How To Practice Vulnerability In Relationships
Vulnerability describes the willingness to show one’s feelings and allow one's authentic self, including their weaknesses, to be seen by others. This can be valuable for emotional intimacy and bonding with other people, especially in romantic relationships. Difficulty with vulnerability may be common for some who desire to build a strong, close partnership.
While a lack of vulnerability may be more appropriate in surface-level relationships, vulnerability can be significant to the success of a romantic relationship. Being vulnerable can often involve uncertainty, risk, and emotional honesty that might be unfamiliar to many people. It may feel uncomfortable, but being vulnerable can be beneficial.
You may wonder how vulnerability can be helpful and how to practice it in relationships. Let’s take a closer look.
Why vulnerability matters in relationships
You may have some understanding of how vulnerability can help a relationship, but you might still have some questions. Or you may want to know about the potential advantages of this practice in relationships.
Understanding the positive results vulnerability can have might be the first step with your partner. Here are some of the beneficial impacts vulnerability can have on a romantic relationship:
Vulnerability may allow you to achieve open communication. When you can be vulnerable, you may be less likely to withhold information or leave your partner wondering what you feel or think. This can mean a lot to the health of a relationship.
Expression of emotions and needs
Vulnerability may make you less likely to repress emotions and needs. Romantic partners are often part of a person’s support system. Emotional repression or suppression can potentially have harmful physical, psychological, and social consequences.
For example, it may lead to irritability, trouble sleeping, increased physical stress markers, strained relationships, and feelings of depression. In a relationship, it’s helpful to know what’s going on for one another internally and how to support each other, and the ability to be vulnerable permits this to happen.
Vulnerability isn’t always about the difficult aspects of a relationship. It can also include positive thoughts, feelings, and desires. You may want more depth in your relationship or to be more romantic with each other. You might wish to try new things sexually with your partner, go on more dates, or write love letters.
If you fear vulnerability, you might shy away from revealing your desire for these things or telling your partner how you feel. Communicating your affection toward your partner may positively impact your relationship. Additionally, expressing desires within a relationship may clarify and strengthen the relationship.
Vulnerability allows you and your partner to understand each other more. If you aren’t vulnerable in your relationship, there are some things you may never know about each other.
Safety and security
It may feel counterintuitive, but vulnerability can provide a sense of safety. Sometimes, difficulty with vulnerability can correlate with insecure attachment. Attachment theory in psychology relates to how you form attachments to other people and is often referenced in the context of romantic partnerships.
Secure attachment within this theory tends to be the goal, and that might look like consistency (consistent affection and knowing where you stand in the relationship), trust, autonomy, and deeper feelings of intimacy. When you can be vulnerable, your relationship may feel safer because you’re more open with each other.
How to be more vulnerable in your relationships
You may want to achieve greater vulnerability but don’t know where to start. Finding real and true worth and belonging in relationships often means understanding self-expression, self-exploration, self-discovery, self-awareness, self-knowledge, and self-acceptance.
If you want to know how to be more vulnerable in your relationships, here are some steps to consider:
Think about why you want to be more vulnerable
If you have recently acknowledged a desire to be more vulnerable, there’s likely a reason for this. Do you want a close, serious relationship and a fear of vulnerability is holding you back? Are you in a committed relationship already and want to strengthen it?
Since becoming more vulnerable and open with the people in your life can be intimidating, keeping this goal in mind can be beneficial because it reminds you why you don’t want to back away.
Discuss vulnerability with your partner
If you’re in a relationship and want to be more vulnerable, you might start by discussing vulnerability with your partner. Think about what vulnerability in your relationship looks like to you, and discuss how to communicate this idea with your partner.
Consider how you want to broach these topics in the future and how you can prevent yourself from backsliding. If you feel your partner may be someone who sometimes has an emotional wall up, it can be beneficial to acknowledge you both have to be dedicated to communication to break that pattern.
Work on your sense of emotional safety
Sometimes, a perceived lack of emotional safety holds people back from being vulnerable in their relationships, romantic or otherwise. This pattern can stem from adverse experiences in both childhood and adulthood.
Working on your sense of emotional safety might look like positive self-talk. For example, you might say to yourself, “I am safe.” It can also look like learning to build trust with a romantic partner.
Try individual or couple’s counseling
Having a therapist or counselor on your side can be helpful as you learn to be more vulnerable. Some people may pursue individual therapy to help with this, including those who are single, searching for a relationship, or are already in one.
Couples therapy or counseling may be helpful if you're in an existing relationship. Therapy can offer a safe space to start being more vulnerable and work on anything that could impact your relationship or life. You can find a therapist to work with within your local area, or you may consider online therapy.
Understand that planning can be involved
If you have something to say and feel vulnerable, it’s okay to think about how you want to relay it first. You can have a plan and discuss it with a counselor or therapist. Sometimes, communication doesn’t come easily or naturally; while it may become more so over time, this can help you communicate what you want.
Some people may roleplay in therapy when they want to communicate something to someone in their life, but they feel apprehensive about it. It’s a way to practice conversations that may be tough and make you feel vulnerable.
In-person therapy may be difficult for someone experiencing vulnerability challenges. Online therapy may be a better option. Some people feel more comfortable discussing sensitive topics through a screen than in person. This form of therapy can also be reached from home, which can make the process more convenient.
BetterHelp has improved continuously throughout the years, and over 35,000 independent and licensed mental health professionals offer therapy on the online platform. You can chat on the phone, through messaging, or by video call during sessions. And you can send messages in moments of need between sessions.
BetterHelp’s therapists have a range of specialties, and when you sign up, you’ll answer a short series of questions to help the platform match you with a professional who meets your needs.
You deserve to have strong relationships and achieve the best quality of life possible, and a qualified professional can help. Join BetterHelp or read our FAQs and therapist reviews to learn more.
What are vulnerabilities in a relationship?
Healthy relationships often have vulnerabilities, which are often described as having emotional openness. This can include positive and negative aspects of your emotions and how they may relate to your partner or to your relationship.
How do you show vulnerability in a relationship?
Being vulnerable in a relationship may feel like a struggle, especially in the beginning. Trusting your partner can be a good first step, as trust can mean they’re more likely to respond well to your vulnerability and be vulnerable in return. An individual, couples, or family therapist can help you open up emotionally and begin to show vulnerability to your partner.
What are examples of being vulnerable in relationships?
Embracing vulnerability can mean being able to speak honestly about your wants and needs, telling your partner what you desire from the relationship or how you feel about them, discussing your past and how it affects you today, being honest about any hurt or pain you may be feeling, or revealing fears you may have about the relationship or otherwise.
How is vulnerability important in a relationship?
Being vulnerable can be important in a relationship because it breaks down barriers between a couple. Being able to open up emotionally can build trust, minimize secrets, doubts, and uncertainties, and help one another feel supported in their desires and emotions.
What are the 4 main types of vulnerability?
The four main types of vulnerability are often depicted as:
- Human-social, such as injuries, homelessness, or political unrest
- Physical, such as structural damage or instability of a building
- Economic, such as loss of workforce or economic losses
- Environmental, such as pollution, endangered species, or loss of cultural diversity
What are the 4 characteristics of vulnerability?
The FCA breaks vulnerability into the following four characteristics:
- Health, such as conditions that can affect the ability to complete day-to-day tasks
- Life events, such as job loss or a change in relationship status
- Resilience, such as the ability to withstand financial changes
- Capability, such as financial literacy, technical abilities, or communication skills
Can a relationship last without vulnerability?
Although relationships could last without vulnerability, being vulnerable is typically a sign of a healthy relationship. Relationships without vulnerabilities could lead to less trust, more insecurities, higher chance of miscommunication, or being on different pages about what the relationship means to them or where they see the relationship going in the future.
What are signs of vulnerability?
Being vulnerable can look like being unafraid to voice your emotions, challenges, and desires, without fear of rejection from your partner. If your partner is being vulnerable, they may tell you honestly how something makes them feel in hopes that you will listen to the matter and respond with kindness and openness in return. This can look similar to being vulnerable with a close friend or family member.
Is vulnerability an insecurity?
Being vulnerable typically is not an insecurity itself, although it can include voicing individual or relationship insecurities, hopefully helping the couple strengthen their relationship and move past insecurities that may be harming it.
What does vulnerability mean to a man?
Vulnerable behavior may be more challenging for a man due to the stigmas men deal with and the social expectations placed on men to not show their emotions. The fear of looking “weak” could make it more difficult for men to open up, although it is possible to overcome these challenges by building trust with a partner or with the help of a therapist.
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