Vulnerability is seen as a key ingredient of close and lasting relationships. Yet, when it comes to opening up, we all struggle.
We seek intimacy and connection, yet often we are afraid of being truly exposed.
As humans, we are hardwired for connections with others. It could be because of the immense benefits social connections have for us.
Science has confirmed multiple mental and physical benefits like longer life expectancy, healthier habits, lessened stress effects, and a sense of meaning in life.
However, despite our inclination towards intimacy, we often resist vulnerability in relationships.
How do we become more vulnerable in relationships, and why should we want it? What are the effects vulnerability has on relationships?
First, let’s define what vulnerability is and what is not.
What is vulnerability?
So, what does vulnerability mean?
The core of vulnerability is consciously choosing to share emotions or desires with others regardless of how they might see you or react.
Being vulnerable in relationships means choosing to openly disclose your feelings and bravely say “I love you” first. Showing vulnerability in a relationship means expressing emotions, although we are unsure how the other will respond.
Being vulnerable means being ready to be exposed to disagreements with others or even to rejection. That is why vulnerability, although sounds simple, is much more demanding.
The core of vulnerability in relationships is, being willing to accept the potential for negative consequences and sticking your neck out, although you can’t control the outcome.
Vulnerability has become a buzz word and gets distorted often. So, what vulnerability is not?
Being vulnerable in relationships doesn’t mean oversharing and giving a person abundance of personal details.
Vulnerability means taking a risk and showing the most intimate sides of ourselves while living with the risk of them not accepting us.
Being vulnerable in relationships means taking a risk you might be rejected, but exposing yourself nonetheless. It is about the intention to connect with another by sharing the deepest, most authentic parts of ourselves.
Oversharing, on the other hand, might indicate a lack of boundaries rather than vulnerability.
Furthermore, vulnerability is often connected with weakness. However, being vulnerable in relationships is a sign of strength and courage.
In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown says, “Choose courage over comfort.” Vulnerability is the courage to be present and allow others to see us when we can’t control the outcome whatsoever.
16 Benefits of vulnerability in relationships
Knowing the risks of feeling rejected or ashamed that vulnerability in relationships carries, why would we opt for embracing it?Why is vulnerability important?
The power of being vulnerable lies in the effects it has on our relationships. Vulnerability in relationships has multiple benefits:
1. Increases the chance of having our needs met
If we dare to ask for what we truly want, we might actually get it. If you never ask, the answer is surely no.
2. Improves our sense of authenticity and worthiness
When you start advocating for your needs, you start feeling better about yourself. You send an important message to yourself, “my needs matter, and so do I.”
3. Builds trust in relationships
When we show the softer side of us to our partner, and they accept us, our faith in them increases. They were there for us when we felt the most defenseless.
4. Helps you pick a healthy relationship
Opening up to a partner is a true testament to the strength of a relationship. How your partner will receive the real you is an important test of the relationship.
If they know or are willing to learn how to be there for you in times of your revelation, the relationship will thrive.
If this is not their cup of tea, at least you will know on time and have an opportunity to choose differently.
5. Makes you feel genuinely supported and comforted
Intimacy is a significant source of comfort and predictability in an otherwise unpredictable world.
We can only receive said support and comfort if we open up to our partner about what we are going through.
6. Lets you be truly loved
“If you always put a mask around others, you will always get what you don’t need.” If you want to feel truly accepted and recognized, you need to expose the inner parts of you to that possibility.
If you always put up a strong suit, you will never know you can be loved even though you feel weak.
7. Humanizing effect
Although we want our partner to see the best in us, trying to be perfect all the time won’t have a good effect on the relationship. Without allowing vulnerability in relationships, we might seem too distant, polished, and inaccessible.
Vulnerability in relationships humanizes us and makes us more relatable. It opens the doors to connect and eventually have a mutually supportive relationship.
8. Increased intimacy
After conducting thousands of interviews as a part of her research, Brene Brown said, “There can be no intimacy—emotional intimacy, spiritual intimacy, physical intimacy—without vulnerability.”
A lasting relationship is one where we feel intimate and united, and the path to it is through vulnerability.
9. Stronger empathy
The more we know someone’s deepest thoughts, fears, and desires, the more we can understand their perspective and empathize with what they are going through.
Brene Brown, in her famous TED Talk on the power of vulnerability, says: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation, and change.”
If we want a lasting relationship, we need to be ready to grow and change together. Life will send trials your way, and your relationship’s endurance will depend on your ability to adapt to it together.
15. Dealing with negative emotions
Vulnerability in relationships is also about expressing negative emotions and objections.
Sharing how you are influencing each other is the essence of vulnerability and key for a long and happy relationship. Running away from conflicts won’t help with relationship success.
16. Reestablish intimacy after being hurt
In any long-term relationship, there will be times you hurt each other (hopefully unintentionally). Recovering after an event like that can be accelerated through vulnerability.
How is that?
When we can see someone is truly sorry for what they did and acknowledge how they hurt us, we can begin to trust again. Therefore, being vulnerable helps the other person see the honesty in our apology and the goodness in our intentions.
How to show more vulnerability in your relationship?
If you are wondering how to be more vulnerable in relationships and not sure where to start, there are steps to help you on this journey.
1. Ease into it
Start by doing what you can, not by what you can’t.
It sounds simple, yet we all make the mistake of concentrating on a milestone we are not yet ready for.
If you want to be able to open up more, start being vulnerable more often. First, within your comfort zone, to practice vulnerability in relationships, keep iterating, and improve every day.
The boundaries of your comfort zone will expand, and eventually, you will be doing the things you couldn’t do in the beginning.
2. Understand why you need emotional walls
As children, we learn by observing. We might think we need to shield ourselves, although it is no longer the case.
What are the key messages you received about being open as a child and young adult? What are the reasons you feel you need to avoid being vulnerable in relationships?
Knowing where the fears of vulnerability are stemming from helps you resolve them.
3. Slow down and observe
If you are used to avoiding sharing your feelings, or you are in the habit of suppressing them, you can easily lose sight of what you actually feel.
Try to be more present and question yourself about the sensations and emotions you experience at that moment. Journal, meditate, or opt for therapy to increase your understanding of your emotional life.
4. Share your struggles
While you are learning to be more open, talk to your partner about your struggles with vulnerability in relationships. It will increase their patience and empathy for you.
Even if at the moment all you can share is that you are not a person that shares easily, go for it. This is a path to granting them a small window to your inner world.
5. Express your emotions and needs more
Be honest about your opinions, wants, and emotions. Share a bit more every time. Find the point in which you feel you are outside of your comfort zone but not feeling too exposed.
Being vulnerable means sharing how you truly feel, so practice on a daily basis.
Chances are you can think of a person who opened up to you and remember you actually reacted with kindness. People respond compassionately to gestures of vulnerability.
Have that in mind when you start to worry or anticipate rejection.
6. Seek help
The more you ask for help, the more support you can receive. And this will prompt you to ask and share more.
Also, it becomes easier to express worries, insecurities with your loved one and build intimacy.
If you are struggling, there is always professional help too. A psychologist can help you uncover the root of your fears and start to open up more to achieve ls of intimacy levels.
Embrace vulnerability in relationships
The importance of vulnerability in relationships lies in the effect it has on our relationships.Showing vulnerability in a relationship helps us increase trust, intimacy, self-love, and feel appreciated and recognized.
A sense of deep connection and intimacy is only possible if we are willing to risk being open and vulnerable.
Many of us have deep, often subconscious fears regarding vulnerability in relationships. If you are wondering about how to express vulnerability, you don’t have to know all the answers. Just take it one step at a time.
No one got better at something overnight, so be kind to yourself and be open about your struggles with your partner.
Have the courage to reveal yourselves a bit more every day with people you care about, and this openness will strengthen your connections.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.