Why Vulnerability is hard in Relationships (But still matters so much)

We think of vulnerability as parts of ourselves that we are ashamed of - parts of us that feel sensitive, that you want to hide from the world, and not show to anyone because you fear that they might judge you, or that you might appear weak, or that if these aspects of yourself are disclosed to the wrong person they would be embarrassing and give them some sort of power over you.
And to prevent that, you hide these vulnerable aspects of yourself away from the world - anything that might be perceived as weakness is bottled so deep within you that not even the people closest to you know about it.
That’s vulnerability - and we all cross paths with it more often that we would like to. The question really is, what do you do with this vulnerability, and how is it impacting your relationships?
Now think about this - Has it ever happened that your friend or your partner is going through something, and they come to you to share something with you, to open up to you?
And if you any of your friends have trusted you to show you their pain, to give you the opportunity to comfort them, then think back to that moment. How did you feel when that happened? How did you feel when you were able to emotionally comfort them? how did you feel afterwards?
If you felt good, if thinking about that moment feels, that experience right there is exactly what it feels like when someone chooses to be vulnerable with you. And the reason is that deep down, we all have a desire to feel valued, to feel important, to feel that you have something to offer to someone else.
I’m willing to bet that those moments of vulnerability not only helped your friend or your partner, but it also helped your relationship with that person - to help you feel closer and to make your relationship stronger. And that interaction, that give and take where the two of you talk about something that’s hurtful, talk about something that’s painful, and you both feel good at the end of that conversation - that nurturing and caring moment is a true bonding experience in life.
Vulnerability provides an opportunity to create a genuine, long-lasting bond with your partner, and develop a relationship that’s emotionally fulfilling. Where you can talk about emotions, and when one of you is feeling stressed or disturbed, you’re able to hold each other’s emotions and comfort one another.
And not just when something major happens, but in your day-to-day-life because that’s where you spend most of your life.
And the key to such a life is again - vulnerability. Vulnerability creates opportunities for you to be raw and genuine with one another. Vulnerability generates this environment where your partner can see your raw emotions, your scars and your desires, and you learn to trust others, especially your partner, that you can be emotionally naked with them - you can show your scars and pain, your needs and desires to your partner, and have the trust that they will take care of them. That your partner won’t hurt or ridicule or take advantage of your rawness, but will comfort and bond with your genuine self, and hopefully reciprocate by showing you their raw emotions.
After all, we all walk around the world with this tough facade on us, like a heavy armor…. But regardless of how protective that armor might be, it’s still heavy and uncomfortable, it still weighs on you, and at the end of the day, everyone wants to remove their armor at least for a little while. And at the very least, your partner should be one of those people with whom you can take your armor off.

Vulnerability is the only bridge to build connection.
What’s the barrier?
Now the question arises that if all of those things are true, then why is it so difficult for us to be vulnerable? Why do you shy away from being vulnerable, even with your closest friends, even with your partner?
And the simple answer to that is that we live in a society where being vulnerable is equated with weakness. You hear messages that being emotional, or being emotionally vulnerable is seen as weakness, which gets internalized over the years. In our society, vulnerability is often associated with power, and being vulnerable, showing your emotional needs or pain is equivalent of giving someone power over you. So instead, you keep those parts of yourself locked within you, so no one else can see it when you are hurting.
Let me use an evolutionary example to explain this - If you think about it from the physical perspective of an animal in the wild, when they get hurt, they often respond with more aggression to guard agains the threat, to themselves. They are not gonna show their wounds until it’s a member of their pack - someone they absolutely trust.
Same thing happens with humans. When you are hurt, you try to hide your pain and your sensitive spots, because you don’t know who else can hurt you - and trusting anyone can be difficult in those moments.
But the problem is that it doesn’t work when it comes to relationships and bonding. Shutting down emotionally or not sharing your moments of “so-called weakness” may feel comfortable. Building those walls may make you feel safe for a moment, but those walls don’t just keep others out, they also lock you in.
So, if you’re not ready to take down your walls, then that’s fine, but you do need to build some windows and maybe a door in the wall, to let a selected few into your world - to whom you can show your emotions and with whom you can be vulnerable.
In the long run, relationships and true emotional bonds keep you safer than any walls you can build around yourself.
But it is still a risk. It’s a catch 22 situation, where the way to heal from that pain, to heal from that hurt that you’re experiencing is to open-up, to seek emotional comfort, to be vulnerable, and at the same time, that in itself feels risky, and you shy away from that.
What can you do? How do you move past that?
And the only reason option there, the only path you can actually walk is to take a calculated risk. To figure out who you can trust and to what extent? You don’t have to trust everyone with everything. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing sort of situation.
And keep in mind that it will always be a risk - It will always be a risk to open-up, to be vulnerable, to even be emotionally close with someone, but the trick is to find someone - a trusted partner, a few trusted friends who are worth the risk
And that’s the quest that you are on in this life when it comes to your emotions - That who are the people in your life, that you can trust. Now do be patient with yourself along the way because it will take some time to figure out whom you can trust in what matters, and to what extent.
And that vulnerability is not something that you can shy away from, but that vulnerability is what will not only help you feel better, but is also so important for your relationship to develop, so you develop a genuine emotional closeness and a bond, rather than just hanging out as roommates.

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