Often the walls used for protection are the same walls that hinder the development of intimacy. You may genuinely want to find a loving relationship, but your fear gets in the way. This trouble occurs if your fear leads you to date with your guard up. This is why learning to be vulnerable despite your fears, insecurities and natural imperfections is one of the most important aspects of skilled dating.
Being vulnerable involves being open, present, and authentic. It is the opposite of playing games or dating with a façade. The harsh truth is that when you share something about yourself and put yourself out there, you are not in control of how others respond. This can be especially painful when others don’t respond with the compassion, acceptance and understanding you had hoped for. Not being received in the way you had hoped can make the experience of sharing even more anxiety-provoking, and when faced with rejection, you may question yourself and enter into a shame spiral.
However, taking the risk to let people in is the recipe for a true romantic partnership and love, so breaking through your walls is a must. You can learn a lot by being vulnerable and witnessing other’s responses. If you are not met with openness and acceptance by your date, this information is significant in evaluating compatibility.
Here are six ways to increase vulnerability as you date:
1. Recognize the purpose of being vulnerable.
Healthy sharing is the path toward true intimacy and connection. Vulnerability is the means to really get each other, build a genuine bond and hopefully fall in love or determine you aren’t a good fit. If you don’t share about yourself, you may be protected from rejection, but you also won’t know if you’re a match. If you can view being vulnerable as a healthy and normal aspect of dating, maybe it will feel more and more worth it despite the attached fears.
2. Change your perception of vulnerability.
Unfortunately, our culture sometimes mistakes vulnerability for weakness, especially when it comes to men and what it means to be masculine. Vulnerability equals strength. Vulnerability shows your date that you are emotionally available, in touch with your thoughts and feelings, and that you care. Vulnerability makes you relatable as another imperfect human. Even though it may feel uncomfortable, vulnerability is a form of confidence and self-acceptance.
3. Understand vulnerability may look and feel different at different stages of dating.
For example, healthy sharing and vulnerability on a first date looks and feels vastly different from healthy sharing and vulnerability on a sixth date because it takes time to build trust. The progression of sharing paired with healthy boundaries will allow you to get to know each other more deeply. Maybe this means that you share your passions and interests early on, but you withhold your relationship history until you know each other a bit better. It can mean later in dating when you know you want to be exclusive; you openly communicate that you’d like to define the relationship. Please know that being vulnerable is an evolving process that takes time and emotional investment.
4. Take baby steps toward being open and sharing more about yourself.
Your walls will not come down overnight. This is natural, so go easy on yourself as you try new ways of thinking and behaving. Changing the way you relate to others takes time and practice. Focus on going slow and ensuring that sharing isn’t one-sided. Build a connection by taking turns with sharing, listening and asking questions.
5. View yourself as worthy.
You have value and a lot to offer to others even if you get rejected. Denying your worth will make it nearly impossible to put yourself out there and show the world who you are. In the dating context, if you don’t feel worthy, you will walk around feeling insecure about what potential matches think of you. You will put up walls for protection, disown parts of yourself, and maybe even self-sabotage to ensure others don’t get too close to you and can’t reject you. Accepting that rejection is a natural part of dating will aid you in taking it less personally.
6. Take care of yourself when you are feeling vulnerable or over-exposed.
For example, maybe you shared that you have a child on a first date, which is a topic that feels very vulnerable to you. Just because you feel uncomfortable, doesn’t mean the choice to share was wrong. Breathe through it and be gentle with yourself. Understand that being uncomfortable is part of the process of allowing yourself to be more vulnerable. Also, be aware of the stories you make up about yourself if your date doesn’t respond with empathy or understanding. Don’t take it personally if someone rejects you because you disclosed you are a parent and your date perceives this as a deal breaker. Embrace who you are and own it.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes on vulnerability by Brene Brown:
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
Consider how you can apply the above to dating, and I believe you can transform your love life.
Rachel Dack is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC), Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) and dating/relationship coach, who provides counseling and coaching services at her private practice in Bethesda, Maryland and by phone. Rachel’s areas of expertise include dating, relationships, self-love, anxiety, breakups, and divorce. Rachel serves as the leading Women’s Relationship Expert for Dating Advice.com and has been interviewed by a variety of media sources, including Bravo TV, The Washington Post, Counseling Today, PsychCentral, Redbook, Bustle, wtop, and more. Follow her on Twitter , Instagram and Facebook for more daily wisdom and dating/relationship tips!