Vulnerability and intimacy

Thursday, July 20, 2017 Permalink

I woke one morning this week reflecting on a recent conversation with my friend Kanga Rue. It was actually a very personal conversation – for me, not her… cos it was about me (and isn’t it always about #mememeee?!). Anyhoo, I pondered and pondered some more before deciding it was something I’d like to write about… which of course allowed me to ponder just a little bit more.

We were talking about relationships and intimacy. And whether I would / could potentially have one at some point. I suspected I’ve been alone too long or am too far gone to allow a man into my life. My friend however, thought it was possible but suggested (nicely) that I’d have to let myself be vulnerable.

via Brene Brown

I’m a control freak. An overly-independent control freak.

The control freakness is something I’m pretty sure I learned from my father. I’m even more sure he didn’t mean to transfer his obsessive gene (and various foibles) to me, but I guess that’s what happens with family and loved ones. Their foibles can be contagious.

The independence thing is probably more something that’s grown from being alone my entire life. Indeed, I started living alone in the early 1990s (in my early 20s) and – other than the ‘group house from hell’ (aka, Australian Embassy in East Timor where I resided with fellow diplomats for over a year) – I’ve lived alone since then.

Unsurprisingly, living alone breeds a certain sense of independence. You have to change your own lightbulbs. Take out your own garbage. Move furniture yourself*. Cook meals. And so forth.

Somehow sometime, I became accustomed to not asking for help. I’ve talked about it before…. my inability to / antipathy towards asking for help. It’s a combination I think… of my independence and control freakness. I hate the idea of being a burden. I hate the idea of being indebted. I hate the idea of people feeling guilted into doing something they don’t want to do. And I hate the idea that I’m incapable of doing something or of having someone who offers to help, without me having to beg.

I don’t even often ask my mother for help – though she’s the one person in the world for whom I am central to their universe. She just does stuff: cooks me meals; buys me gluten-free stuff she stumbles across; tidies my tupperware; and tracks down lip balm I can’t find but have mentioned in passing.

Which eventually brings me back to my original point. About vulnerability.

Vulnerability is not weakness and that myth is profoundly dangerous.  Brene Brown

I’ve listened to Brene Brown enough to know that vulnerability can be important and is NOT a bad thing. And – because we’re all friends here and I’m an over-sharer – I will tell you *gulp* that I do fantasise a little about allowing myself to be vulnerable with someone else. ‘Letting them in.’ Allowing someone else to comfort me, do stuff for me, help me. Or rather, to see me as a priority and WANT to help me.

But what worries me is the whole cart and horse thing. I’m hoping to meet someone who allows me to feel that way, ie. to feel vulnerable with them. However, it occurs to me it’s highly likely that I need to be vulnerable enough to let someone in… in the first place.

Perhaps this is why I’m single. Well, that and the weight / way I look. Plus I’m kinda f*cked in the head at times. 😉

Do you struggle with vulnerability, asking for help, intimacy? Go ahead, bare your soul! Alternatively, what are your thoughts on the whole cart and horse thing?

the-lovin-life-linky I’ve joined Leanne from Deep Fried Fruit and some other bloggers to help promote “ageing positively” and the Lovin’ Life mindset across the interwebz. You can link up via any one of us!

The Lovin’ Life Team includes:


* And I’m reminded of the recent episode in which I got my entertainment unit stuck in a doorway and thought I may never enter my bedroom again.

42 Comments
  • Sydney Shop Girl
    July 20, 2017

    My first comment got eaten, oops. Deb, thanks for sharing your conversation and your redefinition of vulnerability. I can relate to so much of what you’ve written. But, you only live once, I’ve decided. So I’m doing something that frightens me a little each day and stepping out of my comfort zone.

    SSG xxx

    • Debbish
      July 20, 2017

      Ah, that’s a good idea and I like the idea of small steps….

  • Jo
    July 20, 2017

    Well first of all – you look great. And I can say that because I’ve met you now in real life. Second of all, yeah, vulnerability is seen as a weakness, but sometimes it’s the scariest thing we can do – which makes doing it really brave…and talking about it really brave. I also happen to think there’s strength & attractiveness in independence, so the answer is, as always, somewhere in the middle ground.

    • Debbish
      July 20, 2017

      Ha, you’ve seen me after I’ve lost 40+kg. Although I was this weight after 12WBT. And after Fat Camp. (I seem to keep getting stuck at this weight! Hopefully the steps I’ve taken this time will mean I don’t regain it all and more!)

      And yes, I agree with the middle ground thing!

  • Kooky Chic
    July 20, 2017

    But if you change will that mean that you’re not the real you when you find that certain someone? I hate asking people for things/help and even though I am married I am fiercely independent.Of course it drives Smarts crazy sometimes but it’s who I am.

    I have a friend who is getting married for the first time at the age of 50 in November and she will be a step mum to a little girl she loves. It can happen and I have no doubt it will. And what is this bs about how you look? Are you crazy? You look amazing! Give yourself a slap!

    • Debbish
      July 20, 2017

      I think my singledom has partially been about the way I look but also about the way I think I look or how I think others think about the way I look…. if that makes sense. I’ve had patches of my life where I’ve focussed on the relationship thing (or at least the idea of one: going to pubs and clubs in my 20s and 30s, online and speed dating in my late 30s and early 40s), but it’s never really worked out. Or never even felt like an option.

  • Jan Wild
    July 20, 2017

    It has nothing to do with the way you look Deb, but yes it has a lot to do with the way you feel and how open you are to the world. It isn’t easy after a life of independence; I know because I was single until I was well into my 40s. So there you go, it’s not too late for you

    • Debbish
      July 20, 2017

      I’d like to think so Jan. People used to say that when I was in my 30s…. ‘that it would happen’, then in my 40s. My track record isn’t great. I actually think I’ve assumed permanent singledom now so would be surprised if anything came my way!

      I will (continue to be) that crazy old bachelorette (not spinster!) who reads and drinks champagne in the bath, eats brownies for breakfast and does whatever the hell she likes. There will, however, be no cats!

  • Kathy Marris
    July 20, 2017

    You sound like my 85 year old Mum, who is fiercely independent. She rarely asks for any help from her family of 5 children and either does things herself or employs someone to do the task. My Mum has been on her own since she was around 50 years old, after my Dad left her. She is incredibly stubborn and I know she’s battling to retain her independence rather than be put into a nursing home or similar. I believe you can allow a little bit of vulnerability into your life once you 100% trust someone. Otherwise I think remaining strong and independent is a good thing. #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      July 20, 2017

      I prefer to pay someone to do stuff for me as well Kathy. I had a handyman come and hang a wallhanging and put my dryer on the wall. If I get my letterbox fixed and I can’t do it, I’d prefer to pay someone rather than ask someone.

  • Amy @ Handbagmafia
    July 20, 2017

    Deb, you’re a gorgeous woman. Truly. I think you do have to open yourself to the possibility of a relationship if that’s what you want. And allow yourself a little vulnerability. That in itself takes strength and courage.

    • Debbish
      July 21, 2017

      Ah, very true Amy… I think the courage needed for it is what I am kinda lacking!

  • Anne @ Let Me Be Free
    July 20, 2017

    I have always been independent and it was a real learning curve when I moved in with my partner. Like all the other comments it is not a bad thing to allow yourself to be vulnerable.

    • Debbish
      July 21, 2017

      I can’t even imagine how I’d cope with living someone. Some older relative made a comment to mum about the fact that I should have moved in with her when I made my seachange. Mum and I agreed we’d kill each other if we had to live together for any lengthy amount of time. And even if I do have to move in to take care of her more when she’s older, I’ll certainly keep my place as my outlet!

  • writeofthemiddle
    July 20, 2017

    I think there is always the chance of finding love and sharing your life with someone. Being vulnerable in this context to me means being open to making lifestyle tweaks and/or changes to accommodate this new person. Also being open to different ways of thinking and doing things. Also – you look fantastic!! What u talkin’ bout! I am very envious of your smile. You have the most lovely smile. Sadly, I can’t do teethy smiles because 1) I have small gappy teeth, and 2) those kinda smiles make my face go all squidgy and round and fat looking. So I smile with no teeth showing for that reason *sigh*! As a last thought – I think being strong and independent are attractive and good qualities and something to be proud of. 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      July 21, 2017

      The teeth thing is funny as I stopped smiling and showing my teeth a few years ago as I became paranoid they were too discoloured etc… Teeth whitening hasn’t been in my budget but I’d certainly get it done if I could. (Too much diet coke and red wine sadly!)

  • Lydia C. Lee
    July 20, 2017

    Okay, I don’t like your post because of your end line about being single because of your weight and looks. Let’s Kanye it up with a little, you haven’t met the right person yet, you haven’t met someone who you’re that interested in you’re prepared to give up your lifestyle for. If only models got partners then the human race would have died out long ago. Next one, a little fucked in the head. Everyone our age is lumbering under a little baggage, and plenty of 20 year olds are too. So pffft to that too.Any potential partner will also be a little fucked in the head. Lastly, there is never too long gone in living alone to partner up, if you find someone worthwhile. The problem is you are happy alone so not prepared to settle. And that’s not really a problem, that’s a good thing. Why settle for LESS happiness? The partner needs to be adding value. So I don’t think it’s about vunerabilty. I think intimacy makes you vulnerable. I don’t think you have to be vulnerable for intimacy.

    • Debbish
      July 21, 2017

      I hate the idea of ‘settling’ Lydia so don’t think I’d do that now but guess I worry where that line is – between accepting someone who’s certainly not perfect and has their baggage and foibles and feeling you don’t deserve more / settling.

      The fucked in the head thing I suspect I mostly relate to my lifetime of eating issues, perfectionism and self-hatred stuff. I have always realised it’d be hard for anyone else to think me worthy if I haven’t been able to. *Sigh*

      • Lydia C Lee
        July 25, 2017

        Not making light of those issues, but as a challenge, next time one of those thoughts pops into your head, argue with it. What would Kanye say? (If you don’t know, he’d say ‘you don’t get to judge me, I’m awesome!’)

  • Jodie
    July 20, 2017

    Interesting way to think about it. Sure, I can see the vulnerability side of the coin. But I think there is more than that too! I bet you wouldn’t mind being so vulnerable if you found someone who makes it okay.
    However, being independent can be a good thing, and if and when you want…you will find it!
    XOXO
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Debbish
      July 21, 2017

      I think I’d certainly be okay with being vulnerable if I knew someone had my back. I actually listened to a podcast this morning about relationships and the notion of getting to the point with a partner where the love is unconditional (coming from a place of abundance they said) but recognising that you can still want that person to be the best version (they can) of themselves… so not wanting to change them, but wanting them to continue to grow…. if that makes sense.

  • @Kanga_Rue
    July 20, 2017

    My thoughts are you’re gorgeous. Inside and out. I’d be surprised if you’re not already attracting male attention, and perhaps you’re not yet aware of it…

    And it’s uncomfortable being vulnerable. Sitting with the emotion, any difficult emotion, is something I continually strive for.

    BTW, I’m glad we can talk about this stuff xoxo

    • Debbish
      July 21, 2017

      In reality I think most people would still look at me and think I’m too big. Most people wouldn’t know I’ve lost a stack of weight and would probably think I need to lose some. I think our expectations of others (in terms of attractiveness etc) probably changes (evolves) as we get older. I was pretty superficial when I was young and suspect I value other things more now and hope others do too.

  • Vanessa
    July 20, 2017

    It is hard to help someone who is independent. My MIL raised two kids on her own and doesn’t accept help – she wouldn’t even let me pay for her parking when she spent the day of my surgery at the hospital with me (she was my getaway driver haha, though the get-there driver too, but that sounds way less cool).
    Also, it brings me comfort that I’m not the only one who loses lip balm all the time.

    • Debbish
      July 21, 2017

      I used to have to lie to the staff when I had day surgery in Brissy Vanessa cos I didn’t ever like to ask anyone to take me / pick me up so I’d taxi to and fro and tell them I had someone at home, though I didn’t. Of course now I’ve got my mum nearby and we do the day surgery pick up for each other. (Indeed I did hers for cataract surgery yesterday!) I certainly feel okay about asking her to do anything like that and am sure she feels the same.

  • leannelc
    July 20, 2017

    It’s a fine balance isn’t it Deb? I think getting married at a young age helped me with the whole dependent/independent thing, but if I hadn’t married in my 20’s – or if I ever find myself single again – I think I’d find it really hard to fit in around another person. I think it will be just me and my cats if I’m alone again – as much as I love Brene Brown, compromise and vulernability are just too much to be bothered with IMHO. I really hope you find that special person who makes you want to take the risk though – it would make for some interesting blog posts!

    • Debbish
      July 21, 2017

      I know my mum and her friends – who lost their husbands later in life – have no desire to be in a relationship again. I have a lot of friends who separated / divorced when younger though and struggled without a partner and moved on as soon as they could.

      I think I’d find it difficult to let someone into my life and joke about having a long-distance relationship so I can keep my own space but I guess / assume that when you’re madly in love with someone you want to spend as much time as possible together. (I’ve never been in love so have no idea on that front!)

  • budgettraveltalk
    July 20, 2017

    I don’t feel that asking for help makes me vulnerable. Maybe if it was help for emotional matters it would but as far as physical requirements that wouldn’t phase me. I don’t think you should change how you are. If you were to meet someone you really liked you might want to change or you might not. I am a bit of a fatalist. If relationships are meant to happen they will, of course you can put yourself into situations where you could meet more people which would improve the possibility – that’s the only thing I would consider.

    • Debbish
      July 21, 2017

      Ah yes. I know there have been times in my life I’ve realised my chance of meeting anyone has been minimal. My last single friends paired up in their late 30s and so outings to pubs and Sunday afternoon sessions stopped then and I realised I wasn’t going out at all other than work and then ‘girls lunches or brunches’. Being a single person amidst a sea of couples or families can be hard cos they’re naturally drawn to other couple / family things.

      I am going to try to make a bit more of an effort now (that I hate myself less than I did!) so am trying to think of things locally I can do (business networking things, social events where possible) – though there’s not a lot of scope in my small seachange town!

  • eatingasapathtoyoga
    July 21, 2017

    I love this post. I identify with so much of it. I’m working on vulnerability, too. Just remember, plenty of crazy, fat people are married. And plenty of normal, thin people are not.

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    July 22, 2017

    Thanks for letting us into your ponderings. This is a great post. Lots to think about.
    I’m the opposite. I’m someone who needs her independence and am trying to now find that in my marriage. I’m trying to find how to get my space.
    Re relationships in the mid years – I have an aunt who was always alone. She had never gotten married nor had kids. Then in her late 40s she found someone online who she clicked with and they’ve lived happily ever after ever since. I think it’s been around 15 years now. They bought a new place together, combined their assets, their retirement stuff etc. She is also now the grandmother to his young grand children which she loves (having never had children of her own). But yes, she had to make a few adjustments and let go of some of the control. And let her vulnerabilities show. Which can be hard … I totally understand that.
    Time for us to work on your Tinder profile perhaps?? LOL. Ok, OK, Maybe not Tinder.
    xoxoxo
    L

  • seizetheday20
    July 22, 2017

    Putting yourself in a position where you’re vulnerable can be pretty scary, that’s for sure. But if you want to be in a relationship, that’s what you have to do (unfortunately). I guess it comes down to whether you want to be in a relationship, then finding the right person … someone you really connect with and who you’re willing to let into your life. In terms of letting go of being in control, I find that hard too. I do try to put myself in my husband’s shoes and allow him to control some things, as I wouldn’t want to live with a total control freak, so I don’t want to be one!! You’ve given me something to ponder too! 🙂 xox #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      July 23, 2017

      I suspect if you’ve had time with someone or ‘grown’ together you develop some habits around control and dependence – take certain roles and let the other person take others. I’d like to think as long as both felt happy in those roles it would be a good balance.

  • Janet Camilleri
    July 22, 2017

    Your being single has nothing to do with the way you look … you just haven’t met the right person yet, the one who sees the real you. Ain’t none of us fashion plates (except for fashion plates in magazines of course)!

    • Debbish
      July 23, 2017

      That may be the case Janet. It’s not like I’ve been rejected badly or had my heart broken….

  • sanchwrites
    July 23, 2017

    I hear you…it’s not oversharing by the way. I’m currently dancing that balance between being vulnerable and okay with it while being independent. I was sick last week and a colleague and friend offered to drop of some food for me. I declined as I already had food. She later told me to remember that I’m not alone here and she is around for any kind of assistance. It made me realise I really should reach out and ask for help when I need it. It’s really hard to do. As for relationships and letting someone in, once again, I’ve been there and now being single again, I worry it’s going to be harder to let someone in especially as the last one was one which I thought would be ‘forever’ at one stage. It’s bloody hard and yet, the alternative doesn’t seem too great, either at times, does it?

    • Debbish
      July 23, 2017

      No, the alternative doesn’t seem great… (I can attest to 49yrs of that. Although I do recall ‘going’ with a boy for a day or two on occasions while in primary school!)

  • Michelle W (@pinkypoinker)
    July 23, 2017

    First thing to do my gorgeous girl is to stop saying things like “the way I look/weigh”. Do you judge people by what they look like? Of course not, and neither does any other decent person. Besides, you look smashing!

    • Debbish
      July 23, 2017

      I’m not sure Michelle, I think sometimes I do judge people by how they look. I mean, I don’t expect perfection but I suspect I’m fussy and perhaps I really don’t have the right to be.

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