Dear Ones —

Yesterday, I was talking with two of my dearest old friends about vulnerability and love. Of course, there can be no love without vulnerability (nor can there be creativity, generosity, or dreams, or anything magical — as the great Brené Brown has explained to us so beautifully in recent years) but we do have to be careful about whom we share our vulnerability with.

My girlfriends and I were talking about how all of us have a small lockbox hidden deep inside our souls, in which we keep the most fragile, frightened, innocent parts of ourselves. If somebody loves you (and loves you WELL) they will come to learn what's inside that secret lockbox of vulnerability, and they will be so careful to never use that information against you — to never manipulate your vulnerabilities, or mock them, or use the knowledge of your frailty as a weapon of power or diminishment.

But if somebody loves you in a dark way (or is simply not capable of human kindness in love at all) then they may find the key to that lockbox (or you may accidentally open it wide to them) and they will start tampering with you — often in terrible ways. Sometimes they will do this intentionally and maliciously, because they are simply bad people. Sometimes they will do it unintentionally and subconsciously, because of their own internal damage. One way or another, though, it's bad news for you.

My friends and I were talking about times in the past when we have opened ourselves up in love (or even friendship) to the wrong sorts of people — to people who found our most secret vulnerabilities and — instead of saying, "Oh, dear one, now that I know this about you, I will always protect you so carefully" — they said, "Aha! Now that I know this, I can really start messing with you!"

You will know the difference between love that is safe and love that is dangerous because of how your entire being reacts to that person. I once loved with all my heart a man who screwed with my vulnerabilities in such twisted ways. And although my heart loved him dearly, my body would literally not let me sleep in his bed. All night, I would lay there with my pulse racing in panic and my breath short, with every synapse in my being shouting, "Get me out of here! I am not safe with this person!" (Trust me, my body was right.) I ignored and over-rode that instinct for almost a year, during which time I got sicker and sicker, and weaker and weaker….and more and more vulnerable. (And not in a good Brene Brown way, either.) Until I finally left, and began to heal.

If you are sharing your deepest vulnerabilities with someone who is not worthy of that intimate a level of trust, please think about saving your life and leaving the relationship. Or (this must be said, as well) if you are in a relationship right now where YOU are the one who is manipulating somebody's deepest vulnerabilities for your own unhealthy purposes – stop it. Please let them go. It is not kind and it is not fair.

Love is always a risk, but we can choose with whom to share that risk. We will make mistakes along the way (we've all been there) but we must learn over times not to put our live in the wrong hands — and not to ignore the clues and signals along the way that you are unsafe. The highest act of compassion we can show ourselves is the choice to be loved well and carefully — by ourselves, by our friends, by our partners…

Blessings and onward,

via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall