If you're looking to strengthen your relationship with your significant other, but notice your partner is feeling a bit scared to open up, realize it's totally natural for them to have those nerves. But, to help further that connection there are a few ways to get your partner to open up and be vulnerable with you, where they'll feel more comfortable sharing. And, getting closer to each other now may mean your partnership has a higher chance of building and surviving down the road.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on improving their relationships and accepting vulnerability, on both sides. This holds especially true for intimate relationships with a significant other, because this type of partnership depends on true acceptance, unconditional love, and a willingness to open up and share emotions. Of course, you'll want to be vulnerable yourself (and if you do, you'd be surprised at how relieved and happy you might just feel), but you'll also want your partner to reciprocate that vulnerability. When they do give in and embrace a softer side, it means the relationship has approached a new level, one that'll build that foundation for the future. Here are nine little ways experts say can help your partner to be more vulnerable with you.
If your partner opens up, show them your appreciation by offering support and kindness. "Asking your partner how they are doing sometimes without even sharing your own personal issues allows you to be completely available to your partner and lets them know you are fully present to listen to them," says Hershenson.
Take Responsibility When You're Wrong
If you're responsive and accountable when you hurt your partner or make a mistake, it shows your partner you care enough to understand their feelings. "If you say or do something, wrong apologize," says Hershenson. "If your partner is upset with you, talk it out without getting defensive. Acknowledge what your part was (even if it was simply upsetting your partner) and discuss what you could do differently in the future."
Don't Use What They Say Against Them
When your partner makes the effort to open up, try to listen first instead of reacting right away. If your partner does finally share things with you, and you react poorly, or in a way that can be perceived as judgmental, your partner may not feel safe being vulnerable again, couples consultant and coach, Lesli Doares, tells Bustle. "Another thing is that you cannot use any deeply personal information they have shared with you against them." says Doares. "It cannot come flying back at them in the heat of anger. When this type of information is shared, it is a precious gift and must be treated as such."
Knowing When To Joke And When To Not
If your partner opens up about something embarrassing, it may or may not be OK to joke about it, depending on how they feel. "You also need to learn what can be joked about and what cannot," says Doaries. "You may think you’re teasing but it often is perceived as shaming. Creating a safe space where vulnerability is encouraged and protected is critical."
Open Up First
The best way to encourage your partner to open up? Be open yourself first. "Be vulnerable yourself," relationship experts Dana Lam and Martin Kupper tell Bustle. "If you open up and share scary thoughts and feelings with your partner they will be more likely to be vulnerable with you."
Not Trusting Their Intentions
If your partner decides to open up, try not to assume they are doing it with any other motive than to let you in. "Nothing sabotages a partner trying to get close to you like shooting them down or questioning their sincere desire to connect with you," Sasha Bracha Bregman, rabbi and professional matchmaker, tells Bustle. "Whether it's in the form of spending more time together, or opening up about their feelings — sometimes, it simply is not more complicated than that. If you stop suspecting your partner's motives, they will drop their guard with you."
People make mistakes, so when it happens, accept the apology and try to move forward from it. "It can be hard to admit you're wrong," says Bregman. "As such, when someone freely does so, and apologizes to you, it's a sure sign that they're trying to get closer to you and mend any breaches in your relationship. When an apology seems to be sincere, accept it!"
Show Interest In Their Lives
Committed relationships take consistent work, so put in the effort to show your partner they are cared for. "When you show sincere interest in the nitty-gritty details of your partner's life, they will feel even closer to you," says Bregman. "In general, the more interest you share about the minutia of their lives, the more passion for you they will feel, and they will be inclined to share with you even more." So ask them questions about their day, listen to them when they vent about issues, and be proud of them when something exciting happens. It'll mean the world to your partner.
If you're looking to help your partner feel more comfortable sharing information, simply offer compassion and create a safe space. This encouragement will show that you can be trusted.