Vulnerability fosters closeness


blue post-blizzard morning

This month of the Here Year has been particularly thought-provoking for me.  Aidan chose vulnerability which I think is a rich, complicated, and fascinating topic.  A couple of weeks ago, there was a widely-circulated Modern Love essay called To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This.  I was particularly struck by a piece I read in the article’s wake, which listed the specific questions the author refers to, and asserts that “mutual vulnerability fosters closeness.”

Aidan and I decided it would be fun to together answer some of the 36 questions.  In the name of vulnerability and in the name of our project, we each agreed to share our responses to five of the questions.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the basic premise that being vulnerable to each other is the (only?) way to build true intimacy and, eventually, love.

8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

We both have parents who are still married to each other.  We are both from New England.  We both lived in London for a formative stretch during our childhood or young adult years.  Aside: I’m curious about the “appear” in the question.  These are all facts that we definitely have in common!

14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

I have long dreamed of writing a book.  I still dream of this, though, candidly, that dream is changing.  I haven’t done it because I haven’t yet convinced a publisher to take a chance on me!!

16. What do you value most in a friendship?

The knowledge that a friend will be with me, no matter what.  That they’ll tolerate me and love me in spite of myself.  That they’ll show up and listen and be there, whatever comes. Abide with me, as always, plays in my mind.

30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

I last cried by myself last week, out of fear and frustration and the unknown.  I cry in front of my children all the time.  I last cried in front of a friend in December when I realized I had behaved thoughtlessly and in a hurtful way.  I drove over to her house, showed up, and just started bawling.  It was most definitely the Ugly Cry.  I think she heard me that I was sorry.

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

One of my photo albums from before digital photography (I still make old-school photo albums but the photos are also saved digitally).  Or else one of my four quote books that I’ve been keeping since 1985.

I’d love to hear your responses to any or all of these questions.  Furthermore, do you agree that mutual vulnerability is what love and closeness are made of?

13 thoughts on “Vulnerability fosters closeness”

  1. Loving the topic this month. I have felt particularly vulnerable with regards to friendships in the past year or so–especially the painful winding down of a few right now. Vulnerability is such an odd thing to talk about and yet we all endure it in some form. Which is why I love that you and Aidan chose a few questions to answer in that regard, especially your answer to #30. I think apologies like yours are too few for many. As for #8, I see what you’re saying! In fact, I read the question differently and probably would have answered with more subjective things I’ve learned while together like traits/tendencies/preferences rather than objective facts–maybe that’s what the question is getting at? Hard to know I suppose. Could just be poor wording.

  2. I loved that Modern Love column and yes, I do think that vulnerability leads to closeness. Mutual vulnerability! Works in friendships, too. I’ve had friends that ask great questions, but they’re skillful at keeping the focus away from them. It gets old quickly. It has to be mutual.

    Really enjoyed reading your answers and I think driving over to your friend’s and saying you were wrong + the tears ought to clean up whatever it is you said or did. 😉

  3. I don’t know if love is made of mutual vulnerability, but I think it’s definitely the necessary context for it. I think love is ultimately about knowing and being known, and we can’t do that without making ourselves vulnerable. Maybe the opposite of love isn’t indifference, but strangerness?

    For a while I have dreamed of exploring visual (rather than verbal) creation. I haven’t because I feel too old and too ignorant/inexperienced to achieve any kind of real mastery now. I haven’t because my partner in life has an MFA in painting and he’s the artist; I know I don’t have talent in the way he does in this area. I haven’t because I haven’t been willing to make time for such a seemingly-trivial pursuit. But I’ve started doing it anyway. The heart wants what it wants, and vulnerability, and, yeah.

  4. I’m in the middle of a wind down of my own and it’s very painful. Not easy. But people who are authentically vulnerable are the ones I’m really interested in being close with, at this point. xox

  5. Once in a while I’ve faced that criticism: that I avoid talking about myself and evade answering questions. Truthfully it’s not through any desire not to be honest but through a fear that talking about myself is self-indulgent or selfish. xox

  6. Vulnerability has always been something I struggled with. I’m learning how to turn it into a strength. And my house DID burn down when I was 16; I hysterically convinced my mother to have the firefighters go back in for my journals. They did, and I still have them- singearls and all.

  7. I love this inside glimpse that your answers offer. I do believe that mutual vulnerability foster closeness. The opposite is true as well. I’ve tried to be vulnerable with certain people and they did not reciprocate. Consequently, I withdrew from these relationships. It is such a tricky place to navigate.

  8. I believe and know that true friendship and love hinge on each person allowing the other to see their vulnerability. It’s a litmus test of sorts– can this other person see me flawed and love me as much, maybe more?

  9. I love how you write about vulnerability with a complete lack of sentimentality. It is so refreshing and infinitely more beautiful because it’s true.

  10. I’ve noticed that when I cry in front of my 3yo (not on purpose! Never on purpose – so far :), he really stops what he’s doing and looks and listens and even seems like he might come hug me. It’s sort of this amazing role reversal situation that’s kind of wonderful and warm and fuzzy in its own right. Anyway, love this post. xox

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