A Desirable Marriage: Vulnerable or Guarded

This article is based on scientific evidence and clinical experience, written by a licensed professional and fact-checked by experts.

Posted: July 7, 2021

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The author/counselor Kristina Paris of this article is no longer with MyCounselor; however, wanting to continue to share their expertise on the subject, we would like to cite, credit and thank Kristina Paris for their contributions to our clients.

Vulnerability in a relationship can hurt, therefore, it may be easier to remain guarded. Being guarded may feel safer, but it can be damaging in the relationship. Many times, when we are guarded, it is because of past hurts and pain that we have experienced. We want to protect ourselves from future hurts to ensure the painful experience will not happen again. When entering a new relationship, we try to bring our best self, but sometimes we bring past hurts, traumas, and painful experiences into it; and over time we put up guards to protect ourselves. What guarded looks like depends on the individual, but this can damage the relationship. When our guards are up, we are allowing people to get close to a certain extent, but someone getting too close is too much. At times, in the mind of a guarded person, it is better to hide the deeper parts of themselves than be transparent. Transparency takes vulnerability and vulnerability is a powerful tool in a marriage. When you are vulnerable, you are letting someone in and when you are guarded you are keeping that individual out. So, for a long-lasting marriage, it is important to understand and implement vulnerability.

So, the question is: what are some ways I can let go of being guarded and become more vulnerable with my spouse?

Tools to Increase Vulnerability in Marriage
Forgiveness in marriage

One tool is forgiving past wrongs. Unforgiveness can cause you to stay stuck in the past. Harboring unforgiveness encourages your walls to stay up. When entering a new relationship, it is not fair for the new person to suffer from the consequences of your ex or the person that hurt you. Try not to make assumptions and give them the opportunity to be there for you emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Forgiveness is helpful when you are trying to let go of the past. Forgiveness is for you. It is forgiving the person for what they did to you and allows you to release what was holding you back. It is also giving yourself the gift of freedom from the hurt and pain you experienced from past relationships.

Affirmation in Marriage

We can be vulnerable through affirmation, empathy, compassion, and communication.  When applying affirmation,  always try to talk to your significant other with love. Try to build them up. For example, “you did good”, “you did a good job on __ today”, “I appreciate the way you said that to me” , “You could have said it a different way, but I noticed you said it with love and that means a lot to me”. Even when you’re in an argument, try to talk to them with love or use an undertone of love. Think before you speak. If you cannot say it with the undertone of love or with love, then revisit the conversation later.

Empathy in Marriage

Empathy is important. When we are empathizing, we are being aware of other’s emotions with an attempt to understand how they feel. Try to imagine yourself in your spouse’s situation and ask yourself, “How would I feel if that was me?” Being able to understand your spouse through this lens can help you to develop a different perspective and outlook on their situation. In turn, when you communicate about this, you are more likely to speak in love. You can respond with love, care, and concern rather than using harsh words or speaking what is on your mind with little concern or consideration as to what they are going through. Utilizing empathy allows you to share their feelings and embrace the response they may need at that time. Many times when this happens it allows the walls to start coming down. It makes it easier to be vulnerable because they can begin to trust you. Having trust makes it easier to be transparent.

Compassion in Marriage

When we are compassionate, we are responding with sympathy and wanting to help. Embracing and utilizing compassion allows the relationship to strengthen and grow. It allows you to be in tune with the other’s needs and can also assist with softening the walls to be vulnerable with your spouse. Compassion allows you to be sensitive to their needs and help with alleviating their pain and hurt. This is even more critical for a guarded person because it provides an opportunity for the walls to come down and they will begin to let you in to the deeper part of them. The deeper you enter, the more tender it is. Embracing these moments with love and acting in love is extremely important. Sometimes asking, with tenderness and love, “what do you need from me?”, “what would you like from me?”, or “is there any way I can help?” can be helpful.

Effective Communication in Marriage

Effective communication is essential in any relationship, but even more so in a marriage.  The way we communicate can set the pace in how quickly someone can be vulnerable to us, and in turn, how quickly we can be vulnerable to them. The spouse will respond based on what we say, so it is critical to watch what we say and how we say it. When communicating, try to listen attentively without being in a rush to respond. Talk about your values, passions, and what is important to you. You can also talk about what you are afraid of or concerned about. It is important to communicate your needs, wants, and desires openly. Try not to take things personal and try to avoid assumptions. Try to avoid sarcasm, name calling, putting the other person down, using derogatory language, cursing them out, etc. Do try to understand their triggers and boundaries and honor them. Do not use them to attack later on. Attacks will only encourage walls and defenses, and will hinder them from being able to be vulnerable with you because you have now shown them they might not be able to trust you. When emotions are high, it is always easier to fight nasty. The thing you want to remember in those moments is that whatever you say you cannot take back. You can apologize for it, but you cannot take it back. It will be remembered. Communicating with love is key.

Vulnerability can increase.  Vulnerability will allow you to enter the deeper parts of them and, if cared for correctly, will aid in the longevity of your marriage. Affirmation, empathy, compassion, and communication are some of the key ingredients to a long-lasting marriage.

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This article is based on scientific evidence and clinical experience, written by a licensed professional and fact-checked by experts.

About the Author
Josh Spurlock
Josh Spurlock

Josh Spurlock MA, LPC, CST, has a BA in Biblical Languages and a Masters in Counseling. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), holding licenses in MissouriColorado, and Florida. He is also a Certified Sex Therapist (CST), Level 2 AEDP Therapist, and an Ordained Minister. He is an Advanced Practice Clinician, with over 10,000 hours of clinical experience. He specializes in Marriage Counseling, Sex Therapy, Family Counseling, and works with Executives, Pastors, Business Owners, and Ministry Leaders. Learn more about Josh Spurlock at JoshSpurlock.com.

Josh is currently unable to take on any new clients.

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