It’s time to be vulnerable in a relationship
Relationships with people are one of the most important ingredients in life, and romantic relationships hold a special place amongst them.
It’s not at all easy to find a partner that suits you, and once you do, maintaining that relationship is just as difficult.
A relationship shouldn’t be hard, but it should require work. If you’re not putting any work into your relationship, it simply won’t grow roots or progress.
And a big part of work is emotional growth we do within ourselves, like learning to open up and be vulnerable.
But being vulnerable to someone else is difficult, so here’s why it’s important and how you can make the first steps:
Vulnerability and trust
These two can simply not be separated. If you are willing to be vulnerable with someone, you have to trust that they won’t use that vulnerability and hurt you.
Opening up is difficult precisely because of the fact that you may have trusted someone and opened up, and then it hurt once it ended.
And the other person you’ve opened up to hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong: you might have just ended the relationship, and that can feel like a betrayal of vulnerability, even if there’s no culprit.
So it’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to show all of your vulnerability at the very start of the relationship – sometimes, it takes time to develop trust and open yourself up.
But if you’ve been in a relationship for some time and you do trust the person you’re with but you still can’t open up – here are some ideas.
Talk about your past
The best way to open up is to talk about past events. That way, even if you skip some parts that are particularly hurtful for you, your partner can connect the dots and learn a lot more about you.
Start by talking about some good memories, from early childhood, from college or any other time.
Talk about people you’re close with and your relationships with them, and encourage your partner to do the same.
Share pictures and simply catch each other up on your lives. You’ve lived a long time before meeting them, and there might be important things hiding in your past that can bring you even closer.
Test the waters
We’re often afraid to open up and share something that is embarrassing, or that has hurt us in the past because we’re afraid of the way our partner might react.
There are two ways you can deal with this. The first is to test the waters with something that veers into the territory of what you want to talk about but doesn’t actually address it and see how they react.
Now, it’s important to note that the way they react to a story when it’s told as something not directly relating to you could differ a lot than when you tell them something about yourself.
They will probably be a lot more caring and gentle with their response when you tell them your part.
Which brings us to the second part: prepare them.
Tell them that you really want to open up to them about something that you have on your heart and that you need them to be understanding and be mindful of their reaction.
If they are a good partner (and you probably wouldn’t have made it to this stage if they weren’t), they will listen and make opening up a lot easier.
Having kids involved
If one of you has kids from previous relationships, they will be much more hesitant to open up and be vulnerable, because it’s not just them at stake.
They will need to make sure you are absolutely the right person before they get so vulnerable to introduce you into their children’s lives.
But there are ways you can help that, and the best way is to show that you care and that you’re listening even before you meet the kid.
People with kids tend to talk about them a lot, and you can catch little clues you can react to. Maybe they’ve been asking for the new Pop Vinyl from Australia, so you can buy them a figurine for Christmas and show that you’ve been listening.
Or if they say that they always wanted to learn ice skating, when your partner proposes the first time to meet their kid, take them ice skating. Little things will help all of you open up to each other and become closer.
Don’t pour it all out at once
Your partner is a human being and there is only so much they can take in at once emotionally – and remember, being vulnerable means sharing your emotions with others, and then they affect them too.
So if you have a lot to share and a lot of things to open up about, try to first think about how you can section it off into smaller pieces and share bit by bit over a period of time.
This isn’t to say that your partner will run away screaming if you share it all at once, but it will be easier to process if you do it in stages.
This is the part of vulnerability when you are taking your partner into consideration alongside your own needs.
Never fight about being vulnerable
This is unfortunately how many relationships end. One partner feels like the other is holding back and doesn’t want to be vulnerable with them, while they are an open book, but the other partner doesn’t feel safe enough to share.
Pressuring a partner into being vulnerable is never a good idea, because it will cause them to retract even more and feel less comfortable in the relationship.
But not opening up for too long will also lead to a detriment in the relationship because your partner just feels like you’re not 100% honest with them.
So talk about it, talk about why you’re having trouble being vulnerable and opening up and that in itself – is a part of being vulnerable.
Once you find the person you can be vulnerable with without borders and whom you trust to share your feelings and your burden, that’s when you know you’ve found the person for life.