In the previous blog, we discussed what it is like to feel like your relationship is entering a place of hopelessness and the impact of unmet expectations (see Rebuilding a Broken Relationship). The focus last time was on the importance of communication and empathy; today we will dive into partnership and vulnerability.
Partnership can be defined in a few different ways and at the end of the day, it is important that you and your partner know what that definition is. While researching this topic, a few key words stuck out: collaboration, cooperation, alliance, and connection. Do these sound familiar? I am sure you’ve sat in some team-building exercise at work before that explored these concepts. Like most men, you probably easily understand the benefit of working towards team-oriented goals (American sports, anyone?). So let’s translate this into a language that is more functional for your marriage.
What does every good team need? Achievable goals. What does every great team have (besides Tom Brady)? The willingness to put the team above everything-ego, pride, individual desires, etc. If the team doesn’t succeed, the rest doesn’t matter as much; then you’re a free agent looking for a new team and you realize that the same issues from the last team continue to follow you into the new one.
When setting goals, it is important to understand the individual values of each partner and then collectively create values or goals for the partnership. Examples of this could be financial stability, spiritual growth, reserving time for travel and fun, or more defined like everyone’s role in the house, how often we are spending time alone, and what it means for us to fight fairly. The ultimate goal for partnership is to develop something that makes sense, and is realistically attainable for the two of you.
Alright, we have arrived and I know you all probably rolled your eyes last time when I mentioned it, so let’s just get it out of the way now… vulnerability. Yes, a therapist is asking you to be vulnerable It’s a shocking concept, but bear with me. Why is vulnerability important and if it is as imperative as it seems, and why then have men been told that it is a demonstration of weakness? Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to even begin to explain the social and cultural constructs attached to the latter part of that sentence, but at the core vulnerability is just sharing and connection.
In order to buy into the importance of vulnerability, you must first understand what your idea of it is and what it means to you. Most of the men I have worked with tell me that being vulnerable in any aspect of their lives is seen as an immense weakness-“you’re telling me I should talk about my feelings and cry?”. No, what I’m asking you to do is share your thoughts with your partner and be willing to connect beyond the surface.
Vulnerability can present in many different ways:
Telling someone you love them
Expressing excitement and fear about being a new father
Re-examining your morals and values
Offering support to a friend
Being honest about your struggles
Working through trauma
Fighting for your marriage
Fighting for your marriage. Did you expect to see that one? Maybe, maybe not. If there is only one part of this blog that you remember, please let it be this-I have sat in front of countless couples who decide to pursue therapy after so much collateral damage is done. By that point most women are checked out and men sit there confused and ashamed because they didn’t realize that things were “that bad”.
Men, put the work in NOW. I’ve heard all of the excuses not to and you think “there’s no way she would leave”, that sounds like some high-risk thinking to me. She will leave, and she will start from scratch, and she will find someone new. Stop treating your fantasy football leagues with more importance than your marriage and stop acting like your kids will be okay being raised in two different homes. I am not intending to stir up fear, I am only hoping to give you the perspective of someone who has seen too many marriages fall apart because of a lack of communication, empathy, partnership, and vulnerability.
I truly hope that this inspires you to see how valuable your role as a man, husband, father, and leader is in your family. You are the guiding light.
At Mind Works Counseling Services, we specialize in Relationship Therapy that is geared to help you navigate vulnerability and other challenges associated with a successful, healthy, and happy relationship.
Learn more about the Relationship Therapy we offer.
Contact us to make an appointment or to let us answer any questions you may have.