Why Admitting Your Fear Makes Things Better

Mar 24, 2022

I (Scott) frequently get to see a husband's jaw drop when admitting his fear to his wife actually makes her feel better instead of worse.

I remember sitting with a couple as this happened: She was afraid of him relapsing. Everything inside him wanted to convince her of his progress, that she need not be afraid, that she could have confidence in his recovery. This time, he resisted that urge. He took the risk and shared his whole heart, instead of just the confident part. He said, "I'm really confident in my recovery plan but, honestly, I'm scared of me relapsing too. I'm so scared of hurting you again like I did in the past."

He was convinced that admitting his fear would only be pouring gas on his wife's fear. What it ended up doing instead was show his wife that he was willing to look honestly into his own darkness and courageously face what he saw.

Instead of amplifying her fear, the husband's response actually relieved her fear. She no longer feared him being, "Too scared to look." His vulnerability gave her a huge boost of confidence in his recovery...which is exactly what he longed to give her in the first place.

Another, deeper, element at work in this moment was the husband’s need for his wife to believe in him. It’s this deeper level that helps us understand and empathize with why he was so tempted to imbue her with confidence; why he would so willingly avoid that other, more fearful, piece of himself.

The husband, like many of us, had the residual insecurities from his childhood that left him uncertain of whether he was “enough”. He struggled to believe in himself, that he “has what it takes”, so he found himself begrudgingly reliant on others showing that they believed in him. His wife (because this is just how attachment works) had become the most powerful voice of affirmation, or dissension, toward that belief in himself. The way he felt it deep in his heart was, her level of confidence in his recovery…in him, effectively had the power to sentence him to life or death. This is why he needed her to believe in him. This is also what made his choice to resist that urge and be vulnerable instead, so profound.

When he risked speaking his whole heart, including his fear, he was also risking what felt like imminent death. He was choosing to stop compromising, dismissing, and shaming his true self. He was choosing to be fully known, placing that as more important than avoiding the feeling of rejection. He was willing to step into the fire, instead of continuing to live in fear of it. It was a truly courageous move! And…his wife felt it.

There is something about a man doing something truly courageous that permeates the room and impacts the heart of everyone who sees it. The man’s wife got to enjoy a surge of confidence, not just because her husband was willing to be honest, but because she got to experience him as her man, her defender, her rock that can withstand the strongest waves of fear.

What a beautiful circle! When we take the risk to be vulnerable, we end up getting back more than we ever gave away.