Getting Naked, Emotionally
“The whole intimacy thing; it’s tough,” she said. “It’s so much easier for me to take my clothes off than to undress emotionally. Bob and I have been going out for months. He thinks he knows me but he doesn’t have a clue about all the things I keep inside me.”
For Marianna, shedding her clothes was easy; shedding her outer layer to expose her most vulnerable self was tough. It required her to trust. To have confidence in herself. To have faith that her partner would treat her most vulnerable self with care. Could she let him know her hopes? Her fears? Her cravings? Could she let herself be emotionally exposed?
He believed he knew her well. They had good times together. And yet, he could sense that there was something missing. He didn’t know what. He had stroked her skin. He had touched the most vulnerable parts of her body. And yet, he knew as much about her as a book whose attractive cover he was drawn to but had never read.
Marianna was in turmoil. She knew that there was much that he didn’t know about her and would never know until she was open enough to share her secrets. What brings her to tears? What terrifies her? What breaks her heart? Would he care about her if she shared her painful childhood wounds? Would he respect her if he knew about her past mistakes? Would he stay with her if she revealed her insecurities?
Being vulnerable had never been Marianna’s strong suit. She had too many memories of her brother taunting her, calling her “crazy,” ”stupid,” “slutty.” And her parents remaining silent, seeming to agree.
But now the stakes were high. She loved her boyfriend. Could she overcome these fears of rejection? Again, she could be misunderstood, ridiculed or rejected. Should she trust her boyfriend? Let him know about her apprehension, animosity, anger?
Though the thought of opening up terrified her, once she appreciated the following truths, she was able to move forward:
- You can let your guard down in stages.
- There is no need to open up everything to everyone. A bit at a time works well.
- Once you test the waters, you can share more.
- Before you share, you can ask your partner to be accepting of what you’re about to tell him.
- You can gauge his reaction, opening up more if he’s accepting and appreciative of what you’re telling him.
- You can seek out opportunities to be more vulnerable. And notice what happens when you are.
- You can pat yourself on the back for taking the risk to share your vulnerable self.
- You can remind yourself that learning any new skill takes time and practice.
- You can appreciate how much closer you feel to people when you have shared your true self.
- You can rejoice in being able to be vulnerable with loved ones.
Yes, Marianna still had moments in which she was guarded, hesitant to share her true feelings. But in those moments when she chose to be emotionally naked and was accepted, she felt fantastic! Affirmed and Appreciated! What could be better?
Linda Sapadin is a psychologist and personal coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email or visit her website at PsychWisdom.