How To Practice Vulnerability In Relationships

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox
Updated February 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

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

Rawpixel
Opening up can be hard to do

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:

Open communication 

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.

Deeper connections 

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. 

Better understanding 

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:

Ilona Titova/EyeEm

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.

Online therapy

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Opening up can be hard to do

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. 

There have been many promising studies in the mental health field related to online therapy. One recent study showed that treatment relayed through videoconferencing enhanced the therapeutic alliance and gave individuals more opportunities for connection and self-expression.

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. 

Takeaway

Opening up more or becoming more vulnerable may not happen overnight. It may be beneficial to use self-compassion and remember that this can be an ongoing journey. 

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.

Seeking To Improve Your Mental Health?

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started