Vulnerable. The word itself makes you want to run away, to not talk about it, to curl up in a ball and plug your ears. When you look up the definition of the word, synonyms like helpless, defenseless, and weak are shown. No one wants to feel this way. Human beings fight hard against being weak. We have been taught to appear strong and powerful and put-together. That’s why so many people often wonder how to be vulnerable, and if it’s even worth it.
Although we might believe that vulnerability is something to be avoided, it’s a far from truth belief. Being vulnerable in relationships is crucial for them to grow, to thrive, and to remain intact for longer than a few weeks or months. You might be struggling with intimacy, physical or emotional, in your marriage. Or you may be jumping from relationship to relationship, escaping them once they reach a certain emotional depth. Either way, both are struggles rooted in lack of vulnerability. For relationships to thrive and grow and be full of joy, you must be vulnerable.
Below we’ll discuss what honest, raw emotional vulnerability looks like, why it’s valuable, and how to be vulnerable in relationships despite any fear we have.
What does it mean to be vulnerable?
To be vulnerable in a relationship is to be open and honest about your weaknesses, your brokenness, your faults, your failings. It means that you push past feelings of shame or fear to trust your significant other, family member, or friend, even if you’ve had relationships in the past where you’ve done similarly, and were harmed you because of your honesty.
It means you are brave, despite being scared. It means you are insanely strong, despite revealing your flaws. It means that even though you want to keep hidden all your secrets and fears, you open up and let others in.
Brene Brown, a research professor, who is a master on the discussion of how to be vulnerable, has discovered that to be vulnerable is to have the courage to tell your story with your whole heart and to be okay with being imperfect. Be wholehearted.
Why is it hard to be vulnerable?
We live in a broken, cruel world. The friends we grow up with, the teachers that mentor us, and the parents that guide us, they are all broken as well and can cause damage to our souls, without intending to. Each of us has been hurt, and those hurts cause us to close up, not wanting to be hurt again and have damage inflicted on us again. But when we choose to shut ourselves down, we are also choosing to be disconnected from those around us.
It is our human instinct to avoid any pain. We don’t seek out an abusive spouse, or cancer in our body, or broken relationships. We flee from those things. It’s in our nature to run from anything that brings us discomfort. But running from it is not the answer. Though vulnerability can be painful, it can be so beautiful and glorious and worth every bit of pain.
Why is vulnerability vital to our relationships?
There are incredible benefits of vulnerable:
If we choose to remain closed off and superficial to others, we can’t truly connect with them. Everything we experience or talk about with others will be just surface level issues. Fake. Vulnerable brings about love, intimacy, trust, depth, and acceptance. It allows for a deep connection in relationships. And connection is key to purpose and meaning in our life, Brene Brown says.
As we mentioned, we each have our issues, whether they’re surface level or deeply embedded within us. If we choose to untie the strings of the tightly wrapped package of our hurts and let others in, they can help fix us. They can bring light to the darkness. They can bring understanding and love where we are genuinely struggling.
We’ve discussed the “what” and the “why.” Let’s move onto the “how.”
How to be Vulnerable
Here are a few tips on how to begin this journey of being vulnerable:
Identify your past hurts
We bring a lot of baggage into our relationships, and a lot of it can be painful moments in our lives that we try to avoid processing. It seems more comfortable to let the past remain. But those moments affect us so profoundly; it’s essential to uncover them so that we can heal from them.
Verbalize your pain points
Great courage comes in here, but we promise that it’s worth it. Once you’ve identified what is keeping you from intimacy, whether it be abuse or being misunderstood, bring it up. Talk about them with your significant other or a therapist. They will be able to understand where you’re coming from, why you’re afraid, and why you react the way you do.
Believe you are worth it
We were designed for relationships. We cannot survive in this world without being connected to others, in our jobs, family life, marriage, or church. Relationships bring meaning and value to our lives. But unless you believe that you are valuable enough to be loved and to belong, vulnerability won’t last. Accept the fact that you are a valuable human, despite anything that’s happened in your past, and that you should be loved and respected.
If you struggle with an inability to connect with others, you’re not alone. Maybe you long to initiate sex but are scared. Perhaps you want to start a close relationship with someone, but have tried before and were hurt. Maybe you want to stop pretending to be what you think others expect you to be and just want to be yourself. These are all normal. But you don’t have to live that way.
Be brave and courageous. Look past the now and see where you could be by being vulnerable with others. Healing can occur, deep relationships can grow, and you can feel alive again.
We at Third River Health care deeply about emotional health, in addition to physical and financial health. Whether you have comments or questions about vulnerability, feel free to seek us out. That’s why we exist–for your health.