I keep hearing about my friends “opening up” their marriages or inviting a third person into their intimate relationship.
This may have been considered taboo in the past, but it is becoming more and more accepted as mainstream while we redefine the rules of intimacy.
Many people are choosing to be a part of this emerging relationship culture that was born from the desire for more freedom within committed partnerships. This is something called a “conscious relationship” movement, where relationships no longer are a boring or predictable part of our lives meant to provide stability for a family. Instead, our relationships have become an exhilarating path of personal evolution and exploration.
One of the most important aspects of any relationship is communication, and these new relationship dynamics require us to stretch beyond familiar ways of communicating. The type of communication that’s required to maintain an open marriage or “polyamorous” dynamic is far more involved than what is required to maintain a traditional partnership. It requires more self-awareness and self-expression.
And, the secret key to this type of courageous communication is vulnerability. Without being committed to open hearted communication and vulnerability, relationships will often fall into codependent patterns that keep us disempowered. It keeps us subconsciously playing out the relationship dynamics we witnessed as children.
Being vulnerable is an act of courage which requires exposing the hidden, unpolished parts of ourselves to another person. It can be incredibly uncomfortable to be seen in our most raw and real moments of truth, but it opens the way for deep intimacy and connection, which allows for relationships to evolve.
Most of us learned to cover up our vulnerability at a young age and have never un-learned this self-protective mechanism. The truth is that what kept us “safe” as children, keeps us trapped as adults.
Unfortunately, when we stop ourselves from being vulnerable, we also deny ourselves one of the most satisfying parts of intimate relationships: being seen and loved for who we truly are.
Most of us are holding on to a fear of abandonment from our childhood, and so, we respond with the emotional maturity level of a child when confronted with something that appears to be threatening. The reason for this is that a part of our energy has become trapped in that moment we first learned to hide our vulnerability, and so we express our emotions in erratic and childlike ways
Vulnerability is being willing to be seen in places where we are afraid to even see ourselves. We must be willing to go through the temporary discomfort of vulnerability in order to reveal our raw truth. Our truth will allow for more tenderness, realness, and closeness. Expressing vulnerability builds intimacy with ourself, which is the only way we can be intimate with others.
Without vulnerability there is no intimacy.
One thing I see again and again when I work with couples is that intimacy dwindles as comfort increases. One reason for this is that we become so comfortable that we don’t want to disrupt it by bringing our innermost thoughts, emotions, fears, or triggers to the table. We stop feeding tension (and erotic tension) in hoping that it will keep the bond safe. This can quickly kill passion and allow resentment to build which is like a long, slow death for relationships.
Hiding thoughts, emotions, or desires causes us to build our own emotional prison where we are limited by what we decide is acceptable to express. Beyond our comfort zone of those prison walls lies the freedom of being known and loved for who we truly are. When we don’t have anything to hide, we are free.
This freedom can be experienced in monogamous partnerships and open “polyamorous” dynamics. The type of relationship isn’t what determines how much freedom you feel, it’s how vulnerably and authentically you are willing to show up that will make the difference. Being able to speak your truth gives others the permission to do the same, and this sets the stage for the most fulfilling relationships.