Saturday, March 12, 2011

Relationship Currency

Yesterday I shared a link to Justin Wehr's new blog about exposing 99 embarrassing truths. It wasn't until after that I realized he'd taken the blog down. Here was his explanation:
Vulnerabilities are the currency of relationships

I'm not sure that's exactly true, but it's more true than I realized last week.

Background: Last week I started a Tumblr where I intended to publish in the public abyss 99 things that I’m embarrassed about in hopes of nudging myself in the direction of openness and comfort-in-skin. I made it up to 19 before quitting. (It's gone, you can't find it anymore, I deleted it.) I didn't quit because I ran out of things to say -- far from it, I barely said anything deserving of an eyebrow raise. I quit because I realized there was something wrong with my premises.

I still believe openness and comfort-in-skin are good things, but only up to a point. Last week I was operating under the unconscious assumption that embarrassing secrets are bad things that we should try to purge from our otherwise pure selves. Now it seems to me that vulnerabilities are better thought of as resources to be spent carefully.

The more widely you distribute it, the less it's worth. The harder it is to say, the more it's worth. The longer you hold it in, the more it's worth. But unless you let it out, it's worthless.

By this theory, there are two types of people who are relationship poor: (1) people without embarrassing secrets, and (2) people who refuse to ever "spend" their secrets.

Vulnerabilities are different from financial resources in at least one important way: Vulnerabilities are not a cha-ching money-in-the-bank kind of resource. You don't invest in them as you would a 401K. The goal is not to accrue as many vulnerabilities as possible.

But like any other resource, it is scarce, and it ought to be spent wisely.
I couldn't agree more. I've tried really hard to figure out what makes relationships successful. Balance, resolved conflict, dedication and thinking long term are all important for healthy relationships. But I think there is something very important in the above quote I'd never thought of. Intimacy is only intimate if it's private. The more people you bring into the circle of vulnerability the less it matters to you and to them.

If you're not already reading Justin's personal blog I highly recommend it. Here's two more recent posts from him worth reading: 1) we need more punctuation and 2) wisdom is being bad at trivia.

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You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.