opening up emotionally is a crucial part of a relationship, it doesn't come easily to everyone. For some people, being vulnerable and open to another person can be a real struggle. And it may have even been an issue in past relationships.
"There is this idea
that being vulnerable means opening ourselves up to attack," Gwendolyn Nelson-Terry, MA, LMFT, tells Bustle. "Within a relationship, though, it is necessary to be vulnerable in order to build intimacy with your partner. Being vulnerable in a relationship means allowing your partner to know you fully: your thoughts, feelings, challenges, weaknesses. It can be scary to show those sides to our partners out of fear of being judged."
If it's been a problem in the past but it's something you want to work on, it can be difficult to know where to get started. Because for some of us, that lack of vulnerability can follow us from relationship to relationship — and mess with our love life. So if you feel like it's been holding you back, there's actually good news. It's totally OK to start small. Here's how to be more vulnerable in your next relationship, according to experts, because it helps to look at opening up as an opportunity and not a threat.
If you want your next relationship to start off on a more vulnerable foot, that doesn't mean you have to spill your guts on the first dat — start small.
"If you have a hard time
opening up in love, it’s usually because you’ve been burned before," Anna Osborn, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in love and relationships, tells Bustle. "Take small steps by 'testing the waters' and practice opening up about smaller things before working up to sharing big vulnerabilities. The more you practice AND see that you can do it, the more willing you’ll be to continue to take the risk of vulnerability in love." Even just talking about your day, being open about when you're unhappy about something, or referring to difficult experiences can help.
Figure Out Why You're Resistant
Lots of us have certain areas, certain topics, where we've put a particularly large amount of armor up. If you can find out why you struggle to be vulnerable — or what you struggle to be vulnerable about — you'll be in a much better situation to move forward. "Take a hard look at what's
causing your reluctance," Chris Armstrong, certified relationship coach and founder/owner of Maze of Love, tells Bustle. "Are there certain situations where you struggle to open up? Is it a challenge to be vulnerable with others in your life or only your partner? Getting down to the root cause of the reluctance is key." It may be that you need professional help to look into it or maybe you just need some soul-searching to do the trick.
Remember That Your Past Relationships Ended For A Reason
You sometimes hear people say, "Every relationship I have goes wrong! Why does this always happen to me?", like relationships going wrong and getting hurt is somehow unique to them. So yes, when you've been vulnerable before you may have gotten hurt — but that's also true of
struggle with vulnerability because they associate it with being hurt. It's completely understandable! Think about it; if you're starting to date someone, it means that every other romantic relationship you've ever been in hasn't worked out,” psychologist and relationship expert, Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell, tells Bustle “Every time you've been vulnerable in the past, the relationship has eventually ended and you've been hurt. It makes perfect sense that people get fearful, put up walls, and lose hope! They begin to associate being vulnerable with heartache so they resist it.” Try to remember that opening up and getting hurt isn't a unique struggle that only you experience — it's how dating works.
Look At It As A Good Opportunity
If you close yourself off, you might not realize the kind of person you're actually with, so try being open in your next relationship from the very beginning. "Being vulnerable
helps you weed out ... people who deserve to be in your life, and those who do not,” psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC tells Bustle. “Being vulnerable with people is entrusting them with the most delicate and deepest part of you. It allows you to see who is worthy of your trust, and who is not to be trusted.”
If you can be a little vulnerable earlier on, you're actually
potentially saving yourself from much deeper hurt in the long run. Look at it is a way to find out more about this person early on and, ultimately, protect yourself down the road.
Remember That You Can Only Get So Far Without Being Vulnerable
Some people get used to never making themselves vulnerable and don't see why they should have to — but
true intimacy requires a little vulnerability. "I would describe emotional intimacy as the experience of being emotionally connected and in tune with our partners," Lisa Olivera, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, tells Bustle. "It involves a level of openness and vulnerability from both people, and increases the overall sense of closeness we feel with our partners in day-to-day life." Remember that if you want real intimacy, you have to be willing to open up.
Choose A Partner Who Supports You
Emotional ntimacy isn't a one-way street. If you've always struggled with it, it may be that you're picking people who you don't feel emotionally safe with. "This can be a sign that a partner
doesn’t feel safe or comfortable expressing themselves openly in the relationship; conversely, it could also mean a partner isn’t creating space for their partner to be open and vulnerable with them," Olivera says. Make sure when you're dating that you only pursue relationships with people you feel supported by — or else it's going to be even more difficult to open up.
Share How You Feel, Little And Often
To start being vulnerable, start just sharing your feelings and thoughts. Any feelings and thoughts work, but feelings about your partner are even better. "A great
way to build intimacy is expressing gratitude for something thoughtful [they] did that day," Samantha Burns, relationship counselor and dating coach, tells Bustle. Showing them that you like having them around, that you want them to be around, and that you care about them, are little ways of making yourself vulnerable.
Being vulnerable is so natural to some people and so out of character for others, but it's important to learn how to open up, at least a little bit. Intimacy is built on vulnerability so start small, be honest, and remember that it's a useful tool to see exactly who you're with. Be easy on yourself and take your time, but keep working at it — you'll get there.