Diminishing Vulnerability in Marriage
When the identity we create to protect our false self is left unexamined, there are devastating consequences for any relationship. Particularly for the marriage relationship that is so built for intimacy.
Identity functions as a protective wall. Like the candy coating on a m&m. Energy goes into making sure the outside protection is secure, that way our worth is secure. Because my spouse is a potential source of reinforcement for my false identity, healthy differentiation in the relationship cannot be achieved.
In order to avoid being known for who we are, we present an image, an identity. Body image, fashion, social status, vocation, religion, machismo, etc. all function not only as a source of value for us, but as a way to hide our selves from those around us.
Even in marriage.
But, this focus on identity comes at the expense of vulnerability. Being vulnerable requires that the candy shell is taken off, that our guard is lowered. That we cut the cord that is sustaining our sense of self and significance. When we are vulnerable, we give our spouse the ability to either hurt us or draw near to us.
That is nakedness. Without our covering, we are subject to and dominated by shame. Fearing that if we are known, that we will not be loved nor accepted. So, without a way to cover shame, we have to suit back up.
Even in marriage.
The two cannot become one, but remain two. Each reacting to the shell – the protective behaviors – of the other. Not having the ability to give our spouse the opportunity to truly know us, because to experience hurt in our nakedness destroys trust and damages our soul.
When our identity is rooted in something other than Christ – or something in addition to Christ – we diminish our ability to be vulnerable in our marriage.
Can you think of a time when you were hesitant to be fully vulnerable with your spouse? What were you protecting?