Updated: Oct 18, 2022
Deeply connected relationships require us to be vulnerable. Vulnerability looks different for different people. Some people feel that asking for what they need feels vulnerable. Some people feel that saying "No" feels vulnerable. Some feel vulnerable being seen naked or having an orgasm. Still others feel vulnerable being honest about what they struggle with. If you feel scared when you think of doing any of these things, and you're afraid of being rejected, then you're likely afraid of making yourself vulnerable.
Why would you want to be vulnerable? Why wouldn't you just avoid what feels vulnerable, rather than risk being hurt? There are many answers to these questions. One reason it’s important to be vulnerable is that if you never take a risk, your needs will never be met, or you will not be loved and accepted as you are, and you will never get the chance to have a reparative experience. A reparative experience is one that contradicts the painful experiences you've had in the past and helps heal old wounds.
Another reason to be vulnerable is that when you allow yourself to be seen, and you are met with acceptance by your partner, your level of emotional safety in the relationship rises, and you can feel more deeply connected. How deeply we connect with others is largely dependent on how emotionally safe we feel with them.
If you struggle to be vulnerable, and you long for deeper connection and healing, begin exploring how you're currently self-protecting. With awareness of how you're keeping yourself safe, you can begin to take steps that push your comfort zone bit by bit. Soon, you'll be more able to be vulnerable, and you'll feel a deeper connection and increase your healing.
1. Notice. Be curious about your current behavior. How do you currently avoid discomfort and vulnerability? Do you insist on having sex with the lights off to avoid being seen naked? Do you avoid certain topics so you don't reveal any perceived flaws?
2. What do you tell yourself to keep yourself safe? Do you tell yourself your needs aren't that important in order to avoid having to ask your partner for something? Do you tell yourself your partner can't do it, so why bother asking? Become aware of the stories you tell yourself, and begin to question whether they keep you safe or they're true.
3. Experiment. As you become aware of how you're avoiding the discomfort of vulnerability, start experimenting with ways to speak up, be more visible, and take other risks that feel manageable at your current level of comfort. Begin to push your comfort zone bit by bit and move toward more comfort with vulnerability. What do you avoid in your relationship because it feels too vulnerable?