Relationship Hiding vs. Relationship Vulnerability

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 suicide death of Junior Seau was very shocking. He was only 43 years old. He will be considered one of the greatest linebackers of all time 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, had 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?


In part one of this 4-part series, I talked about how Junior Seau did not disclose to others when he was hurting and how his hiding from others and not sharing his hurt may have contributed to his death. Listen to one of the quotes from a long time teammate and friend of Junior Seau, “I don’t want to speculate on what happened or why he did this to himself, but nobody does this if everything is just fine or things are going great. I feel awful that Junior didn’t feel he was close enough to anybody that he could say, ‘Look, something isn’t right.’ We all need someone we can go to and say, ‘There’s something going on with me.’ But that’s who Junior was—he didn’t want us to know he was hurting on the field, so off the field he certainly wasn’t going to say anything.”

There are two issues from this quote that have great implication when it comes to all of our relationships. The first issues is this: To whom do you tell that something is not right. Let’s say for the sake of this article that you are married. You and your spouse are not getting along. You are hurt. Can you go to your spouse and say, “Something is not right. I am hurting here.” Can you share and inform your spouse that you are hurting or you are feeling uncertain that something about how the two of you are relating is not right. Can you see the benefit and the importance of telling your spouse that you want to talk about your feelings and perception that something is not right?

The second issue is this: “Can you look within yourself and say to yourself that you do need someone?” Junior Seau somehow had concluded that he did not need anyone. He did not feel the need to ask for help and to share with someone that he had needs. The consequence of him not sharing what he needed only resulted in him trying to fix his hurt and need alone.

So let me ask you and all of us this question: What is your hiding style? How do you hide from others and not share your hurts and needs? Can you see the consequences of not sharing your hurts and needs and how that not only affects you but can affect others?

Below are five hiding styles we all use in our relationships. I hope this will be helpful to you and I invite you to consider which of these unhealthy styles to give up, by allowing others to help you.

1) Self-Sufficient: This hiding style says, I don’t need anyone, I can take care of myself, and I will supply my own needs.

2) Self-Reliant: This hiding style says, I don’t trust anyone, I have been hurt in the past; therefore, I can only trust my judgment to soothe my hurts and needs. I avoid to self-sooth.

3) Avoidant: This hiding style says, I have attempted to share my needs and hurts in the past, but no one has been there for me. Therefore, I avoid due to people not giving me empathy or help in the way I need it.

4) Rejection: This hiding style says, people are going to criticize me or reject my request for help when I am hurting. People will minimize my pain or criticize my hurt and tell me to grow up.

5) Mistrust: This hiding style says, I can’t trust others to do for me what I can do for myself. I have tried to trust in the past but people let me down. I would rather be dependent on myself than on others.

The challenge for all of us is not only to recognize that we hide from others but to answer the question: Do I need others and can I share my hurt? Far too often we look at relationships as a place to only share our victories and success. But what if you were just diagnosed with cancer? Would you also be able to share with your family and friends the hurt and need you have to ask them for help? We all have various forms of hurts, life difficulties, and challenges. Can we let people in and allow them to love us, care for us, and support us? Do you need love?

So, here’s the challenge to come out from hiding, which is to find a way to overcome this statement, “I am afraid to tell you about myself.” Go deep and find out why you tend to be afraid to tell others about you. In my next blog, I am going to focus on the importance of being vulnerable. Hopefully we can all learn the importance of sharing and telling others about ourselves so that we can come out from hiding and receive the love, care, and support we all need. Junior Seau probably needed it and could have benefitted from it. Don’t’ hide when you are hurting but instead open up to others and share your heart in order to receive the love you need when you hurt. We all hurt sometimes, and we all need help. Value asking for help.

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.