January 6, 2017

How To Be Vulnerable When You Have Been Repeatedly Hurt, Disappointed and Rejected in Your Past Relationships

# 1. Becoming vulnerable again after emotional pain is an inside job

Kristen Brown

Vulnerability comes as a natural bi-product of healing.

In order to transcend a closed heart (because that is what lack of vulnerability is), we must be willing to admit and declare three things:

(a) I’ve been incredibly hurt

(b) I am afraid

and most importantly…

(c) I am willing to do what it takes to heal.

Becoming vulnerable again after emotional pain is an inside job. No one “out there” can heal us. As long as we are telling and retelling our story in our minds or to others, we will remain stuck. When we finally see how our closed heart keeps closing doors, we begin to understand how our past pain is sabotaging our current and potential relationships.

By admitting we have been very hurt, we are bringing our shame and pain out of the shadows and into the light. Nothing can be healed unless it is first recognized. If we deny or minimize our pain, we are sweeping an ideal growth opportunity under the rug. Although in order to heal, we must declare our pain, we must also know that we have to let our story go.

“Yes, I’ve been hurt. It really sucked; however, I am ready to leave this story behind and reclaim my life!”

The same holds true for admittance of fear.

“I am so afraid and I am willing to do what it takes to heal.”

By merely being “willing”, the energy swirling around us immediately begins to shift and when a shift of energy occurs, so does our experience of the world around us. The Divine/Universe will hear our call for healing and step in to assist us reach our goal. This doesn’t mean we don’t have to do the work. Seeking a mentor/coach/friend who has dealt with the same issue is a prime place to begin.

After identifying and declaring all the above, I believe I was able to re-open my heart after a profound betrayal because prior to embarking on the dating experience again, I made a hardcore decision to heal my wounds first. I was willing to do whatever it took. For me reclaiming my self-worth and personal power put me back in the driver seat in my relationships. No longer was I floundering around unsure of who I am, what I deserve or who was trustworthy. Once I learned to trust myself, it was much easier to learn to trust a potential partner.

After any “failed” relationship, I firmly believe the time we take to feel and heal afterward will have great effect on how we show up in future relationships. Give yourself (and your beautiful, sweet soul) the gift of healing. Even though, Mr./Ms. Past Ass was not for you, this does not mean that Mr./Ms. Wonderful isn’t out there waiting for you to do the work so you can welcome him/her in.

Kristen Brown, Author and Certified Life Coach – www.sweetempowerment.com

# 2. Follow the 4 tips below

Barbara Ann Williams

Being vulnerable is a very delicate and sensitive place to be. It’s like walking about with your chest wide open and bare to any and every one you pass for them to see all that’s there. This makes you an open target for predators. Just thinking about that doesn’t feel good, does it? So what would you do in this situation? How many movies have you watched and said something about this very same individual, like, “What were they thinking?” Try to look at yourself from a distance and make a different choice.

If you have been repeatedly hurt, disappointed, and rejected in past relationships, a lesson was missed somewhere. Go back and see if you can find the cues, clues, writings on the wall, red flags, etc. that could have been your teachers in disguise. If it’s something that has happened over and over again, the only way to do something different is to reflect back on what happened and look at some other possible scenarios for you to choose differently. They say hind sight is everything. Well, this is an opportunity to look back and pick up some golden nuggets that could help you in the future.

So after, and only after you have attended to these reflections and past lessons, and think you have gotten them, can you begin to even think about opening yourself up again. It’s unsafe and unwise to reopen yourself to another potential blow when you haven’t healed from the previous one. So after you’ve done this, suggestions for moving forward can include:

1. If the light is not red (definite stop), or green (full steam ahead), it’s considered yellow (which means be cautious, it could be a warning needing your attention).

2. Do you feel really safe? Check within yourself for a genuine sense of where you are; and stay out of denial.

3. Is the other person being just as vulnerable with you, or are you in this alone? (watch out)

4. Be clear on what your requirements, needs, and wants are in a relationship so that you don’t waste your time in something you don’t even want. Be clear!

After these, then, and only then can you at least begin to even think of opening up again.

Barbara Ann Williams, LPC, MS – www.barbaraannwilliams.com

# 3. Understand that our wounds can be a great source of strength

Margie Ulbrick

It is a natural thing to be protective of ourselves when we’ve been hurt, especially in love. However, while there is some wisdom to be gleaned from protecting ourselves in this way, there are risks. If we stay in protective mode for too long we risk that we may not be open to new experiences and in particular to forming healthy and intimate relationships. We risk missing out on the learning from our past relationships and from creating more happiness for ourselves in the future.

Our wounds can be a good source for our growth! When we can look inside ourselves and be with rather than repress or reject the hurt parts of ourselves, we experience a transformation. We develop the capacity to be resilient and confident, to trust that ultimately we are OK no matter what. Then we are able to go out and be filled with curiosity and hope, with interest and passion and to see that life is full of possibility. We are not worried about being hurt and we therefore take things less personally. We weather the storms of people’s preferences, with an attitude of trust. We know that the pain of rejection will pass, and maybe even that this experience prepares us better for the next relationship.

It takes courage to open ourselves up in this way but the risks are worth it. By understanding that it is part of being human to experience rejection we can move through the cycles of grief and loss and come through it at the other end asking, what did I learn, how has this better prepared me for the future? It helps to be optimistic, to see with a glass half full rather than a glass half empty perspective. Be brave, take heart and go out to create the life you dare to dream of. When you feel good about yourself the confidence you radiate will be a starting place for creating better relationships and if you take things at your own pace, tune into your own wisdom and inner knowing you can develop a trust in your capacity that will stand you in good stead. If you feel that you cannot get past the pain of past hurts and rejection then take a step towards your own healing and seek professional help from a relationship counselor!

Margie Ulbrick, LLB/BA/GD SOCSCI – www.margieulbrickcounselling.com

# 4. Healing, for me, was about breaking free of the walls of self-protection I had erected around my heart

Sue Markovitch

One sunny day about ten years ago, I was driving on a two lane highway and a truck came over the horizon towards me on the opposite side of the road. I was in another awful relationship at the time, wishing and hoping he would change and treat me better, stop lying, stop cheating. As I scanned the view ahead, I became aware of a thought within me that whispered, “It would be OK with me if that truck took me out. I’m exhausted. I give up. My life doesn’t work.”

That truck driver held tight to his steering wheel and passed me without incident. But as he passed, I reached the end of myself. I felt the muck at the bottom of the pit I’d been in squish between my toes. I hit bottom.

My healing journey was such a surprise. It had so very little to do with the boyfriend, my ex-husband, my job, money, my weight, what I looked like or any of that. Healing, for me, was about breaking free of the walls of self-protection I had erected around my heart.

As I looked in my rear view mirror, I realized with each loss I’d experienced, I had closed off part of my heart. I had unconsciously formed false beliefs about the world in which I lived. It’s not safe. I’m not supported. I don’t matter. I’ve been abandoned. I’ve been violated. I’m worthless.

When you reach the bottom, you either give up or pray like a mother ******. I decided to pray. Not out of any kind of faith, but out of sheer desperation. “Please, help me.” And the spirit of love within me spoke. And it said the most stunning thing.

“You are a child of God. You are loved, fully and completely. Your heart is still whole and so are you. Your identity, your essence, is not defined by your broken past; not by anything you have done or by anything that’s been done to you. Forgiveness is the miracle that covers it all.”

As I began to heal, I saw the truth. I am safe, supported, and I matter greatly. I have worth and purpose. We all do. We just can’t feel it with a closed heart. Allow forgiveness of yourself and others heal your broken heart, and it will re-open to all the joy that awaits. Then always, above all else, remember who you are.

Sue Markovitch, Author and Life Coach in Westerville, Ohio – www.clearrockfitness.com

# 5. Follow the 3 tips below

Karen R. Koenig

According to the dictionary, vulnerability is being capable of or susceptible to emotional wounding. Well, who among us has not worn those shoes? Being open to love and intimacy means taking the chance of feeling hurt, disappointed or rejected. Susceptibility, on the other hand, implies that we are likely to experience these feelings. In relationships, there is no guarantee of totally dodging the pain of rejection or abandonment, but we can reduce susceptibility to emotional wounding by doing these three things:

1. Avoid placing ourselves in harm’s way. That means understanding what happened in previous relationships to upset us—she couldn’t commit, he was jealous and possessive, she didn’t want kids, he was overly attached to his mother, etc. When we recognize what didn’t work before, we can make sure we don’t intentionally set ourselves up for an instant replay.

2. Use discernment to watch for red flags and nip relationships that have them in the bud. Using the above examples, we can take note when the person we’ve been dating for months refuses to even discuss having a monogamous relationship. We can watch for signs of possessiveness in a lover and see it for insecurity rather than a show of how much he or she adores us. We can accept that someone who says no to kids may mean it and never want them. We can keep an eye out for our lover being highly dependent on his or her parents, which generally indicates a lack of emotional maturity necessary for romantic intimacy.

3. Remember that we can choose how badly we will allow ourselves to hurt. If we don’t catch warning signs early enough and, therefore, are faced with disappointment, rejection or abandonment, we still have choices. We can chalk up a failed love affair to poor judgment or bad timing. And, it’s always possible to decide not to be miserable no matter what happened.
The goal is to understand this balance: that loving means risking vulnerability and, equally, that you can minimize and manage prophylactically, in real time, and after the fact how badly you’re going to feel about having opened up your heart.

Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. – www.karenrkoenig.com

# 6. Learn from the hurt

Karen Thacker

“Tis Better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.” Alfred Lord Tennyson

Agree or disagree? Anyone can tell you that if you are in a relationship inevitably you will be hurt. When the pain is intense Tennyson’s words seem sadistic. Why would we set ourselves up for pain? The reason is the alternative means no connection with others. We can have casual relationships in which we keep our guard up, but we aren’t really connecting. Deep connection is an antidote to addictions, depression and illness.

If you’ve been hurt in a relationship to the point you are protecting yourself from future hurt by shutting down your vulnerability, you’re heading down a path that will, in the long run, be more painful. Bring a few trusted friends into your pain. Allow them to sit with you as you heal. If you don’t have any trusted friends, find a support group. Take time to grieve the pain. As you heal, make an agreement with yourself that shutting down from vulnerability is not going to serve you well.

When you feel emotion around the pain, let it be there but don’t go to the defense of shutting down to ease your pain. That action won’t create healing, it puts an iron fortress around the hurt but there’s no oxygen, no nurturing, no tenderness. Those are the necessary ingredients that lead to true, deep healing; the kind that give us the courage to get back in there and give love another chance, and another, and another.

Learn from the hurt. What was it about this particular connection that resulted in so much pain? Did you let down all of your guard too quickly with a person who had not earned your trust yet? Did the person lie about his intentions? Were there red flags that you ignored? Did trusted people in your life caution you about her but you pursued her anyway? A gift lies in this pain. You need to do sift through the debris to find it. It’s called wisdom and it will serve you well. Learn, grow and stay open to connection.

Karen Thacker, LPC – www.journeyforward.net

# 7. Follow the 4 tips below


I think the key here is to honestly evaluate what happened in past relationships.
What were the causes that led to the breakups? There can be many factors that contribute to them.

Here some dysfunctional ways I experienced in my own life:

1. Moving too frequently meant I did not take the time to develop strong friendships. Then when I found a friend, I would keep him or her at arms’ length to keep from investing too much in the relationship. I knew I would move again, so why bother?

2. I didn’t have good self-esteem, so I would date those that reinforced my self-image—and not treat me well. I remember being somewhat “freaked out” at someone who seemed to have really good qualities: kind, generous and attentive. He scared me and I rejected him. It was “safer” to stay with those that were familiar to me: putting me down.

3. Since I had not learned to make long-term friends, I didn’t know how to resolve or overcome conflicts that are the inevitable part of relationships.

4. Looking to the other to fill a need we have, we often inadvertently place them in an impossible situation. Humans cannot bear the weight of another’s need long term. They end up feeling like we are sucking the life out of them. Watching the movie “The Little Shop of Horrors” was very instructive!

Here are some ways I learned to overcome those poor ways of relating.

1. When I finally settled down, I looked for a community that seemed safe: a group of women who were in the same life stage as I was and had the same values. We met weekly, so this helped me form friendships without the one on one pressure of “getting it right”. It was through this group of friend that helped me navigate some of my difficulties of resolving conflicts.

2. I worked on my self-esteem through counseling, affirmation from the good friends I chose, and finding value and validation in the things I had accomplished.

3. I learned to have good boundaries. I learned that I owned my own house of emotions, problems, good and bad. This also meant that I had to learn that others owned their own as well, and I didn’t have to rescue them or try to make them rescue me. It became clearer when that line was crossed. When I was able to live in that place, I attracted others who also respected those boundaries. Saying the appropriate “no” was difficult, but well worth it.

4. Doing all of the above meant that I could be a better “picker” of romantic relationships, choosing those that respected me for who I was, didn’t try to suck the life out of me or me them, and were interested in personal growth as well. It also meant that I had to shed some friendships that wanted me to remain unhealthy because I “freaked them out”.

Judy Hansen, MA, LPCC – www.powerforlivingtherapy.com

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