Most people long to be deeply known and completely understood by their partner. However, to reach this level of intimacy in your relationship, you have to be willing to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable requires you to open up and share who you are, what you need, and what you fear, without being sure how your partner will respond. This can be scary as the underlying fear might be that if your partner truly knows you and all of your flaws, they might reject you. While this is a possibility, there is also the chance that your partner will respond with understanding, empathy, and compassion. When you feel safe enough to be vulnerable with your partner, you can experience a deeper level of intimacy and a stronger couple connection.
What Is Vulnerability
If you look up vulnerability in the dictionary, it says that it is the state of being exposed to the possibility of being physically or emotionally harmed or attacked. Vulnerability requires emotional risk. When your are being vulnerable, you are deeply sharing who you are at your core. You are allowing your partner to know you without any filter. This opens you up to the possibility of being judged or rejected. It requires you to share how you think, what you feel, what you need, and what you have experienced with complete authenticity. To be truly vulnerable is to allow yourself to be authentically known.
Why Being Vulnerable Can Be Difficult
Vulnerability requires a great deal of trust. You have to trust your partner of course. But more importantly, you have to trust yourself. As Brene Brown shared in her Ted Talk, the ability to be vulnerable requires you to believe that you are worthy of a deep connection. You might think of being vulnerable as being weak. The truth is, it takes a great deal of strength to share yourself, warts and all, and open yourself up to the possibility of being hurt, misunderstood, or rejected. Although there is the possibility of rejection, there is also the possibility of feeling truly heard and understood by your partner. When you feel loved, validated, and appreciated for who you are, it creates a strong level of intimacy with your partner.
What Happens When We Are Not Vulnerable
It is very difficult to feel that our partner gets us when we are not being vulnerable. When you don’t feel heard and understood, it is hard to feel truly intimate with your partner. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. You feel disconnected from your partner both emotionally and physically. There can be more disagreements about unimportant things, and less deep discussions about what truly matters. Although being vulnerable can be risky, not being vulnerable can be devastating to your relationship. Below are some ways that you can begin to become more vulnerable with your partner to improve your relationship.
1. Know Yourself
To become more vulnerable with your partner, you must first really know yourself. Everyone has a past and early experiences that help shape current responses and reactions. Sharing these past experiences that may be impacting your relationship can help your partner better understand who you are. Be aware of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Remind yourself that your feelings are valid and you don’t need to judge them. Become more aware of what triggers an emotional response or causes you to shut down, or explode. When you are aware of some of your deepest fears and needs, you have the opportunity to be vulnerable with your partner by sharing them.
2. Start Slow
Deeply sharing and being vulnerable requires trust, and trust requires time. You do not, and should not share all of your most personal feelings and experiences on a first date. It is okay to start slow. Ask questions of your partner to better understand them. Encouraging your partner to be more vulnerable with you, can help you feel safer sharing with them. Begin by sharing something about yourself that reveals something that you feel comfortable discussing. Maybe you can share a struggle that you are facing at work. When you begin to build more trust and start feeling comfortable, you can open up about things of a more personal nature.
3. Share In The Moment
Be more open about sharing what’s going on when it occurs. If your partner says something that hurts you, share with them how you are feeling. Let them know that what they said hurt you. Share what you are feeling and why from your own perspective. Use “I” statements when you share. For instance, you could say I feel hurt when you say I’m being too sensitive as it is something my mother used to say whenever I cried or was visibly upset. When you are hurt or upset, you might want to ignore it or bury it and discuss it later. However, the more you can authentically share yourself and your feelings in the moment, the closer you will feel to your partner.
4. Share Your Fears
You will create a deeper level of intimacy with your partner when you are able to share your fears. This can include sharing the fact that being vulnerable is scary for you. Instead of shutting down when you are feeling insecure, you can open up and talk about it with your partner. We all have insecurities and deep-seated fears. Even if you believe these fears are irrational, they can still have an impact on your responses and reactions. Sharing these fears with your partner, especially when it seems hard, can help you feel closer. When you share your concerns, you give your partner the opportunity to care for you. If they respond to your sharing with empathy and compassion, it can help you feel understood.
5. Ask For What You Need
When you ask for what you need from your partner, they are able to make an active choice. They get to decide if they are going to meet your needs. You will learn a lot about your partner and the health of your relationship from their response. It might be difficult for you to ask for what you need. If it is, you may want to consider your own self-esteem. Do you feel as though you don’t have any needs? Maybe you understand that you have needs, but are afraid you will be rejected if you ask for what you need. Asking for what you need requires vulnerability. It is true that you might open yourself up to disappointment. However, it is also possible that you will experience feeling understood, nurtured, and deeply connected to your partner.
Although being vulnerable with your partner can cause a certain level of anxiety and uncertainty, it can also increase your intimacy and deepen your couple connection. Remember that being vulnerable in your relationship is not always easy and takes practice and patience. The rewards of a stronger couple connection and feeling heard, valued, and understood are well worth the risks.