What is Relationship Vulnerability? According to Webster’s Dictionary, vulnerable means: “To be susceptible to something, a bad thing naturally, such as disease or infection.” The second meaning of vulnerable is, “To be capable of being physically or emotionally wounded.” With this meaning in mind, it is understood why many of us are not comfortable with being vulnerable in an intimate relationship… We’re afraid of the possible results. Fear of being mocked, fear of the person using sensitive information to manipulate, hurt, and be verbally abusive during arguments and disputes. These are legitimate fears. Author and researcher Brene Brown defines vulnerability as an “emotional risk, exposure, and uncertainty.” In other words, this is a tricky dance. Sometimes we believe being vulnerable with someone is connected to the fear of losing that person.
I was part of a conversation with an individual recently, and he admitted that when he began courting his now-wife, he was afraid to tell her about his past. The way he got over that fear was two-fold. 1. He strengthened his connection with God. 2. He realized that if she found out later, without him telling her, he would lose her anyway. When he dealt with those two issues, that’s when he told her. They’ve been married for 15 years. The moral of that story is finding and knowing the right person to be vulnerable with. This issue of relationship vulnerability has been the subject of many books and lectures for years. These days it has become even harder to navigate this issue of vulnerability. A lot of it has to do with social media and the dating app age that we live in. It is not a light matter because being vulnerable with someone can feel like standing naked in an auditorium full of people. Many psychiatrists use that analogy to describe vulnerability. On the other hand, being vulnerable with another human being is a beautiful and essential part of a healthy, intimate, and strong relationship.
Not having the ability to open up, be tender, and share intimate parts of ourselves with the person we’re in a relationship with will cause a certain level of discomfort that cannot be removed unless we’re able to walk through the door of vulnerability. About 10 months ago, I started dating this young lady. After about 20 minutes, I knew she was not a person I could be vulnerable with. Why? Because she was not looking for anything substantial. This is important to note. Why would someone who is looking for commitment be vulnerable with someone who is looking for the opposite? This is one of the unfortunate things about the era we live in. Many people, men, and women are dating one another purely for superficial reasons. However, the goal of relationship vulnerability should be to establish a deep connection with another human being. It’s about expressing insecurities, fears, and character flaws with someone, knowing that the person can be trusted with the information.
To put it succinctly, me and this woman went out a few times, and then it was over. I’ve understood the importance of vulnerability ever since I was 12 years old. Maybe because I was the only boy raised with 4 sisters. Whatever the case, it’s always been an essential part of an intimate relationship for me. I understand that this is not the case for everyone. A person’s upbringing can greatly affect their understanding of vulnerability. If they never saw a healthy relationship growing up, their fear of opening up with someone will cause them to hold back. Or, if they’ve consistently made bad choices when choosing someone to be intimate with. All of these factors play a part in whether a person can be vulnerable or not. One of the things I stress with my clients who have had these relationship issues is doing the inner work. It all begins with a 3 step process I call the 3 R’s: 1. Reflect 2. Refresh 3. Rebuild. The point is, the work must be done. Why? Because an intimate relationship cannot be healthy and strong without vulnerability. So, the question remains, “How to know when it’s safe to be vulnerable in a relationship?”
- Reciprocity: When the other person is vulnerable, it is only proper that we reciprocate. After all, being vulnerable is about trying to get closer to the person by finding out who they are on the inside. Once we see our partner sharing and opening up with us, we know automatically that it’s alright for us to do the same.
- Easiness In Conversation: I’m seeing a woman now and we just share intimate details about ourselves and it’s not hard or forced. Most of the time, this is all based on a feeling. Some things can’t be explained. We just have to go with what we’re feeling. This is not easy to do, but this is one of the ways we know it’s okay to open up with someone. Unfortunately, some of us always try to understand things on a rational level, but everything is not like that. In many cases, it’s about going with our gut feeling and not overthinking the issue.
- Move Slowly: Don’t attempt to eat the elephant all in one bite. Take small bites. Begin by opening up about something small but significant and see how he or she reacts. Pay close attention to body language. This is an important element in communication. Especially when it comes to intimate matters. The point is if the person seems turned off, not interested, or non-emphatic, depending on what’s being shared, this is a clear sign that the vulnerability should be cut off.
- Trust Yourself: Know that whatever you share will not hurt you in any way as long as you are being authentic and true to yourself. This comes with a caveat. If the person starts trying to manipulate or cause harm by using the information being shared, this is a clear indication that the relationship can’t continue. Share what you feel comfortable with when you feel comfortable sharing it. It’s about being sure of yourself and confident enough in your life to know you are strong enough to deal with anything that comes your way. No doubt about it, being vulnerable is about peeling back layers of yourself that are uncomfortable.
Isn’t that part of being alive though? When you trust your instincts, what do you have to fear? Nothing. Throw fear out of the window. You will know all the time when to open curtains to your soul and when to close the blinds. Remember, vulnerability is a process. How do you know when to be vulnerable with someone? Use these steps and you will never doubt yourself again.
Follow me on Instagram: @louis_morris_coaching
Check out what The Heart Matters has for you: linktr.ee/louismorris
Thank you for supporting The Heart Matters and Louis Morris Coaching