As a matchmaker and online dating expert for 24 years, I know far too well the role vulnerability plays in both successful and failed relationships.
It's often seen as a sign of weakness when, in fact, it takes tremendous strength, character and self-confidence. Vulnerability is also the secret to success in most long-term relationships.
Dr. Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, has spent the past 13 years studying vulnerability. Her TED Talk provides an interesting perspective on the power and importance of being vulnerable with others, especially in your close relationships.
“We are actually drawn to people who are real and down-to-earth,” Brown said. “We love authenticity, and we know that life is messy and imperfect.”
For some people, the thought of being vulnerable in your relationship is like living out your worst nightmare — your fear of public speaking or being rejected by your biggest crush. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable with your partner exposes your true authentic self and risks judgment, criticism and possibly rejection.
But understand that being vulnerable is actually VERY attractive. You're unapologetic, unleashed, uncensored and completely free to be fully express yourself with ZERO fear of judgment.
And when we allow ourselves to be completely open, our relationships improve.
Vulnerability takes patience, practice and courage to get comfortable with, but the rewards are always greater than your fears. Here are five ways to do it:
1. Communicate your fears.
When you enter a new relationship, you always lead with your best foot forward, not the shy, timid or scared one.
You usually don't talk about problems, fears, challenges, insecurities or doubts. You avoid telling the truth about anything that potentially makes you look or feel bad.
But when you begin to peel back the layers of yourself to your partner and reveal some of the good, the bad and even the ugly in your life, you will notice increased intimacy and an even deeper emotional connection.
Being vulnerable is VERY attractive. You're unapologetic, unleashed, uncensored and completely free to be fully express yourself with ZERO fear of judgment.
Imagine you shared something with you partner about your past that you struggled with or that you may not have been proud of. Maybe you've been involved in a traumatic situation or dealt with a mental, emotional or physical challenge.
Remember, you are with someone who already likes you and appreciates you as you are. By opening up about what you've had to endure in the past, you allow them to gain new insight into who you are and what you're capable of.
2. Own up to your past.
You might have skeletons in your closet that have been there for a long time, along with a few other dark secrets. There may be things you've been holding on to because you're terrified if your partner finds out about it, you'll be judged or rejected.
Guess what? Your partner likely shares the same feelings and may have some regrets.
Vulnerability starts with completely loving and accepting yourself as you are. It means accepting your past and living in the present full of new possibilities.
When you allow your skeletons to define you, you continue to live into your past. And if you don't accept your flaws, how could you expect your partner to? Loving and acknowledging the good and bad about yourself is the first step to controlling your happiness.
Let your fear of judgment go and allow yourself the opportunity to reveal the parts of you that don't serve you, your relationship or your life. This openness leads to a deeper connection and the opportunity for your partner to empathize and support you.
3. Open up, especially when you feel like shutting up.
One of the biggest relationship killers is when one person goes off on their own and chooses to be silent. Instead of closing off, why don't you open up?
In many cases, arguments can be easily solved through communication and opening up.
when you begin to peel back the layers of yourself to your partner and reveal some of the good, the bad and even the ugly in your life, you will notice increased intimacy and an even deeper emotional connection.
Often, your partner may do or say something that makes you upset because of your own insecurities. Start to share your feelings without making your partner wrong or pointing the finger.
When you open up about how their actions affected you, you can gain a lot more understanding about your partner and learn from this experience.
It's only through effective communication that you're both able to create solutions and truly get one another.
4. Share your goals and passions.
So many people fail to do the thing they LOVE because they are afraid other people will think it's stupid, wrong or silly. If you have a goal and a passion that no one else knows about, share THAT with your partner.
When you share a secret passion or project with your partner, you are letting them into your world, and it makes them feel special.
Is there something you've always wanted to try, but you've never shared it with your partner? Are you secretly taking dance lessons because you have two left feet? Are you taking acting lessons on the side, hoping to become a celebrity one day? Maybe you have an invention or a new idea that will change the world one day.
These are the things you share with your SO to build trust and create a unique bond.
5. Cry when you feel like it.
Crying is like food for the soul. It releases all your stressful, sad or painful energy, which, in turn, acts like fuel for your spirit. If you feel like crying, DON'T HOLD BACK! Let it all out, and don't hide it from your partner.
Instead of feeling ashamed or embarrassed, you can acknowledge your feelings and your ability to openly express yourself.
There is something beautiful inside tears because it shows you're human capable of a range of emotions and you're O.K with expressing yourself.
"Crying is a highly evolved behavior," explained zoologist Dr. Oren Hasson. "Tears give clues and reliable information about submission, needs and social attachments between one another."
In other words, crying in front of your parter is not automatically a sign of weakness.
There is something beautiful about tears because they show you're human, you're capable of a range of emotions and you're OK with expressing yourself.