Why You Can't Find Love Until You Make The Courageous Choice To Be Vulnerable

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lasting love after 40

By Dr. Patrick Williams

In late 2016, I flew to Los Angeles to appear on the show Radical Dating. In order to best help out the cast of Radical Dating, I did a mini-seminar on the importance of honest self-disclosure based on my newest book: Getting Naked: On Emotional Transparency at the Right Time, Right Place, and with the Right Person.

The purpose of my teaching was to share with those looking for lasting love after age 40, the reasons why courageous vulnerability was a must. Why waste time being someone (or acting in some way) that is not you?

As Oscar Wilde said, “You might as well be yourself; everyone else is taken.”

Intimacy is ultimately about nakedness. 

We don’t want to be emotionally naked without careful discrimination any more than we would want to be physically naked in an unsafe environment or relationship. Self-protection is a very human instinct, one at which we are universally proficient. Yet when you can be intimate with a trusted other, there is no need for a disguise

One of the most important reasons I wrote this book is because I am fascinated by how we become more whole by finding ways to be emotionally naked with trusted people in safe places.

Becoming whole implies becoming more of who you are meant to be, more unapologetically yourself.

And becoming whole is inextricably twined with being fully seen by another. There has to be a witness. You can be physically naked by yourself, but being emotionally naked alone serves no purpose, no true revealing. It must be a relational experience with a trusted other.


You may find that you have created your own prison from time to time in life.

You may have things you are afraid to share that may be shaming, hurtful, or just plain uncomfortable. But you also have some beautiful and unique desires that you may have kept under lock and key, and that is a huge obstacle to finding a loving relationship.

It is important and necessary is to have a safe place to be when needed, but that does not have to feel like a prison. You will learn in this chapter how to express any unshared parts of your life and how to experience living on purpose when it leads to emotional freedom and a more fulfilling and complete human experience.

I believe that the profession of personal coaching (of which I am a part) arose in the latter part of the twentieth century and is flourishing today for two main reasons:

  • Humans have a lack of connection to others and purpose. Many of us have acquaintances and friends, but we don’t really feel connected to meaning and purpose.
  • There is a shortage of listening. We need people in our life that can really hear us, both what we need to say and to evoke from us what we are not saying, and to speak it out loud to a committed listener.

Each of us looks for fulfillment and authentic happiness in our own way. According to Carl Jung, life purpose and spiritual searching most often emerge in midlife after we have experienced a variety of life’s ages and stages.

So, how can we create a place of balance and personal power?

Think of the most beautiful place you have ever been. Go there in your imagination and pay attention to all details of sound, visual, and emotional feelings in that place. Then go there in your mind whenever you need to be energized or calmed. This is your place of power, security, and centering.

Create a centering routine that you can do effortlessly. For example, a daily walk in nature, bicycling, Tai Chi, yoga, inspirational reading, journaling, or meditating. What else can you choose to have available to you to do routinely?

Take time for self for extreme self-care, quiet, and self-reflection.

Embrace and welcome change and learn from it. It is what it is, and change is constant.

Believe in serendipity. Things do happen for a reason, but we don’t always know the reason until we figure it out.

The present is about learning how the future can be allowed to unfold.

Here are a few ingredients that may help you in this process:

  • A completed past
  • An energized and purposeful present
  • A compelling, magnetic future that pulls us forward by irresistible attraction

We want a compelling future, one where we live free. Break free from your self-imposed prison. What is your vision? What is your passion? For a life of flow and peace, look forward to surprises, side trips, unexpected experiences, and embracing (not fearing) change.

“Today never hands me the same thing twice and I believe that for most everyone else life is also a mixture of unsolved problems, ambiguous victories and vague defeats — with very few moments of clear peace. My struggle with today is worthwhile, but it is a struggle nonetheless and one I will never finish.” Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself: My Struggle to Become a Person.

We are always in a state of becoming, but if we keep ourselves imprisoned and protected always, we will become what we already are and live as we already do… and nothing else.

And finally, here are some steps to consider for finding a committed listener for deep sharing you know you need to do.

1. Test the waters slowly.

You really cannot trust everyone, but you can trust some. And a few is all you need. Educate those who you think you can trust to be confidential. They don’t have to fix you. They just need to hear you.

2. Write about your shames, blames, scars, or unshared dreams and aspirations first to yourself.

This will help you desensitize yourself to the story you tell. Then have a live conversation about some aspect of this journaling with a trusted other. Do not write details to another at this stage. Share in the moment to hear yourself and to be heard by another who can hold what you share and keep it sacred to you.

3. Hire a professional to speak to.

For example, a therapist, counselor, coach, or minister. But research him or her first! Make sure of his or her credentials and reputation from other clients.

Imagine the space in your heart and soul that you will open if that which you have hidden in the darkness is brought into the light. Who will you become? How will you live?

4. Remember: Don't take it personally.

Opinions are just that. They are not the truth but someone’s perspective, just as your view is.

The ability and wiliness to stay present to another’s nakedness is something that many people cannot do. That is why taking it slow and being cautious but not paralyzed is important. Find your trustworthy few and cherish them. And you can return the favor by being a committed listener to others.

If you do all of this to love and accept yourself, warts, wrinkles, and scars, then you will be more lovable and more truly attractive to that loving relationship you seek.

Written in partnership with Radical Dating. Learn more about Radical Dating here and watch episode 2 above! 


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