How to (Allow Yourself to) be More Vulnerability in Relationships

When I think of vulnerability, I like to differentiate the three types of situations because the vulnerability and the emotional bonding can look quite different in each of these situations.
The first is when the vulnerability is about something that happened outside of that relationship - when it doesn’t involve your partner, and they are not emotionally entangled in the situation the same way as you are. It’s an experience or situation that’s effecting you, and you’re inviting your partner or your friend into your world by opening-up to them. This form of vulnerability is relatively easier both for you and your partner.
The second type of situation is where you open-up and choose to be bring your guards down with a person, who is also involved in that situation.
For example, when two people are grieving - they understand the emotions and the pain of the loss that the other might be experiencing because they too are holding similar emotions, and by sharing and supporting each other, they can relieve each other’s burdens.
If you both are having similar emotions - then understanding one another becomes easier, that flow of empathy becomes easier, and it makes the bonding experience a lot smoother.
But the most difficult form of vulnerability is when it does involve the other person, but you both are looking at the situation from different perspectives, or maybe you’re being vulnerable with the person who caused the discomfort in the first place.
For example, if your partner forgot a special date, like a birthday or an anniversary, and you’re feeling hurt from that. Not just because they didn’t give you a card or a gift, but because you feel like you don’t matter, because you’re not as important.
Approaching that is the most difficult form of vulnerability because you’re being vulnerable with the person who you associate with that discomfort in the first place, and YET that’s where vulnerability can be most powerful, most impactful as well.
In those moments, you might find it easier to withdraw or emotionally shutdown, because talking about it is vulnerability. Opening-up about it is vulnerability. But when that happens, when you don’t share or communicate when you feel hurt by your partner, or disappointed in their actions, you’re not really avoiding that uncomfortable conversation. It’s only a matter of time before all that frustration and resentment explodes out into an argument, and often comes out to be much worse because of all the resentment and frustration that festers within you this whole time. Something that could have been taken care of with a bandaid now needs sutures.

Vulnerability is the only bridge to build connection.
Another way in which people often avoid being vulnerable is by making subtle gestures to letting their partner know that something is upsetting them, but not saying it out right. For example, giving a cold shoulder without telling why or even withholding sex as a form of payback, but all these “subtle gestures” in reality just come out as passive aggressive moves, and makes misunderstanding and tension in the relationship worse.
The truth is that neither passive aggressiveness, nor shutting down is going to help maintain the harmony or the emotional closeness in that moment.
But, there’s a deeper way to share something, that’s even closer to your heart, and that is to invite your partner into your emotional world, to invite them into your experience and share it with them.
You have the trust in your partner and your relationship to open-up and communicate. Opening-up is vulnerability, communicating is vulnerability, but when you feel hurt, especially in your relationship, being vulnerable, communicating your emotions and expectations is the only path to resolving that experience.
And when you invite your partner into your world by being emotionally vulnerable with them, then they are also less likely to feel like you’re blaming them. Instead of feeling like you both are on opposite teams, the shared experiences and perspectives, put you both on the same team working towards the same goals of holding and comforting your emotions at that time.
So when you open-up with someone, when you’re being vulnerable with someone, remember that you’re giving them a gift. You’re giving them an opportunity to take that relationship or that friendship to a hold different level.
By simply choosing integrity, by simply choosing to keep your trust, and be there for you in that moment. This choice, this intentional choice that both of you can make in those moments of vulnerability will give you that assurance and that reminder that you matter to them, and it allows them to see that you trust them enough to be vulnerable with them. It allows your bond to grow closer and stronger.
And that’s exactly the opportunity that you give yourself and your partner, but most importantly, to your relationship, by simply choosing to take the risk of being vulnerable.

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