Cheating, partying, lying, secrets, scandal—these are the buzzwords synonymous with celebrity splits. But not so with the costars of the upcoming film Gifted, Chris Evans and Jenny Slate, who have become the champions of the power of vulnerability in romantic relationships—even following their split after dating for about ten months.
It’s been a while since they separated, but only now is everyone really talking about it. And that’s because New York magazine revealed Slate’s inside scoop last week. After admitting that during the breakup she “. . . watched You’ve Got Mail so many times, it was unbelievable” (um, relatable), Slate went on to say, “Chris is truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, to the point where sometimes I would look at him and it would kind of break my heart.” Not a bad thing to have said about you by an ex, right?
She also said: “He’s really vulnerable, and he’s really straightforward. He’s like primary colors. He has beautiful, big, strong emotions, and he’s really sure of them. It’s just wonderful to be around. His heart is probably golden-colored, if you could paint it.”
If you think it can’t get any nicer, wait until you see what Evans has now said in response. In an interview with People this week, he said, “It’s like an art form talking with her because the visuals associated with her expression are just so colorful. She’s so vulnerable, so honest, so interested in other people more than herself; she’s incredibly compassionate, there’s just nothing to not love about her.”
Sounds more like the words of a couple in love than exes, but nevertheless, what’s interesting is that—in addition to their mutual love of color metaphors—they both use the same quality when talking about what they love most about the other: vulnerability.
Vulnerability is one of the most challenging tenets of love. It’s totally necessary and also completely scary. Lisa Bahar, LMFT, says, “Vulnerability is allowing someone into your experience of being in touch with your emotions, and this takes courage and trust.” To show your deepest insecurities, flaws, and fears to another person is generally the stuff anxiety is made of. But as Evans and Slate prove, it’s also one of the most meaningful parts of any bond.
Julienne Derichs, LCPC, has been in practice for more than twenty-two years working with couples at all stages of their relationships. Derichs says, “What sets Evans and Slate apart from the norm is that they are still able to be open and vulnerable about their feelings . . . even through a split. Blame, even unspoken blame, is the currency of most breakups. So it is striking when a couple in the public eye doesn’t play the blame game.”
“We are biologically wired to form connections,” Derichs says. “Intimacy, in its most basic form, involves the process of holding out your hands to another person and giving him the very information he could use to hurt you most . . . and trusting he won’t. In return, he does the same.”
If you’re reading this and having flashbacks to not-so-lovely breakups in your own past and wondering, “How can a failed relationship seem this good?” you’re not alone. Bahar says the pressure to be vulnerable in a relationship is high. For some, it does come naturally. “For most, however, there is a practice that needs to take place, and that requires the tools to be able to understand your own emotions and be willing to listen to yourself. Once you can learn about your own emotions, then the ability to share and express them with another is the next step.”
Josh Klapow, clinical psychologist and host of The Web Radio Show, a broadcast all about untangling relationship problems, says a fear of vulnerability can have lasting effects on us. “Most of us spend our lives covering up and protecting our vulnerability,” he says. “As a result, we can actually lose sight of our own vulnerability—we literally can forget how to just be our true selves.”
Derich says, “Most of us have asked the question, ‘Do I want to venture into a relationship with intimacy and closeness if I have the chance of being vulnerable and getting hurt?’ At times, the answer to that question is no, but when you do, that is the risk we all take. The benefit of intimacy is that all of us grow through our connections to others. Primarily through our connectedness to others can we really know how to enhance our self.”
Ultimately, Slate told New York magazine she and Evans were just “. . . really, really different,” and she admitted that “it is confusing to go out with one of the most objectified people in the entire world.” Still, it’s refreshing to see a failed relationship be remembered by what two people appreciated in one another and learned about themselves rather than shortcomings and missteps.
Like Klapow says: “Sharing your vulnerability is one of the highest compliments you can give a person. While it doesn’t guarantee a love relationship will last, it does increase the respect others have for you and your willingness to ‘be real.’”
So why have these two chosen to be open about their split rather than giving cookie-cutter statements touting mutual respect, offered by a publicist? Evans told People, “If the things you’re doing and the things you’re surrounding yourself with are quality people and they are beautiful experiences, there’s no shame in sharing.”
Before we go putting these two on a pedestal of breakup perfection, Slate did admit that she’s really nervous to see her ex in the future. Now, that’s definitely something we know a thing or two about.
Photo Credit: ET Online