The Strength of Vulnerability in Marriage
What is so attractive about kings and queens? Why has the perpetual love story of the prince and princess captivated us for millenia, iterated in practically every corner of the world?
In some ways, their lives are vastly different from ours. Of course, there is the obvious lack of personal chefs, butlers and footmen in our lives, and also the fact that we probably don’t carry the weight of decisions that affect the course of a nation.
In other ways, we are not so different. These queens had husbands and children, just like us. Perhaps a difficult relative or twelve, and few really good friends, just like us. And in their marriages they struggled to figure out each other’s place in the relationship. Just like us.
We may not wear crowns (at least, I hope not–that would be a little strange) but there are times in marriage when we all struggle to figure out our place. Maybe there is an invisible crown being tossed around in some sort of subtle power struggle. Or maybe we individually don’t have a clear example of how to be fully us and also fully connected to each other.
I love the historical dramas of queens who reigned in times when women were not seen as leaders, or even equals. I especially love learning about their marriages and the unique challenges they faced as a couple.
My most recent royal obsession is the life of Queen Victoria, known for her rapturous marriage with Prince Albert. They were both very strong and stubborn personalities, neither one backing down easily from their opinions or convictions. Somehow, they seem to have found a deep mutual respect that fueled their ability to be each other’s greatest advisor and greatest supporter.
However, like any couple, there were times they doubted themselves and each other. They had misunderstandings, hurt, and disagreements.
These fragile moments between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are when it can sometimes be seen: a queen with the position to rule choosing vulnerability instead; and a prince choosing to quiet his intelligent insights to humbly offer his vulnerability as well.
Why vulnerability? Why would two very competent and strong people not offer each other their strengths?
Maybe we have misunderstood strength. In the cultural messaging of being strong, self-sufficient women there is more control than there is real strength. We all come to moments in our marriages where we push for our way, using our strengths as a weapon, rather than as a gift.
In reality, offering each other our most true and vulnerable selves paves the way for strength. Dr. Brene` Brown, an expert on the subject, says, “The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage.”
One time, as told by the PBS rendition of Queen Victoria’s story, Prince Albert was deeply troubled by his discovery of the promiscuity of both his parents. This knowledge imploded his usual confidence as he now doubted whether he was a worthy man, husband and father. When he finally confided his vulnerable thoughts to Queen Victoria in the privacy of their bedroom, she gently but firmly replied, “Albert, I know who you are, even if you don’t. Now, you take my hand, and we go downstairs and we do what we came here to do, together.”
Her words catalyzed him back into his strength. Rather than exerting her position, she responded to his vulnerability in kind, with her intimate knowledge of who he was. The following scene shows them both settling a negotiation with the difficult King of France, working as a seamless team once again.
It is my absolute favorite moment in a love story when one lover courageously offers his or her vulnerability, which draws out the strength of the other, releasing them both into that magical place where they each know exactly who they are and why they’re meant to be together. These are the moments when you most clearly see each individual’s strengths being fully lived out, born out of a place of humility and courage.
I believe that God designed each marriage with a unique purpose, but it takes the courage of vulnerability to offer each other who we truly are so that we can draw out each other’s strengths and fulfill that purpose. There is no other relationship more worthy of the struggle to discover who we were meant to be, together.
Wife Step: Next time your spouse asks what you’re thinking about, don’t say “nothing.” Choose vulnerability and trust Jesus to allow this to make you stronger, together.
Joy was born and raised in Mexico, but fell in love with a Minnesota guy. More than a decade, many geographical locations, and four kids later, they are currently settled in the city of Minneapolis, MN. Together they love helping couples discover the incredible adventure marriage was intended to be. They have led many marriage small groups, ministries and retreats, but their favorite way to connect with other couples is by simply sharing life together. Although homeschooling, parenting and helping run their vacation rental take up most of her days, Joy is always finding ways to sneak in time for writing, reading, design and coffee with friends. You can find her posting on Instagram @joy.ballard or @theriverlodgemn. Photo credit: Woodford Sisters Photography