Whoever said that being vulnerable was weakness got it wrong–it is the ultimate sign of strength
When I think about how emotionally crushed I have been by relationships that have gone off the rails, part of me thinks my whole approach is messed up. Maybe the best strategy is to try to protect yourself, to hide your emotions, hide your feelings, to wall up.
That’s what ADD people do. I know it because I am one. And that has been true for almost my whole life. I never “let anyone in” as part of a personal defence strategy against getting hurt and having to feel things too intensely. But for some reason, this approach never applied to my love interests.
Everyone knows that most relationships fail. It is the trial and error as we go from awkwardly groping teens, to more confident and exploring adults, to hopefully happily-coupled-grown-ups that helps us actually make good decisions in the end, to choose the right partner because of all the mistakes laying in our wake, and to understand that successful relationships require real work. Getting burned along the way is part of understanding what kind of work is necessary and acceptable.
But we also know that ADD people are characterized by heightened emotional sensitivity. That locking yourself away from others is a self-preservation strategy. I don’t know how other ADD people have handled this and would love to hear from any who wish to share…in my case, I opened up emotionally to people I was sexually attracted to. Unsurprisingly, sex is all about emotional connection to me. [Maybe that’s why porn has never been part of my life.]
Either from ADD or just cuz, I am sure that my filtration mechanism was not fully operational, and I opened up to people both more than I should have and with people that I should not have. I remain trusting and naïve. That pretty much guaranteed that any breakup was going to crush me. But I would also never trade for that for anything. Who wants to be closed off? If you can’t get hurt, and I mean, really, really hurt, then how can you love?
The only self-protection mechanism I have had is to just cut people off who are nasty or hurtful—and that is no matter who they are—family, friends, colleagues, whoever. Life is too short for shits. That also means I have kept a pretty small and tight circle of friends, and most of them are long-time fellow travellers, and to about 3 of them, I am actually open.
But in my dating life through my teen years and early adulthood, my relationships were one emotional train wreck after another. Perhaps I was too intense. Perhaps my calibration mechanism was off coming from the emotionally compromised landscape of ADD. And boy, did I ever hate rejection. And boy did it hurt! And pretty much every single relationship that failed but for one or two (which ended for geographic reasons), failed in this way.
One or two breakups revealed a sadistic streak in my former partner, an eye opener, and a real opportunity for self-flagellation. I can remember crying for days after one particularly tortuous and humiliating breakup. Any possible fantasy of ever being cuckolded was crushed with that one…
I am not saying this for pity. Because after each one, after my period of grief, I picked myself up and tried again. And when I say “tried”, what I am saying is to become even more vulnerable. Opening up further, making a deeper commitment. This was my way of moving forward.
The belief is simple. Vulnerability lies at the root of love. The pain we feel, the rejection we get, these are things that help us grow if we let them. On a superficial level, we may equate vulnerability with weakness. Indeed, the dictionary would have it so. Even more so if you are a man—never vulnerable. Right? Wrong.
In the emotional landscape, vulnerability is a sign of power and strength. Processing the trauma of rejection by opening your heart further is the ultimate sign of strength.
This is also my moral compass. Goodness is founded on openness. Openness is founded both on innocence and on strength. Openness is something that others can take away from us if they mistreat us. But the person who loses most, is the one who shuts down, gives up, loses their innocence. I cannot accept of myself a life that does not allow for the expression of hope, faith, and optimism.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “I don’t want to repeat my innocence, I want the joy of losing it again.” Yes, he was a consummate hedonist, but there is another interpretation. It takes strength to lose it again. A willingness to reset, to open up, and to try again.
There is nothing more beautiful than approaching someone with an open heart, letting them have at it, knowing that they will surely hurt you, but in this lies the path of love and forgiveness. Hurt me if you will, but in the end, it will only make me stronger.
I think of people I know who have bitterness etched in their faces. Who regret things they did or didn’t do in life. Most of that bitterness comes from lousy personal relationships, lousy self-protection, lousy assertion of one’s own needs. Then one day they wake up and realise that their partner has been walking all over them for decades.
Is this perverse coming from a male submissive? No. The contrary. What I learn from submitting is how to pry myself open further. Letting Mistress in is like going in for emotional open-heart surgery. Crazy-scary, but also total bliss. And that’s what makes life worth living. And that’s where love comes from.