as me.
I was a little controlling.
I was a wee bit disrespectful.
I was intolerable.
And evidently on the hysterical side. It got to the point that he’d even get angry when I’d start crying.
My normally compassionate man had gotten fed up with being taken in by what he called “crocodile tears.”
My crying doesn’t drive him away these days. On the contrary, today my husband actually welcomes my crying. That’s because I’m not turning on the waterworks for dramatic effect or to manipulate him or to complain.
Rather, my genuine tears show my vulnerable humanness, which makes him want to protect me.
I was so surprised one night when I told him I was feeling sad after he found me hiding under the covers and he practically rejoiced, “You haven’t cried like this in a long time!”
I didn’t relieve him of that illusion.
And it’s not just me. With all the research emerging on the transformative power of vulnerability, crying seems to be making a comeback. I heard two impassioned defenders of crying just last week.
One was a woman boasting that she cries every day because it feels good.
What a weird thing to say. Here she was trying to sell herself as a successful entrepreneur. Didn’t she worry she’d seem unstable?
The other was a man proclaiming the virtues of crying and that volumes could be written on its benefits.
I admit, now that I’m my emotional self, I was right there with him.
If a movie makes me laugh or cry, it’s a hit for me. If it does both, I love it.
Ditto with a spiritual gathering or a coaching call.
Crying = vulnerability = authentic and meaningful.
3. Vulnerability Makes Me Happy
People have often told me, “You’re so calm,” but that’s not how I felt. Six Intimacy Skills™ later, I do feel serene.
Today, I feel content—joyous even—in my marriage, which means in my home, which means in my life. Which is what I’d always wanted. Not that it’s 100% of the time, but happy is my new default.
Crying is one side of my happy coin. I cry when I feel moved or overcome with gratitude, as I often do. I’m moved that my husband is eager to please me. I’m moved by the open exchange of gratitude and vulnerability with him, my children, my friends and colleagues.
I’m moved that he’s so ready to apologize when I feel hurt. The ease with which we (usually) apologize to one another is another effect of the culture of vulnerability in our home.
Today, my husband even apologized to me for being disrespectful! Yes, my macho Colombian man, a surrendered husband.
And I’m moved that grace is so freely available in my marriage, even when I mess up and dismiss the Intimacy Skills in favor of giving him a piece of my mind.
Now that I am a relationship coach surrounded by women unafraid to show their vulnerability—or afraid but do it anyway—I am touched. If that word has historically had negative connotations of not being right in the head, so be it.
I am touched. Daily.
I love it. And so does my man.
How have you found strength in showing your vulnerability? I’d love to hear your comments below.