When we talk about relationships, we often romanticize the idea of “opening up to someone”—sharing secrets, fears, mistakes, hopes, and every little detail about ourselves. And for some people, this comes naturally—they can bubble up and overflow with personal insights, happily sharing them with someone they hardly know in order to form a deep connection with another person. But for others... well, it’s anything but natural. Although opening yourself up to another person is an amazing experience that allows you to create real intimacy, it can also be terrifying. Opening yourself up to someone means making yourself vulnerable and, for some of us, that doesn't come very easily.
It may be because you’ve been hurt before, so the idea of opening yourself up to someone else again may seem like a potentially painful experience. It may just be that, on an innate level, you’re not as open about your feelings—you’re a little more private or guarded; it’s not a bad thing. But, if you want to create a real connection in your relationship, you have to be willing to open yourself up. Here’s how you can really make yourself vulnerable in a relationship—because it’s time to stop thinking about it as a bad thing.
Take Stock of Your History
If you’re going to open yourself up to someone, that may mean having to close some old wounds—it’s painful, but it’s time. If you find it difficult to trust or make yourself vulnerable, look for the roots of this behavior in your past. You may find that there’s a difficult relationship with a parent or an ex that’s left you feeling guarded. Try to spend some time processing that relationship—getting professional help if you need it—and coming to terms with it. Talk it through with your partner so they can understand why you struggle with vulnerability.
Be Honest With Yourself
For many of us who struggle with vulnerability, it's easier to pretend that we don’t have any. So rather than admitting that we feel lonely, scared, hurt, frustrated, or angry, we just pretend that we don’t feel those emotions as strongly as other people. We're tough. But one of the crucial steps toward being vulnerable with someone else is being vulnerable with yourself—and gentle with yourself. Acknowledge the emotions you have, own up to them, maybe even write them down. You are allowed to be a person with feelings, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities—it’s part of what makes you human.
Talk to Your Partner
One thing that makes vulnerability easier is reciprocity—it’s a give and take. If you try to make yourself share your biggest secrets and fears with someone who doesn’t give anything back, of course you’re going to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. Through talking to your partner about your difficulties with vulnerability and trying to open up to them, you should see that they are willing to reciprocate. As they share more of themselves, you can feel safer knowing that you’re on an equal playing field and that you have each other’s best interests at heart. Note that, when you share with them, they’re probably being compassionate, sympathetic, and supportive. The more you experience that—and recognize that it’s happening—the easier it should be to share in the future.
Move Slowly and Check-In Regularly
You may find that the process of making yourself vulnerable—especially if you haven’t done it before—can be a little emotionally exhausting. If it makes you feel frizzy and frayed, that’s totally normal. The crucial thing is to take it easy on yourself. This means that making yourself vulnerable should be a slow and steady process. It’s not about opening yourself up and letting everything pour out of you in one night—it’s about getting closer and more open, little by little, until you feel truly comfortable with this person.
You may find it easier if you actually make a concerted effort to have the difficult conversations and check in about how you're feeling—you might even want to have a schedule. It may sound a little over the top or constricting, but saying that you’re just going to check in about your relationship every Sunday night and have an easy chat about how you’re feeling can make a huge difference. It provides a platform for you to open up, express concerns, and share your feelings—something you might be hesitant to do otherwise. And, because you know that these conversations will happen regularly, it will take the pressure off so you don’t feel like you need to spew out all of your emotions and experiences in one night.
If being vulnerable doesn’t come easily to you, that’s okay—everybody is different and experiences emotional intimacy in different ways. As long as you’re working toward opening up and making yourself vulnerable, that's the most important thing. Talk to your partner, take it slowly, and get help if you need it. Ultimately, vulnerability is just another form of openness, the foundation of your relationship. So rather than seeing it as a weakness, remember that you're actually trying to make yourselves a stronger couple. You’ll get there, just give it time and be gentle with yourself.