How to Be More Vulnerable With Your Partner
If you've been with your partner for a while, you've probably experienced lots of ups and downs, and feel closer to one another than ever before. But have you ever considered whether you feel comfortable being completely open with your partner? True vulnerability in relationships is essential, especially if you are headed to the altar soon.
Sure, you probably have lots of conversations with your significant other. But as your relationship has grown, your conversations should move into a place of emotional openness with one another. That's vulnerability, a buzzword in today's society thanks to the work of Brené Brown, a research professor from the University of Houston. Brown defines vulnerability as, "uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure," or, put more simply, "the courage to be imperfect."
In this article, we'll talk about what being vulnerable means, why it's so important for your relationship, and how to take your conversations deeper if you feel you and your partner still have some work to do.
In this article:
What Is Vulnerability in a Relationship?
First, a word about what vulnerability isn't. It isn't a veiled term for weakness, and it doesn't mean sharing everything with everyone. That's an important point in today's connected world where we have a tendency to share every detail of our lives with a list of several hundred followers. Vulnerability also isn't about giving your partner the "upper hand."
On the contrary, vulnerability means having difficult conversations while facing the fear of rejection head on. "Vulnerability occurs when you share something that puts you at risk of being judged," says Jillian Richardson, author of Un-Lonely Planet and founder of The Joy List. "In doing this, you foster intimacy because you're trusting that person to hold you with care."
Vulnerability should be reserved for the precious few people in your life with whom you have built intimate relationships, including your partner. When you're able to open up to your partner about the more tender parts of your life and reveal aspects of your true self, you're establishing a level of trust between you; in essence, you become a safe space for one another. Once this sacred trust is established, it's easier to stop feeling like you need to change or hide part of yourself in order for your partner to accept you.
Why Is Vulnerability Important in a Relationship?
By now, everyone from your grandma to your wedding officiant has probably schooled you on the importance of communication. That's because establishing healthy, safe communication in a relationship builds trust and allows you to practice vulnerability over time.
Vulnerability leads to intimacy.
What many people don't realize at first? Vulnerability is the path to true intimacy.
"Everyone says they want true intimacy, but what we don't realize is it often lies on the other side of uncomfortable things like vulnerability and conflict," says Danielle Bayard Jackson, speaker, educator and founder of TELL Public Relations. "This is necessary because we all want to feel seen and known in our relationships, but that isn't possible without opening up in this way."
Vulnerability builds healthy relationships.
Being vulnerable with your partner demonstrates that it's safe for them to do the same, Richardson says. "It models what vulnerable sharing sounds like," she says. "A lot of people have never witnessed a healthy conversation where one person is kindly sharing how the other hurt them. Just knowing how this sounds might deeply impact your partner and make your relationship stronger."
Vulnerability reduces conflicts down the line.
Talking about things like how you'll raise your kids, what size mortgage to take on and other major life goals can be difficult. "Having these conversations is scary because they'll likely highlight areas of difference," Richardson says. "But again, those are better to work through earlier rather than later. If you ignore them, they'll likely be much bigger issues later."
Why Is It so Hard to Be Vulnerable?
One of the most enduring messages we hear as we grow up is the importance of being strong and independent. While these attributes are indeed key to a successful adulthood, oftentimes the "I've got this" mentality can actually cause us to avoid being vulnerable with others. We build walls and self-protect in order to get through life. But eventually, this can lead to emotional distance and disconnection in our most important relationships.
"Depending on childhood experiences with trust, openness and abandonment, you may have formed a discomfort with being vulnerable because instead of seeing it as a means of closeness with others, you view it as something that either shows weakness or that may be weaponized and used against you later," Bayard Jackson says.
With mindful practice, you can learn to become more vulnerable with your partner over time. Below, we've included several ways you can practice being vulnerable with your romantic partner (or anyone you feel is worthy of a deeper relationship).
How to Be Vulnerable in a Relationship
Ready to inject the power of vulnerability into your relationship? The path to becoming a more vulnerable person takes practice and courage, but it's worth it in order to deepen your relationship with your significant other. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Be willing to try new things together.
"Vulnerability isn't just about sharing difficult emotions," Bayard Jackson says. "It means you're willing to try new things you may not be good at in front of someone else. It means you feel comfortable getting it wrong."
Open up about your inner self.
It might seem like your partner knows everything there is to know about you. But there are always parts of yourself you can share. Journaling can help bring these things out.
Don't forget the good stuff.
"Vulnerability doesn't have to just be about sharing the hard stuff," Richardson says. "It's also vulnerable to share joy and appreciation. This applies to sex as well. Letting your partner know what you enjoy might feel scary, but it will heighten pleasure for both of you."
Talk about the relationship.
"Early and often, you should talk to your partner about what your relationship vision is," Richardson says. What was your parents' marriage like, and do you hope yours will be similar or different? How do you want to support each other? How will you make big decisions together?