Why vulnerability is so important for healthy relationships: 3 reasons
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity. She is the source of hope, empathy, accountability and authenticity. If we want more clarity about our purpose or a deeper and more meaningful spiritual life, vulnerability is the way.” – Brené Brown
Imagine the following scenario:
You notice that your partner seems concerned about something. You’re not sure what’s going on, but he or she seems excited and nervous all day. how do you react Is there a part of you that worries or misinterprets your mood as rejection of you? What, if anything, do you tell your partner about your concerns? Do you get in touch even if you don’t know how?
How you react to such situations is also related to how well you are able to recognize and express your vulnerability. Vulnerability is not a weakness, but an innate gift that we can all learn to develop and from which our intimate relationships can greatly benefit.
Prominent researcher, author and speaker Dr. Brené Brown puts it this way (and she has a lot to say on the subject):
- “Vulnerability is at the core of shame and fear and our problem with being worthy, but it also appears to be the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.”
- “Vulnerability is not about winning or losing; it means having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.”
- “Vulnerability is not weakness; it is the greatest indicator of our courage.”
3 ways you can strengthen your relationship when you’re more vulnerable
1. Vulnerability improves your relationship with yourself
Remember the classic airplane metaphor where you have to put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else? There is deep wisdom in the thought that we must help and heal ourselves before we can truly transform our intimate relationships.
Being more vulnerable can boost your self-esteem because the (sometimes frightening) experience teaches you to stand up for yourself, even in the face of things beyond your control. By confronting uncomfortable situations and working through them, rather than turning away or shutting down, you learn how to be resilient… and build your confidence in the process.
In this way you can even make yourself more independent of the opinions and perceptions of others – because your compass is your own inner wisdom and not the thoughts of other people who you cannot control. This fosters an inner sense of security that serves as a solid foundation upon which to form a meaningful and loving connection with your partner.
2. Vulnerability helps you build trust with your partner
When we act and speak truthfully—including the truth about how we feel and what we need—while giving our partners space to be truthful, we build a bridge of trust between us.
Can that sometimes feel uncomfortable? In any case. But the risk of being dishonest comes at a much higher price, for it leads to alienation. As Psychology Today reports, a Stanford University study found that people who try to hide their feelings “sense” the insincerity of those around them – which shows up as a rise in their blood pressure!
By showing each other a willingness to be vulnerable, you are communicating to your partner that your relationship is a safe space where you can love each other, take risks, and learn together. Trust is also important when discussing and setting healthy boundaries around money, intimacy, parenting, and all other areas of life.
3. Vulnerability strengthens your bond
As we deepen the trust we share with our partner and continue to express our vulnerability (keep doing challenging things), we help you develop a sense of teamwork. We learn that in our relationship we can show ourselves as we are without fear of rejection or shame because we are encouraged by the partner’s mutual support.
Your relationship can then become a powerful vessel in which you can work together to heal past hurts, respect each other’s needs and desires, and resolve conflicts with respect, humility, and love. Partners who are willing to be vulnerable with each other are often motivated to heal and be happy rather than being “right.” They see each other as equal partners and as teammates, not just lovers.
If a relationship is like a garden, then a couple’s shared vulnerability is like fertilizer or manure. That said, it can really help you grow and thrive in a relationship, even if it sometimes feels awkward or “gross” to be vulnerable.
Of course, choosing to be more vulnerable isn’t about sharing too much, violating privacy, or always “letting it all” on your partner. Nor is it about attracting weakness or being a pushover. Vulnerability IS telling the truth – not just to your loved ones, but to yourself as well.