I grew up in a family where being vulnerable was not a place I felt loved. My father, a recovering alcoholic, was actively recovering during my first year of life. My mother, a co-dependent spouse and new parent, often blamed me for struggles in their marriage. I was “just like my father.” There was a definite win vs. lose, his vs. her side, and I automatically fell on the wrong one in her opinion.
As a young child, I felt that I could keep up a sense of “love” through my achievements and accomplishments. When my parents were proud of me, I felt loved. All of this perfectionism led to many of my friends getting to the point where they wanted to see me fail, at something. I worked HARD, at everything I did. They simply didn’t understand what I felt was at risk. It wasn’t about not making a team, it was about not being loved.
My teenage years were filled with further accomplishments, and the struggle to support these achievements. When I looked to my father for advice, I got the hard lessons of life. The “you better learn it now” both worked and was pushed upon him as a child. My mom was in the group that liked to see me fail, as this somehow made her feel better about herself. So I stood there as my alcoholic boss swore at me with his finger inches from my face about how stupid women were repeatedly … until one day when I told him off, at 15 years of age.
I dated some through high school and college all without drinking alcohol. I went to parties, was social and was part of all that most high school and college kids are. In some cases, I made those that were drinking uncomfortable because I chose not too, but that was their problem, not mine. I didn’t trust anyone. There were situations I found myself in that continued to support that decision. Many times I drove home the “designated drivers,” pushed away many drunk men to drive myself home alone sober, and once saw a stranger stir something in my Coke while I danced with my friends.
In my late 20s, I met my husband. Now, after 10 years of marriage, I am learning to let down my guard. This man has seen me at my very worst. He has seen me fall on my face and has been there when I have been sick and scared. He has seen me vulnerable and has loved me through it. He has given me a safe place to land in all of my insecurities, worries, fears, or failures with guaranteed, unconditional love. He is God’s greatest gift to me and I will be forever grateful for him.
And, he understands that I am a work in progress. “Stop being so self-sufficient” he reminds me. How difficult that is for me! I am the one that everyone leans on … yet I know no support stands by itself. I don’t expect that from him or anyone else. I need my husband to be my support (among others.) I need it to be okay … to be vulnerable.