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How Being Vulnerable Builds Better Relationship

by eharmony Editorial Team - May 6, 2024

Vulnerability has become a complex notion. While most people like to project an image of strength and independence, we all instinctively know this is largely a facade.  

Being vulnerable is about dropping parts of the emotional armor you’ve cobbled together your whole life as a preservation mechanism. Let’s look at how to be vulnerable, its value in relationships and when it’s not always a good idea. 

What being vulnerable means and its importance to a relationship

Emotional vulnerability is a key to any relationship. It’s a willingness to express inner feelings, share fears and reveal your insecurities. It’s about being your true self and doing it in a safe space. If you’re not being vulnerable with your partner it can be tough to build communication, trust and intimacy. Without these crucial elements, relationships quickly wither.  

Vulnerability is important in almost every stage of a relationship. When you first start dating, you tend to have your guard up. It’s still new and although you share a connection, you don’t quite know or trust this person yet. But you can get past that by being vulnerable, meaning it’s the first barrier you will cross together.  

As your relationship deepens, emotional vulnerability becomes even more important. Now, being vulnerable also comes with all the bad, confusing and sometimes frustrating aspects of your partner’s personality. It could be their hangups, baggage of past relationships, or countless hidden quirks. This is when you need to be a source of support for each other by learning how to be vulnerable in a relationship. You need to be each other’s safe space and the first person they think of when they want to share how they feel.  

Even with mature partnerships, years down the line, continued vulnerability helps maintain the romance and connection. It also can help get through the really tough times as a team.

The rewards and risks of being vulnerable with someone

Vulnerability can often feel like a leap of faith. You don’t know how your partner will react and that can be scary. They could laugh at you, criticize you, be disgusted by it and all that bad stuff our brains like to invent.  

But when you trust someone enough to have at least established a feel for their sensibilities, being vulnerable is less scary and more like a deeper level of emotional intimacy.  

You’ve likely also experienced the perils of emotional vulnerability in your past, like a friend betraying a secret, getting turned down for a date or having someone reject a heartfelt apology. This unfortunately can also be a risk in relationships. Vulnerability reveals all your weaknesses and your partner may not reciprocate or empathise. Some won’t always respect your vulnerabilities and may use them to hurt you later or manipulate you.  

But also remember the healthy meaning of being vulnerable is about pacing it out. Your level of vulnerability should be in tune with your shared level of intimacy. Don’t make the mistake of oversharing and alienating the person too early on in the relationship because they may find it inappropriate or aren’t ready to be that vulnerable back. 

A young couple having an intimate moment together before they kiss

Want to know more about intimacy?

What does intimacy mean in today’s dating world? It certainly seems to have changed with the progression of gender roles and wider interpretations of sexuality. We explore the multi-layered concepts behind intimacy. 

Identifying your barriers to vulnerability and overcoming them

Lots of people are shy or don’t even know what their vulnerabilities are, let alone want to share them. So here are some tips on being vulnerable and how to go about it positively.  

  • It starts with you – Take stock of your emotions, interior life, reactions to certain experiences and how you generally relate to people, particularly your partner. It’s only once you’re in touch with your inner self that you can properly share with others. Journalling can help a lot  
  • Tell the person how you really feel about them – Learning how to be vulnerable is about telling someone exactly what they mean to you. You can do it in little batches too, not all at once. Even a sweet note on the fridge can change your partner’s day 
  • Remember perfection isn’t standard – Your partner won’t start suddenly liking you less just because you’re fallible. We want to be truly accepted, faults and all  
  • Rejection isn’t the end of the world – Vulnerability is a risk, but as long as you express your true self, desires, and weaknesses, it’s always a win for you and their loss    

According to our relationship expert Minaa B., some ways to demonstrate vulnerability to your partner include:

  • Sharing your feelings, even when they’re negative or difficult to incite open communication.
  • Discussing your fears and insecurities openly to deepen emotional intimacy.
  • Being honest about your past and challenges you’ve faced in life.
  • Openly discussing your mistakes and things that you may have felt ashamed or embarrassed about.
  • Asking your partner for help when you need it.
  • Being open to criticism and feedback instead of getting defensive.
  • Sharing your goals and dreams, even when they’re ambitious or uncertain.

How to react to your partner being vulnerable with you

You also will have to deal with when your partner chooses to be vulnerable with you. At first, you may need to figure out how to get someone to open up if they’ve got high emotional barriers.  

But being vulnerable with someone is often a matter of taking time, love and patience. Asking them deep, open-ended questions about themselves can also help them come out of their shell.   

When they do, it’s important you are present and receptive. They’re taking the leap now and if you want to have a healthy relationship, you have to be there to catch them. So try to practice active listening. This means, not just hearing what they’re saying but also the subtext and intention behind their words. This will give you deeper insights into their personality and how you can get them to be vulnerable more often.  

Try to show consistent empathy when your partner is being emotionally vulnerable. You want to be their rock so they can be yours. So even if some of what you hear is perhaps unusual or even unpleasant, try to see things from their point of view and be a safe space for them. This doesn’t mean you can’t offer advice but do it from a place of empathy and kindness. 

Being vulnerable is declaring the real you deserves love and respect

Emotional vulnerability is what undergirds all the other aspects of your relationship. Because when you’re not being vulnerable, you’re safe but you’re also alone. Closed to new connections, closed to letting people truly get to know you and closed to real love.  

So open up, make new connections and start enriching someone’s life today. Join eharmony.

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