Trust and Vulnerability in Relationships

A willingness to be vulnerable is a significant feature of lasting relationships — ones in which partners are allies, not foes.

The need to form a mutually protective alliance is innate, according to psychoanalyst John Bowlby. This need persists throughout life; the search to be both cared for and caregiver underlies falling in love.

Long-lasting couples manage to keep this vulnerability alive. Each person’s awareness of the importance of partnership underlies his or her attentiveness to the other. This “protective love” focuses on the partnership and the ability to put the other first. As parents, they instinctively soothe their children’s tears, and in the same way, they are responsive to each other.Relationships Relationships Relationships Relationships Relationships

Such deep caring comes easily at a relationship’s beginning. Lust and novelty keep us attentively glued to each other when we fall in love. It’s in the next phase, when routines and irritations set in, that protective love is tested. Deep connectedness — feeling our partner’s triumphs and setbacks as our own — is a hallmark of the early stages of love. We are careful with our words and behavior and take care not to wound the other.Relationships Relationships Relationships Relationships Relationships

Remaining this attuned to a partner takes energy and commitment. Barriers may still stand in the way, though:

  • Busyness. Our busy lives mean we have to make an effort to take the time to talk and catch up. Such moments are essential for keeping empathetically tuned in to one’s partner. You need to motivate yourself to go out together, just the two of you, to focus on each other after a long day at work. This is the choice that long-lasting couples make. In a successful partnership, “I” develops into “we,”, and “independence” into “interdependence.”
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