Why open yourself to even more heartache?
Nevertheless, we are going to suggest that you do exactly that. Not only is being vulnerable desirable in a relationship, it is absolutely required if you want it to be truly fulfilling and successful.
What does being vulnerable actually mean?
Being vulnerable means that you can open yourself to another person.
It means that you are completely honest about your feelings for them.
It means that you are willing to fall in love.
It means you recognize that being hurt is an acceptable risk.
According to psychologist Robert Firestone, vulnerability is not synonymous with weakness. When we are fully open to all kinds of experiences- including the painful ones- we can live life as fully as possible. By being vulnerable, you are taking life seriously and going after what you want without reservation.
“Part of being vulnerable is asking for what you want, stating it cleanly and directly, turning to others appropriately,” Firestone says.
You are being vulnerable when you are generous in response to your own and others’ needs and when you are willing to ask for and offer love and affection. You are fully open to all of life’s experiences.
Being vulnerable shows that you are in touch with your feelings.
It shows that you know yourself.
Here’s an example of how vulnerability can come into play early in a relationship:
You’ve been seeing someone you really like and neither one of you has talked about your feelings. Be the first one to do it. If the other person feels the same way, you will have made him feel safe to share his feelings with you. This will create the next step towards deepening the intimacy of the relationship. Even if you’re rejected, you’ll know where you stand. You won’t end up wasting time with someone who isn’t as interested as you are.
Why being vulnerable is necessary in a relationship
Without real vulnerability, your relationship will remain superficial. You will never make a deep connection and intimate connection with each other.
In a healthy relationship, you need to feel safe with and trust each other. Only real vulnerability will accomplish this.
According to Firestone, you’re more likely to meet your goals in life and love if you are willing to be vulnerable. Even if the worst happens and you “lose” in love, you are adaptive and can bounce back, probably more than you realize. Our defenses were built when we were children and more easily damaged, but adults are stronger.
As adults, we can survive just about anything, and the strongest among us learn and grow from even the worst experiences. If we learn to cope with our feelings rather than fear them, we will be more resilient. By taking chances, there will be much more joy than sorrow.
Firestone also notes that you can’t suppress parts of yourself without hurting other parts. Courage is not only about taking physical risks, but about being true to yourself and doing what’s right. Vulnerable people take appropriate risks and tend to be more humane towards others.
How to achieve vulnerability
If you’ve been hurt in the past, it may seem impossible to make yourself truly vulnerable again. It can be accomplished, but will require a change in your mindset.
This is what you need to do:
Focus on the present. By being aware of and appreciating what you are experiencing right now, you will feel less fearful for the future and what might or might not happen.
Sink into your current feelings and see what they are based on. Explore your fears of opening up. Are they based on something that is likely to happen, or are you just imagining the worst?
As Mark Twain said: “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
Let go of expectations. Stay focused on what you are feeling and experiencing right now, rather than thinking about what you worry about or wish for.
Focus on activities that make you feel happy and energized. According to psychologist Gretchen Rubin, we numb ourselves in all kinds of ways to avoid being vulnerable. Numbing can take the form of drugs, alcohol, internet use, games, food, or indulgence in any kind of fantasy. Anything you think of as “taking the edge off” makes it harder to feel good as well as bad emotions.
Brené Brown, who has researched and written extensively on vulnerability, advises the following in her illuminating TED talk:
Let go of who you think you should be and just be who you are.
Be willing to say “I love you” first,
Be willing to do something when there is no guarantee of success.
Be willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.
Stop worrying about controlling and predicting.
Stop striving for perfection before opening yourself up.
Becoming vulnerable can be one of the scariest things you’ve ever done, but once you’ve taken those frightening first steps, you’ll find that your life and your relationships will become far more rich and rewarding.