How The Fear Of Vulnerability Stops Our Relationships From Getting Serious

by Eve Stern

Right on the cusp of college graduation, I met the man of my dreams. I don't believe in love in first sight, but maybe this was love at first conversation (albeit a drunken one).

I had a rough time believing he could even exist. Yet, soon thereafter — once he broke my heart — I figured it must have just been too good to be true. I didn't realize it at the time, but it wasn't until we were finally together again four years later that I understood what had kept us apart. The answer was simple: vulnerability.

Now, over the past year, I've been able to partake in an incredible gift: to be with the man of my dreams. He is the reason I've never been able to settle or lower my standards for less than I deserved.

But our story is far from perfect. Instead, it has been a winding game of match and set. Each time, one of us is continuously left exhausted or disappointed. However, the reason these patterns routinely endured all came down to timing. Only one of us was willing to be brave enough.

You see, there is nothing we can single-handedly do to be with the men of our dreams. It's frankly narcissistic to think so. An ideal partnership can only be attained if both partners are willing to not only show up, but also to fearlessly connect. This can only be done in true vulnerable fashion.

During the countless times Mike and I dated previously, our situation-ship always failed because we both — in different ways — were never willing to unapologetically express our wants and needs. This is because doing so required both of us to simultaneously be completely, utterly, emotionally naked. It's funny how it can be so much easier to strip down physically than to actually form the words to let someone know what we truly need, fear and seek, huh?

What made this type of connection happen? I can't say there was one trick or magical moment. But it's so important to remember that we can't force someone to be ready or force out another's vulnerability with our own. It wasn't until we both sat down and exposed our most honest selves that we could finally meet our fears head on.

In the easiest definition, vulnerability is bred through intimacy, but not the bedroom kind.

Like you may have seen in The New York Times piece, “To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This,” the premise is simple: Ask these 36 questions to the person of your choice, and you will most likely fall in love. The science is simple. The questions begin generally, and then they work their way up the pipeline to requests like, “When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?” or “If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?”

To ask us what sets us outside our comfort zones helps to force us to open up. We then share some of our most private thoughts and fears.

If a man can't meet your vulnerability even halfway, he is not the man of your dreams. Sure, he may have the potential to evolve and meet you there someday (as mine did), but until then, he is not. You are only wasting your time.

I find this idea crucial because regardless of values, looks, finances, interests and beyond, without vulnerability, he can in no way be the man of your dreams. I know this because he will be unable to treat you as you deserve or provide the tools necessary to build a successful, healthy relationship.

Although I tried my hardest to never wait and instead accept circumstances and move on, I could never quite forget Mike. I knew, in the deepest core of my gut, that he had the potential to be my king. Though I had to remain strong and disciplined — as we all must do while waiting for the universe to deliver our match, whoever that may be — I knew that he would only be able to prove himself if he showed up and stayed.

No matter what someone has to offer, unless the attribute of vulnerability is on that list, he or she cannot be in the running. Why would you want any less than that? How could you deserve any less?

There is no way for any relationship to develop and flourish unless both partners are willing to try their hardest to pursue whole-heartedness. But when they do, it's pure magic.

It is through such unguarded experiences that couples transform both together and individually as humans. They inherently push one another to become the best versions of themselves. No matter what situation you find yourself in, remember to never compromise your heart in the fear that your standards are too high.