How to Establish Vulnerability in Relationships (We Promise It's Worth It)

Guarded? It's time to knock those walls down.
Couple holding hands in shadow of window shades
Photo: Maria Korneeva / Getty Images
Hayley Folk
by
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
The Knot Contributor
  • Hayley writes articles on a freelance basis for The Knot Worldwide, with a specialty in sex and relationships.
  • Her work has appeared in The Knot, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29 and more.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hayley was a full-time editor at a business publication.
Updated Feb 06, 2024

We get it: being vulnerable can be an intimidating thing. Putting your heart out there and opening yourself up to another person emotionally is an extremely brave thing to do. But, if you're looking to have a long-lasting connection with someone, vulnerability in relationships is an essential.

Acquiring depth and a sense of safety with our partners, friends and even family requires a certain give and take. But we promise the effort is well worth it.

We spoke to Tyler Nicodem, a licensed professional counselor, to get a grasp on vulnerability in relationships—from how to be vulnerable in a relationship, to what does it mean to be vulnerable in a relationship in the first place.

In this article:

What is Vulnerability in a Relationship?

Many of us—regardless of whether we realize it or not—haven't been taught what true examples of vulnerability in relationships are, let alone how to achieve it. "To be vulnerable in a relationship typically means to have a sense of safety, hope and love in the relationship," counselor Tyler Nicodem explains. "In essence, healthy vulnerability and emotional intimacy are synonymous."

So what does it mean to be vulnerable in a relationship? Think of it like a trust fall: In any relationship, when you decide to open yourself up to your partner, you "fall" trusting them to "catch" you. When they do, trust is built over time and being vulnerable becomes less and less intimidating.

Is Vulnerability in a Relationship Good or Bad?

Being vulnerable in a relationship can be a truly beautiful thing. As Nicodem says, "When vulnerability [exchanged between] healthily by two independent, stable and mature adults, it can be a deepening of emotional intimacy." (Remember: It's always important to be doing your own work as an individual while working on your relationship.)

It's also worthy of note that an imbalance of vulnerability (such as someone sharing a lot of themselves with an emotionally unavailable partner) or vulnerability before trust is well-established can lead to trouble, according to Nicodem, including codependency and anxiety within the relationship.

Benefits of Vulnerability in Relationships

Even though learning how to be vulnerable in a relationship can feel daunting at first, it's proven that there are so many benefits to letting your guard down when you really care about someone.

"Being vulnerable with your partner has so many beautiful benefits. It grows relational and emotional intimacy," Nicodem shares. "It can also increase attraction to your partner, provide a sense of safety, security, and love between partners and even increase sexual satisfaction."

How to Be Vulnerable in a Relationship

Not sure where to start? We've got some tips and tricks for how to be more vulnerable in a relationship—plus examples of vulnerability in relationships—to add to your personal toolbox.

Practicing vulnerability first requires some reflection. "Start with being honest with yourself," encourages Nicodem. "Vulnerability takes time and trust. I recommend keeping a daily journal where you can write your honest thoughts and feelings [and] gain clarity about what you feel and think prior to being vulnerable for the first time."

Once you're able to have a moment of honesty with yourself, then you can potentially incorporate your partner in it, too.

Need an example of vulnerability in relationships? You can try sharing something that feels just slightly uncomfortable to share—but you ultimately still feel safe and secure sharing and talking about it with your partner. Don't fret that it has to be something dark and deep: It It can be as simple as a beautiful memory you have of family or friends.

Remember: Everyone shows vulnerability in different ways. "If someone is sharing their hopes, dreams, fears or a meaningful memory, they are being vulnerable with you," adds Nicodem. "Listen deeply, be slow to speak and offer empathy and compassion."

"Try to not only see things from their point of view but feel them as well. Imagine what it is like to feel hopeful or fearful, sad or glad, angry or peaceful. Simply taking an interest in how your partner sees and feels issues will go a long way."

And trust us—vulnerability is not a weakness but a huge strength. So take it and treasure it.

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