by Laura Nalin, MA, P-LPC, CADC
Vulnerability is an expansive tool which can be applied within any relationship, including with the person you love the most. Imagine your partner comes home from work and appears to be in an ‘off’ mood, or anxious in some capacity. Do you have a tendency to internalize their behavior or mood and perceive it as rejection? Do you find yourself over-extending yourself, trying to fix the issue with immediacy? Are you communicating how you’re feeling with your partner?
Within relationships, it can be easy to forget that our partners are not mind readers. Even more so, it can be challenging for some people to approach situations like the aforementioned with vulnerability to open up a channel for effective communication. By accessing one’s vulnerability and tapping into empathy for both ourselves and our partner, we take a step toward a more fulfilling intimate relationship.
Not only does vulnerability improve our relationship with ourselves, it allows us to heal parts of us that may be activated in moments of confusion or miscommunication. Without proper communication, partners can sometimes ‘fill in the blanks,’ or make up stories or outcomes in their heads, leading to increased anxiety. For example:
“They must be mad at me.”
“I wonder what I did or said.”
“They never communicate. I hate when they do this.”
By giving ourselves the space and opportunity to open up and ask how we can best show up for our loved one, we can in turn self-soothe.
Ultimately, through vulnerability, we can better connect with our partners and open the path toward consistent bonding. As previously mentioned, vulnerability can also lead to a more sustained connection with one’s self; understanding a partner’s desired need for space every now and then can reduce feelings of insecurity and things won’t be taken personally - which is freeing!
Some people fear vulnerability as it can be linked to a perceived fear of rejection. However, by being open and honest with one’s feelings, we can build a stronger foundation of trust within our intimate relationships, as well. Is this always going to feel comfortable? Absolutely not. But by showing up for ourselves and our needs, we can effectively become better partners and learn alongside them. By creating a safe space for emotions within the relationship, having difficult conversations from time to time, and establishing healthy boundaries on more difficult topics like money, parenting, and expectations as they evolve, the foundation will feel more stable. With stability comes security, and with security comes comfort.
As the comfort grows and evolves, the relationship can as well. Through vulnerability, partners can work as a unit to heal past hurts, help one another through the more challenging times, honor one another’s needs and wants, and work through conflict effectively. By opening up to vulnerability, there is less of an inclination to be ‘right,’ and more of a propensity to meet our partners where they’re at while talking it through. Always keep in mind: you’re on the same team - so work together on your common goal.