Sometimes even the most aware among us get stuck behind blind spots in matters of love. This often happens because of anxieties, insecurities, or fears related to intimacy, perceived unworthiness, or loss of control. Even when we have generally dealt with our stuff, the vulnerability of intimacy takes us to a new level — a much deeper one — which may reveal the presence of things we thought we’d overcome. If this happens we can choose to embrace them, grow from them, and see them as a special gift of love; or we can run from them, defend against them, and blame them on something other than what is really causing them.
For example, if Rose, a single parent mom with three kids, is afraid of the vulnerability of intimacy, she might respond to her fears by avoiding it or controlling the situations that could lead to it, to keep the door closed. Making such choices strengthens the fears, gives them the power, and keeps the beliefs that are causing them alive. If these beliefs are based on past experiences, then continuing to energize the fears will drag these beliefs, like an old tattered suitcase full of past hurts, behind her; making what happened in the past seem like it is still happening now. But is it? Are those thoughts, the fears that form from them, and the actions they generate warranted based on what is happening right now? Is she giving this sweet guy she really likes a chance, or is she just turning him into another version of her past?
Re-creating the past like this causes Rose to live in constant fear, experience frequent health problems, and greatly limit her possibilities. It gives whatever happened to her in the past control over what is happening in her life now — including her ability to give and receive love. It gives the power to the past, and turns the present into it.
Rose may try to control or avoid the vulnerability of intimacy by hiding behind the kids, her career as a therapist, or her role as director of child ministries in her church. She may always try to stay super-busy with them — too busy for anything else — including conversations about or the sharing of intimacy. Maybe you’ve done this yourself, or know someone who has.
Avoidance: Escaping Out of Life Into Something
When life makes us uncomfortable, we may look for things to hide behind, and be completely unaware that we are doing it. Such discomfort is often experienced as fear, anxiety or stress and may lead to patterns of avoiding the things we think are causing it. In relationships, for both men and women, being vulnerable is often the greatest cause of discomfort. And yet, vulnerability is a necessary part of sharing love.
Some may stay super-busy with their kids, others get lost in their work, and still others bury themselves in cultural, family, or religious traditions to avoid the vulnerability of intimacy. Since these things are objectively good, hiding behind them is easy to do and sometimes hard to see.
Kids, of every age, create ongoing opportunities for those wanting to control or avoid vulnerability in relationships. And the kids often like the extra attention they receive when a parent is using them in this way. They may get to stay up later, have their Mom or Dad fall asleep with them, get to choose what happens, what movies the family watches, or what food they eat; and much, much more. This is really unhealthy for kids, and often creates expectations that result in insecurities, fears, an inflated sense of importance, and dysfunctional relationships. It can also lead to unhealthy attachments, inappropriate boundaries, and even incest.
But parents will often resort to doing this to control or avoid being vulnerable in their relationship. There are many reasons they might not want to be vulnerable — fear of losing control, performance issues, guilt, unexpressed resentments, fears, past traumas, or passive-aggressiveness.
When they hide behind the kids, their partner might feel frustrated, undervalued, unloved, hurt, or confused.
A good solution to this would be to work with a professional team consisting of a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) and a Vedic Astrologer. Between the two, we will gain a deep and conscious understanding of what is happening, why, and what to do. The MFT will identify the individual and system dynamics, the Vedic astrologer will explain the planetary influences, and together they can create a map for us to follow and strategies to support our healing process.
For some, their career is the chosen way for them to control and avoid being vulnerable in their relationship. They may leave early, stay late, volunteer for extra duty, or be constantly focused on work while at home.
Their partner may feel undervalued, unloved, confused, hurt, or betrayed.
A habit like this can be overcome by working with an MFT or spiritual teacher to help us understand and rise above these tendencies.
Cultural, Family, or Religious Traditions
As with kids and work, some will hide behind traditions like culture, family, and religion to avoid being vulnerable in relationships. They may over-commit and become so busy with their traditions that they have no time for anything else. And they may believe this is totally justified. And, again, these things are usually objectively really good things — so it is sometimes harder for people to realize what is happening. It could involve things like hula or outrigger canoe paddling, becoming really involved in extended family activities, or immersing ourselves in service roles at a temple, church, or synagogue.
When such things are done in a balanced, responsible way — in accordance with our true priorities — they are usually wonderful, healthy parts of our lives.
When they are being used to avoid vulnerability in relationships, they are often excessive and, when scrutinized, do not support our true priorities. And, under these circumstances, they often create problems for us individually, and for our relationship.
And our partner may feel lonely, uncared for, neglected, or sad.
We could deal with this by finding a culturally sensitive, or spiritually synchronized MFT to assist us with identifying and adjusting the system dynamics of our relationship, and to help us overcome the effects of our past.
Photo Credit: I Nengah Januartha