We need to talk about harnessing the power of vulnerability – it could be the difference between developing an honest, open and long-lasting relationship, or staying single.
In my experience as a dating coach, matchmaker (and woman), a man who can embrace the risk of being emotionally vulnerable, is a man we all want on our team.
Yet so many of the men I work with struggle to be vulnerable. They may know intellectually that being vulnerable with a partner shows a level of emotional awareness needed for a fulfilling relationship…
But mixed messages from a society that shames men for exhibiting “weakness”, plus the fear of rejection when you do open up, leaves many men feeling confused and stuck.
What is vulnerability (and why do we find it so hard)?
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity and joy” – Dr Brené Brown
First of all, let’s look at your current ideas around vulnerability.
What images come to mind when you hear the word, ‘vulnerability’? Perhaps you imagine there will be tears, embarrassment, or an angry reaction? Or do you imagine closeness, hugs and eye-contact?
What words are attached to it for you? For some of us it could be: weak, scary, feminine, or gross. Or maybe you think of strength, power and intimacy?
By identifying your perception of the word you can dig into why you might be feeling a certain way.
As a dating and relationship coach, I help my clients to identify their own limiting beliefs and blocks around vulnerability, so they can find it easier to embrace.
Men especially are conditioned to think vulnerability is weakness.
Vulnerability is not on the list of ‘things that make a real man’ but is seen as the opposite to strength. But anyone who’s opened up to a partner about their feelings, with no guarantee they won’t be rejected, will tell you it takes some serious STRENGTH AND COURAGE.
The expert view:
Brené Brown is a world-famous social work research professor who has spent decades studying and teaching about courage, vulnerability, and shame. Her TED talk, Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with over 35 million views.
Here’s Brené’s explanation of vulnerability from her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead:
“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow- that’s vulnerability. Love is uncertain. It’s incredibly risky. And loving someone leaves us emotionally exposed. Yes, it’s scary, and yes, we’re open to being hurt, but can you imagine your life without loving or being loved?”
Vulnerability is the ability to share how you really feel, with the sole intention of sharing, whilst knowing you cannot control the outcome or response.
Why vulnerability can be so attractive
It enhances honest communication and intimacy
The first step to practicing vulnerability is knowing how you really feel. It’s not that you need your feelings neatly packaged up and ready to be presented to someone – they can be messy and complex whilst still being true.
But don’t be in a rush to tell someone you’re angry with them before examining why the anger is there in the first place; if you look closer you might find loneliness or rejection hiding behind it.
It builds intention and connection
When practicing vulnerability, focus on intention. It’s not about telling your partner your darkest deepest stories on the second date (that’s not sexy). You need to suss out if the other person is deserving of your truth.
Vulnerability should only be given to those you trust. It is a gift that requires compassion for yourself. If you barrel into vulnerability, you could be overstepping some important boundaries and might end up feeling overexposed. But when your partner knows that you’re sharing because you trust them? Well, that’s when the magic can really happen.
Having the strength to consciously show your emotions is SEXY
Hiding the truth can make you hard to read, secretive and unattractive. Being vulnerable is an attractive trait because it means a relationship is able to progress and become more intimate.
Make sure you’re opening up to the right person. But more importantly, build a firm belief in yourself that your life will continue beautifully whatever their reaction. Vulnerability is for YOU, so work at it for yourself, not someone else.
Vulnerability is NOT:
Having expectations of what the other person will give you in return for your exposure
Opening up to gain sympathy from the other person, to lure them into bed, or to coerce them to stay with you
Hoping that by sharing your truth your partner will be able to fix you
Relying on the other person to have the answers
Sharing trauma as an excuse for your actions/lack of action
How to practice vulnerability
Perhaps no one modeled vulnerability or intimacy for you, so how are you supposed to be good at it? The good news is there are simple ways to practice vulnerability.
5 tips for stepping into vulnerability:
Identify your needs by learning to check-in with yourself regularly
Ask for what you need and be ok if the other person can’t provide it
Go slow and take your time; this is a lifelong process
Embrace the uncertainty of life
Understanding that pain is part of the human experience and that sharing pain with someone you trust, can make it easier to bear.
It’s lonely to live in a way where all you want is to avoid heartbreak and uncertainty.
Dare to share and you will ultimately reap the rewards. Take baby steps towards vulnerability and you’ll start to chip away at the armor you may have developed.
When you find someone you can communicate and connect with vulnerably, watch how you fall in love with the messiness of one another’s truth.
If you’re ready to take a leap and begin the process of building a trusting relationship with someone suited to you then please get in touch! Tailor Matched is a sex positive community and platform to explore and meet like-minded people – create your free introductory profile in 6 simple steps.