Alanis and the E-Course: Lesson 3 (In Praise of the Vulnerable Man)

Lesson Three of the Conscious Weddings E-Course is “What If I Don’t Love My Partner Enough?” or “Real Love versus Infatuation“. I’ll say it bluntly: Our culture is dangerously deluded when it comes to ideas of real love. From the time we’re old enough to absorb information, we’re inundated with a fantasy that says that you’re supposed to feel head-over-heels, stomach-churning, butterfly-inducing “love” from “yes” to “I do.”

painting by Daev Finn

Once the spark of infatuation fades (which it always does, if it was ever there to begin with), the once dewy-eyed couple wonders, “Is this love? Is this it?”

We’re addicted to that feeling, which is really nothing more than a chemically-induced hormonal reaction which points to a window of possibility of what it can feel like to connect with an open heart. It is not, in itself, love.

We’re also conditioned to associate love with loss and longing. We chase after the unavailable one who will never fully commit and the drama of the chase induces that feeling of love. We call it passion. We call it lust. We call it being “in love.” It’s none of those things. It’s what happens when the wounded self feels safe because there’s no real risk involved with “loving” an unavailable man or woman. We call it love but it’s actually two scared people who never show up at the same place at the same time.

But now you’re with a different kind of person. You’re with someone who’s available, present, kind, loving, responsible, and honest. He doesn’t play games. He calls when he says he’s going to call. She arrives on time. He keep his promises (for the most part; nobody’s perfect). She loves you and accepts you as you are. He’s not trying to change or mold you into an image he has in his mind of the perfect woman. She’s straightforward. He’s vulnerable.

When I first heard Alanis’ song “In Praise of the Vulnerable Man,”  I cried from joyous recognition of and gratitude for my husband. You are probably with a similar kind of partner but your fear has eclipsed your ability to appreciate him or her. Music can open our hearts like nothing else. The intersection of matter and spirit (words and melody) creates a sublime experience that connects us to our true nature  – that essential place where fear is banished and only love resides. In this open-hearted state, the fear distortions are washed away and we the truth of the man or woman who stands before us. Essence to essence, heart to heart, we embrace, and in so doing embrace the essence and heart of each other. This is real love.

Listen to this song and let yourself sink down into gratitude for the one you’re with.

In Praise Of The Vulnerable Man

You are the bravest man I’ve ever met

You unreluctant at treacherous ledge

You are the sexiest man I’ve ever been with

You, never hotter than with armor spent

When you do what you do to provide

How you land in the soft as you fortify

This is in praise of the vulnerable man

Why won’t you lead the rest of your cavalry home

You, with your eyes mix strength with abandon

You with your new kind of heroism

And I bow and I bow down to you

To the grace that it takes to melt on through

This is in praise of the vulnerable man

Why won’t you lead the rest of your cavalry home

This is a thank you for letting me in

Indeed in praise of the vulnerable man

You are the greatest man I’ve ever met

You the stealth setter of new precedents

And I vow and I vow to be true

And I vow and I vow to not take advantage

This is in praise of the vulnerable man

Why won’t you lead the rest of your cavalry home

This is a thank you for letting me in

Indeed in praise of the vulnerable man


We’re at a crossroads in our intimate relationships, and the women and men who come to me for counseling are at the forefront of this shift in consciousness. While our culture still promotes the romantic ideal of the “Marlboro Man”, we know that true intimacy can only occur when both people are willing to be vulnerable. However, our conditioning hasn’t caught up with our hearts’ desires, which means we have to consciously grieve the fantasies before we can embrace the beauty of the person who stands, open and vulnerable, before us.

I’ll tell you a secret: I wouldn’t have been able to give and receive love with my husband had the fantasy of the perfect prince charming not already been shattered. And that’s exactly what has to happen for my clients: in order to embrace the real love from a real man, the fantasy of the illusory love has to die. For many women that means grieving and letting go of an ex that’s still hanging around the psyche. The bad boy ex that “made” you feel alive and passionate has to be exorcised and buried in order for love to take root in healthy soil.

It’s not easy. Everything inside you will resist. You’ll think I’m lying to you (I’m not, as the many happily married women who speak candidly on the E-Course confirm). You’ll cling to the old ways and the old beliefs about love. It’s hard to let the old ways die. It’s hard to believe that our mainstream culture, predicated on the romantic ideals of a bygone era and reinforced by Hollywood, have lied to you your entire life.

But if you’re going to know the true joy of real love there is no other way. The old model isn’t real and will never bring you the joy you seek. Listen to Alanis’ song over and over again until the gratitude for the loving man that stands before you with outstretched arms and an open heart sinks in, breaks down the resistance and helps your heart to open. Music can do that. Alanis’ always does.


Sheryl Paul, M.A., is regarded as an international expert in transitions. In 1998, she pioneered the field of bridal counseling and has since counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, “The Conscious Bride” and “The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner,” her websites, and, and her blog, She has appeared several times on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, as well as on “Good Morning America” and other top television, radio, and newspapers around the globe. Phone and Skype sessions are available internationally for all types of transitions and ongoing counseling. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband, Daev Finn, and their two young sons.

4 comments to Alanis and the E-Course: Lesson 3 (In Praise of the Vulnerable Man)

  • jhmi1

    I was going to comment on an article but I figured I would just respond here. I see that your work promotes healthy relationships as opposed to unavailable relationships. What about those relationships that I have been in personally or I have seen my friend in, in which you just don’t feel strongly enough to be with the person. Me and my best friends were both in these type relationships and “used” these men as a source of comfort and convenience. My best friend knew the guy was not for her because he was dull and boring and tried to convince herself to make it happen but it just couldnt. That was a relationship she clearly should not have been in because she would have never been content. How does that differ with pushing yourself to be in a healthy relationship in which you have anxiety? Where can you separate the unhealthy, from those healthy guys you just can’t click with from the potential marriage partners that give us anxiety?

    • It’s a question of connection. If you’re connected to your partner when anxiety isn’t in the driver’s seat, then you know that the anxiety is the issue. If there’s not a deep enough emotional and/or intellectual connection and you find your partner dull and boring even when you’re not anxious, it’s probably not a good match.

  • lost_for_good

    Sheryl, the second sentence of your reply precisely answered what I had been searching for in the dark of my being. Although I am left wondering if I’ll ever have the capacity to relieve my doubts enough to neutrally assess if I have a connection with my partner. I feel the doubt and anxiety will always sabotage my purest efforts of assessing the emotional/intellectual connection. Worse yet, I just got back together with my fi (after I broke the relationship off 1week ago) and the feelings of doubt are back. After reading that love was a choice and not based on feelings I was so relieved, thinking for sure I know how to compromise, but now I read your words, “If there’s not a deep enough emotional and/or intellectual connection and you find your partner dull and boring even when you’re not anxious, it’s probably not a good match.” and they leave me wondering/asking, what about love being a decision and not a connection issue based on feelings??

    • I strongly believe that love is a choice. However, I also believe that there has to be a core connection in order to continue to make the choice to love. The connection can easily be eclipsed by anxiety, but it needs to be there at some point. There are certainly some people who would argue otherwise: that you can choose to love any kind, good, honest person, but I haven’t seen that to be the case.

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