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Die Skulptur des ukrainischen Künstlers Alexander Milov stellt zwei Menschen dar, die auf der einen Seite einander völlig abg

Vulnerability in Relationships


Author: Micha Brück


Photo: With permission of Tony Edwards;

This sculpture by Ukrainian artist, Alexander Milov, depicts two people who have completely turned their backs on each other, but whose "inner child" is actually seeking contact.


A situation that is certainly familiar to you:

You have a conflict with your spouse/friend

Or you have an "unpleasant" conversation ahead of you.

When I have a conflict with my wife, my inner dialogue sometimes looks like this:

"She could just apologise and realise her mistake", or " I don't want to be the first one to resolve the conflict again".

Then, at some point, I quickly come to the realisation that for me, as a man, it is also part of "leading a relationship" (Ephesians 5:19) to take the first step. (How good it is to have a trustworthy authority outside of oneself in God).

The question is, "How do I take the first step?"

First, let me quote a Bible passage from Matthew 18:1-3 (NIV):


At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."


Jesus repeatedly uses children as "role models" for us adults in various situations.

What is he talking about here in the quoted text? Certainly not about behaving childishly and silly.

Children are real: in trusting relationships they speak openly about their needs and their fears. This "making yourself vulnerable" is, in my eyes, a key to overcoming previously mentioned "invisible walls" or starting an "uncomfortable" conversation.

Why do I make myself "vulnerable" when I talk about my fears and needs? It may be that my need is neither heard nor satisfied nor understood by the other person. It may be that my counterpart does not take my fears seriously. We often prefer to protect ourselves from this, for example, by remaining silent or "talking up" a situation or going on the attack to defend ourselves.

How can I start such a conversation?

Stay with the "I" and talk about your fears and needs.


Depending on the background, for example:

"I’m not sure how to start this conversation because I don't want to hurt you with my thoughts, but I feel the need for you to listen to me for a moment and try to understand my point of view. It's important to me to resolve this conflict. I don't want anything to come between us." or:

"I’m not sure how to start this conversation. I am afraid of your reaction, but it is important to me to resolve the conflict between us." or:

"I’m not sure how to start the conversation. I am afraid of not being understood, but it is important to me to talk to you about the situation and resolve our conflict."

It is important to stay in the "I" form, to be real with your own fears and also to clearly state your own needs.


How would you react if your partner/friend etc. tried to talk to you in this way the next time you have a conflict? Or if your colleague or boss came to you in this way to address a fault or a character trait that needs to be changed? There is little room for defensiveness, is there?

In most cases, both "parties" want to resolve the conflict, the two "inner children" want to connect, don't they?

Of course, it can also be that my counterpart, despite all my vulnerability, reacts harshly and dismissively or does not take my needs seriously.


What happened to Jesus in Gethsemane, for example? Jesus knows that a painful death awaits him, and he is afraid:

Then he said to them (his disciples), “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38).

He makes himself very vulnerable and speaks of his fear - " My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" - and expresses what he needs: " Stay here and keep watch with me".

Jesus could have found many reasons not to talk about his fear and his needs: "I am God after all, if I tell them I am afraid and need their help, they will think I am weak and fall away from the faith". Or: "They will think I am a weakling: We were always told not to be afraid, and now he himself is afraid."

I personally believe that he wrestled with these or similar thoughts, but they did not stop him from being vulnerable and being real.

The disciples didn't really respond to his fear and need for support. They went back to sleep.

I take this as encouragement not to let the possible reactions of others stop me from being vulnerable. Very often I have experienced how healing this kind of communication can be.


How are you doing?

Is there an "unpleasant" conversation coming up? Is there a conflict to be resolved? How could you start the conversation and express your fears and needs? What positive influence could this have on the course and outcome of the conversation? What positive influence could this have on the relationship with the person in question?


I wish you success in "practising" "vulnerability" in your relationships. Be courageous! It gets easier and easier over time...

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