I’m sitting here trying to write about vulnerability and I can’t help but feel…vulnerable. Putting yourself out there, no matter how you’re doing it, is a scary thing. No one wants to look bad in front of other people. No one wants to fail.
But when did it become a weakness to show vulnerability, to show the imperfect and to admit the struggles? This was one of the reasons we wanted to start the blog. To show people that you can have a great relationship, great jobs, great families and seemingly have it together…but it’s never really that easy.
When Steph and I first started dating, I was unsure about a lot of things. You’ve heard all of this before…our age difference, being in a same sex relationship and not knowing about kids. But one thing I was sure about was that being with Steph was different than any of my previous relationships…and I didn’t want to lose her. I’m sure most of us have felt that at some point in a relationship. That slight panic feeling when you realize you’re really falling for someone and that all of a sudden you don’t have control of the situation anymore.
Suddenly someone else dictates your world and they have a part of you that could do some serious damage if they decided to walk away. If you read our post about anxiety, you know that for me, not having control of a situation used to completely rattle me (Not saying I don’t still feel that way sometimes, but it’s a lot better). But at the beginning of Team 27…what a doozy.
You wait your whole life to find “the one”. The one you know you could build a life with, you could spend all your days with and handle all of life’s ups and downs with. I found that person at 23, which I can definitely say I wasn’t ready for.
I wasn’t ready for someone else to completely have my heart. To feel vulnerability at its most intense, when you can’t guarantee the relationship will work out, even though you’ve never wanted something so bad. But are you ever really ready for a love that strong?
I don’t think you are. It changes your world in an instant and everything you thought you knew goes flying out the window. I fought my feelings for a long time. I had never really depended on anyone before and I didn’t really know how to let myself be that vulnerable with someone. It took me a while to let my guard down. To let Steph completely in. To not try and control every situation so I could limit every possibility of getting hurt. (FYI – this is impossible. I learned from experience.) Eventually…I caved. I stopped fighting the fears and the vulnerabilities and allowed myself to be scared and exposed.
So by the time I told my friends and family about Steph and I, you’d think the vulnerability would have subsided a little bit. But…nope. I started a new job about 7 months into dating Steph and I still didn’t know how to introduce her. Do I call her my girlfriend? But, she’s not just a friend girlfriend…she’s a girlfriend girlfriend. But, she identifies more as male…so girlfriend sounds weird. But I can’t call her my boyfriend, because that’s not true either. I could say partner…but wow that sounds weird to say.
I struggled with this for longer than I’d like to admit. I understand now that even though I told friends and family we were together…I was still processing it. And it was going to take time.
Eventually I got comfortable saying partner and what a feeling that was! But then, I started doing this thing where after talking about Steph as my partner, I would follow it up by saying, “But I’m not gay”. It was as if I had to justify to the person in front of me that I wasn’t gay, so they wouldn’t label me that way. I’m not sure why this label thing affected me so much. I think because I was already feeling vulnerable by introducing my partner, which was a new experience, that backing it up with an explanation of how I was straight somehow gave me back some control. I never fully understood why this was happening.
It sounds so silly now, but part of it was because I’m a very complimentary person. I will tell you if I like your outfit, your hair, your shoes…basically anything that will make you feel good and put a smile on your face. But I never wanted other women to think I was hitting on them, because then that made it weird and would make me uncomfortable, which would make me stop doing it. And I didn’t want to stop giving out compliments!
I don’t know when it happened, but there was a day when I realized how disrespectful this justification was to Steph. She never said anything. She never did. Since the beginning of our relationships, she has given me the time and patience that I’ve needed to work through things on my own. But I realized that in justifying that I wasn’t gay, it took away from what Steph meant to me and how serious I was about our relationship.
At long last, I stopped fighting the vulnerability. I allowed myself to just be me. To date Steph and not worry about what conclusions were drawn, what other people thought or what assumptions were made. I was proud of my relationship and that’s what deserved to be highlighted.
As difficult and scary as those situations were, I’d actually contest that starting this blog was when I’ve felt the most vulnerable in my entire life. I’ve struggled enough with being vulnerable in front of friends and family, but opening up to anyone and everyone about very private and intimate details of my life…my heart pounds just thinking about it.
But, stepping out of my comfort zone and hitting “Publish” on that first blog post was so much easier because I had Steph beside me to do it with. I knew that no matter what came our way as a result, it didn’t affect us, and we’d be okay.
If you’re feeling the same, that you’ve always wanted to do something, try something, be with someone or just take a risk…do it! And lean on the amazing people you have in your life. Open up to them and share your fears…everyone has them and you are not alone. I’m continuing to learn that people love the mess. People love the realness and people admire the strength it takes to be vulnerable.
So, now I have to give a massive shout out to everyone who has been reading, commenting, messaging and supporting us since this journey started. I can’t tell you how much it means to us. Especially to me, who worried endlessly, not knowing what the outcome would be and having no control over it.
I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.