Relationship Hiding vs. Relationship Vulnerable

Greetings and welcome to my post. The purpose of this post is to engage in conversation about how all of us do relationships. I believe that we are created for relationships and what gives us the most meaning in our lives is the significant relationships we have with people. When we have positive, growing, and happy relationships, then our lives become more meaningful. But the opposite can also happen when we have conflict, hate, and hurt in our most important relationships. Then life can become very stressful and depressing.

About four months ago, a news announcement shocked the sports world. For those of you who like and follow sports, the announcement of the death of Junior Seau was very shocking. He was only 43 years old. He will be considered one of the greatest linebackers in the NFL and overall will be considered one of the nicest and greatest guys in sports. He had retired playing professional football a few years ago and was living in a beachfront home in San Diego. By all accounts, he was living a charmed life, having all the money he would ever need, and living in a mansion on the beach in San Diego. How else would one describe his life?

But when he committed suicide on the morning of May 2nd 2012, it did not match up. We live in a world in which we like to connect the dots to make sense of our world or the world we live in. But his suicide and death still does not make sense. Initially some thought it was due to drugs or alcohol but the autopsy showed this to be untrue. Some thought it was due to some type of financial pressures or relationship pressures, but this was not true. Some even thought it was due to some type of head injury, that maybe he sustained over the 14 years he played football, but again, the autopsy did not show that to be true either. He showed no outward signs of depression, and he loved his four kids. On the outside, all appearances showed he was fine and life was good.

So how do you respond to this news? What implications does this have for your relationship life? Consider a quote from one of his friends: “He didn’t want us to know he was hurting.” Is it possible that if he had let some of his friends know that he was hurting, that maybe his surprising suicide death may not have occurred? Can our honesty about our victories in life also be true in our honesty about our defeats and our times when we are hurting? Could Junior Seau possibly have told someone when he was hurting as prevention for his death?


So when it comes to your relationship life, how do you let the people around you know that you are hurting? Do you hide and put on a mask and keep your hurts to yourself? Do the closest people around you know if you were hurting that you would contact them? How do you let people in to inform them you need help?

At this point, we still are unsure why Junior Seau killed himself. He left no note, no voice mail. He had texted his four children the day before how much he loved them but that was not unusual. He often told those close to him how much he loved them. He was a man who gave and desired to help others. He was passionate about playing football and he had difficulty retiring due to his love and dedication for the sport. He was a very hard worker.

But despite all of these great attributes and character features, the one virtue missing from Junior Seau’s list was his inability to be honest and vulnerable when he was hurting. He could not let people know that when he felt hurt, that he needed other’s help. Maybe he felt self-sufficient and concluded that he did not need anyone nor want to bother to ask for help.

This is why relationship hiding is an important topic for us to discuss. It is the question all of us must ask: Do I hide or do I become vulnerable? I am certainly not here to be critical of Junior Seau and say that his failure to be vulnerable and his decision to hide was the reason he killed himself. I don’t know and none of us will really know.

So, let me ask you this question: If I were to ask five of your family members or friends to tell me areas of your life in which they know you are hurting, what would they say? Would they be able to express those areas of hurt or would they say, you don’t talk about personal matters? Could they tell me how you have been vulnerable and have been trying to let people know how much you need them due to your hurt?

In all our relationships, it is so important to let those closest to us know what we need. In our society today, telling people what you need is so important but often not expressed. Sure, we can give our thoughts on Twitter and on Facebook about what we are doing. But can we talk about our thoughts or share how we are hurting and allow others to help and care for us. This means being vulnerable. In other words, it is more about all of us figuring out not so much about our success, our doing, our thoughts, or our feelings. It is the decision to be vulnerable and transparent to let people know how we are really, really doing.

So, can you do this? Can you let the people closest to you know how you are doing and what is happening on the inside? For all of our relationships, maybe we need to rethink how we do them, what we talk about, how honest and vulnerable we can be in our relationships. For in our own personal life to come across like Junior Seau and on the outside appear to have it all but on the inside not share and feel hurt, then maybe that is the invitation for all of us to do. To stop hiding and learn to be vulnerable should be the key to how we do life.

Phil Kiehl, LMFT, M.Div.
Licensed Therapist

P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this subject. Share your comments and share this article with others. Thanks.