Vulnerability is a bitch. Especially if you were never emotionally opened up before. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the topic. Meaning, I’ve loved talking about it, but I hated embodying it.
Back in the days days, I’ve naively regarded vulnerability as a weakness. I was ashamed by it and even created a persona that shielded me from it. This persona was called Lucifer, inspired by the character Tom Ellis played in the series with the same name.
I figured that if I conceal my authentic self with fake confidence and a new (cooler) personality, people, specifically my girlfriends will love and appreciate me more.
My mindset was, “If I acted indifferent, bad boyish and aloof, I will receive more love and respect” And I did, but at the same time, I also fed my insecurities, a double fudged banana sundae every time I engage with my ex-partners, while wearing my fake attitude.
When I put on my persona, I appeared unshakable, overly cocky, and indifferent; you know the kind of person who doesn’t give a fuck about anything. But, deep down, I was a steaming pile shit — the “shit” referring to a homemade cocktail prepared with anxiety, insecurity, a shot of subtle desperation, and topped with self-loathing.
Lucifer was a blessing and a curse, a benefit but also a burden. He helped me get some great dating results, he helped me get some insane “relationship points,” but at the same time, he made me push down all the icky parts of myself that I rejected. The parts of myself that made me lose my past relationships. The parts of myself that I was ashamed of.
Due to shovelling my emotions under the proverbial rug, I became a pretty fucked up person on the inside.
The more time I’ve spent living like the smug devil, the more I’ve pushed back my true self — the sad kid who still had a ton of emotional issues that needed to be resolved.
After time, my bottled up insecurities only grew until one day they became too arduous to carry around. At that point, I snapped and started looking for help.
When I look back, I realise my time playing the devil was just overcompensation for my fear of not being good enough — the fear of not being good enough to be loved unconditionally and genuinely. This harmful belief about my self-worth sprouted from painful rejections and tedious breakups.
To be honest, my lack of vulnerability prevented me from forming any sort of genuine emotional connection with the women I was in relationships with. It held me back from receiving the love I wanted, and it kept me back from becoming who I, deep down, wanted to be — myself.
And the fact that every relationship coach I’ve followed kept repeating “ don’t be pussy, you’re the rock, the masculine! ” didn’t help my situation either.
Here’s the uncomfortable truth. And this goes for both genders: There is no bravery in being indifferent, in faking who you are, hiding behind fake personas, or acting as the “unshakable mountain that weathers all storms,” even if these attitudes help you maintain attraction in your relationships. So quit acting that way. There are more ethical ways of keeping someone madly in love with you. Unsurprisingly, the best way is being vulnerable in your relationship.
What does it mean to be vulnerable
Well, to be vulnerable with someone means to consciously expose yourself to their uncertainty, disdain, and potential hate or rejection. It means to not suppress or cling on emotions, thoughts, opinions, and desires. It means letting them all out while having an unattached attitude to the responses that come back. Only then can you be loved for who you are.
To be vulnerable, you must adopt the mindset of “I’m enough,” no matter how strong your worth based beliefs are. When you do, you over time begin to lose the need to overcompensate, prove yourself, or seek reassurance from others.
Let’s look at a few examples when it comes to relationships and even dating, regarding what it means to be closed off emotionally (opposite of vulnerable), and what you have to do to open up:
- Being closed off means being too shy to sing along on a road trip with your partner because you’re concerned about how you’ll look like, or in other words, how they will perceive you. To be vulnerable, to be brave — sing along.
- Being closed off means acting indifferent and unaffected when dating when you deep down are crazy about the other person. To be vulnerable, risk rejection and tell them how you feel.
- Being closed off is feeling afraid to tell your partner that you’re a virgin, and to take it slow in the bedroom. Instead, be honest and tell them, “Hey, I never did this before, let’s go slow, and we’re going to be just fine.”
- Being closed off is when you tell your partner, “it’s fine, I’m fine; I’ve got it handled.” When you really don’t and are worried as fuck. To be vulnerable, just admit you’re not okay.
- Being closed off means feeling anxious about initiating a conversation with a stranger. To be vulnerable, put yourself on the line, look potential rejection straight in the eye, and start with saying “hi.”
- Being vulnerable means revealing your deepest fears, desires, or any fucked up shit from your childhood to your lover or anyone that you know can handle it.
- Vulnerability can look like placing your foot down, standing up for yourself and establishing some healthy boundaries, when you sense someone is taking advantage of you.
- Vulnerability can even look like rejecting the people who like you, ending relationships, breaking hearts, and exposing yourself to the disapproval and hate of others. You will still hear the screams, the sobs, and the rage, but you will at least know that you had the guts to reveal what you really wanted. Hopefully you also follow through with your decision.
Vulnerability is present in all parts of your life. Even in the tiniest things like trying out a new haircut which you’ve been afraid to do before because you worried that other people might judge you harshly or when you’re thinking about buying chocolate in front of your health-obsessed friend.
But as powerful as living with an open heart is, many people are ashamed and reluctant to try it out because they consider it a weakness. In reality, they are just afraid to expose the parts of themselves that they don’t accept — the parts they think the others won’t accept.
You probably think, “Yuck, Max wants me to turn into a weakling and blab about my emotions and suffering all the damn time!”
Not the case, my dear reader.
Let me ask you this: If your partner is texting their friends every time you’re out having a nice brunch, what would you do? a) sweep it under the rug or b) call them out on it?
We all want to choose the second option, but in reality most men and women I’ve met and helped don’t because they are afraid to be perceived as weak if they admit the whole texting thing bugs them.
So what do they do? They keep acting like they don’t mind the texting.
In other words, instead of telling their partner something along the lines of, “Hey, can you lay off the phone, I feel disrespected, we’re on a date. I would love to know what you were doing last week on your trip, why don’t you rather tell me about that, love?” they hold their opinion in.
In all honesty, this “holding shit in,” is the real weakness.
Look, when you open yourself up to your partner and blurt out what you think, for the first time, you’re going to feel like dancing naked on stage. But simultaneously, you will build genuine intimacy and deep emotional connection with your lover, two critical components needed for any great relationship to last.
Interestingly, in the texting example that I mentioned earlier, you will even automatically cause the person you’re seeing to respect you more since you’ve vocalised what behaviours you will and will not tolerate.
Another thing we can extract from the example is that vulnerability has two sides: On the one hand, you’re putting yourself on the line, staring in the face of rejection, dislike, and disapproval, but on the other, you’re building resilience and emotional strength.
The more you can practice being vulnerable with your partner, the better of a person you will become. So live openly.
“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” — Crissi Jami
STOP BEING VULNERABLE IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS, JEEZ!
The reason why some of us have a hard time expressing vulnerability with our partner is multifaceted. We might suffer from childhood traumas, or lousy family relationships where being vulnerable was unacceptable. Some may even come from families where stonewalling or keeping things bottled up was a daily ritual — no wonder people are afraid of expressing what they want.
And society is not helping either, especially when it comes to men, who are encouraged to stop feeling, start earning, breakthrough life’s barriers, and seize their dreams!”
Society considers us masculine only when we strive towards winning, self-reliance, the pursuit of status, when we act or are violent, player-like, and dominant, and when we possess power over others.
I don’t believe any healthy woman would want to be in a relationship with a guy like that.
And while we’re at it, just take a look at the men’s dating industry. Most of the advice on how to get a girlfriend or a date is based on memorising lines and stories, acting indifferent, aloof, dominating, and sometimes even manipulative.
Most experts in the niche advise men to suppress their emotions and to mask their intentions to get laid. And the worst part is that the same experts also teach you how to keep a woman interested long term with the identical toxic advice.
And, don’t think there are no expectations on how a woman should live her life in society. The norm is that all of them should stick to losing weight, pursuing a thin kickass body, and investing in their appearance. What’s more, is that they should act modest, invest in a romantic relationship, and care for children. If they are not meeting the criteria, society often labels them as less important, weird, dangerous, or even an outcast.
With both genders, these societal norms feel like a prison and obsessing about who’s the masculine partner, and who’s the feminine one, who’s the caregiver, and who’s the caretaker does more harm than good in the long run.
Don’t get me wrong, there has to be polarisation between men and women for attraction to spark and hold up, but the mistake many people make is that they enclose themselves in only the role society expects them to play because they feel ashamed of taking the other one.
For example, a woman might feel shame because she’s on a business trip instead of spending time with her kids (work over family = a trait of a masculine role).
On the other hand, a man might be ashamed because his girlfriend is leading him through the airport that he’s visiting for the first time (he’s submissive = a trait of a feminine role).
In general, shame is a form of fear that feeds us thoughts like “you’re not worthy of XYZ” It’s the pesky emotion that holds us back from being vulnerable and open. As a result of it, we become closed off, and like mentioned, unable to form any deep, meaningful connection with others.
Oh, and guess what — we all have the damned bitch named shame in us. The infamous culprit hides behind the limiting belief that states, “I’m not worthy.”
What you have to continuously practice is going against shame by accepting it, and expressing something vulnerable — anything, despite it. In other words, when your demons scream how you’re an unworthy poop pancake, flip a finger at them, and realise you are enough.
“We all have shame. We all have good and bad, dark and light, inside of us. But if we don’t come to terms with our shame, our struggles, we start believing that there’s something wrong with us — that we’re bad, flawed, not good enough — and even worse, we start acting on those beliefs. If we want to be fully engaged, to be connected, we have to be vulnerable. In order to be vulnerable, we need to develop resilience to shame.” – by Brene Brown
the importance of intentions when being vulnerable with your partner
A typical scenario I’ve encountered in the past when I was still a pickup/dating coach was that my clients began to use vulnerability as just another technique for raising attraction. They thought, “If I tell my date this awkward or unusual thing about me, I’m going to increase my chances of going out with them and, making them fall in love, right?”
Wrong — what they were actually committing, is emotional manipulation. It’s inauthentic. It’s fake. It’s weakness; it’s everything but vulnerability.
Soon, the same scenarios started to appear in my relationship coaching. My clients thought, “Oh, wow, my girlfriend/boyfriend is going to love me again if I just tell them my insecurities!”
As a result the people who saw vulnerability as just another tactic didn’t get far in their dating nor relationship life. Let’s dig deeper.
The primary reason why these people failed (or struggled) in their love life is because their intention when being vulnerable were not without attachments but to get something from the other person.
For instance, they they wanted their partner to fall in love with them again, or they simply wanted to test how they would handle their random traumatic issues. Meaning they wondered if the person they love would bolt or stay if they expressed some bizarre and dark secret about themselves.
Ultimately, being vulnerable to get something from the other person never works out long term, therefore always stay mindful of why you’re doing what you’re doing. To get to the core intention behind your acts of vulnerability, ask yourself:
- “What need is driving this behaviour?
- “Is it an unmet need?”
- “Am I trying to reach, hurt emotionally, or connect with someone specifically?”
- “Is this the right way to do it?”
Remember, it’s not about what you express or what you do, it’s why you do it that counts. Your intention should always be something along the lines of “This is me and, I don’t want to be anyone else, so I’m going to share what I really think and feel.”
Another thing people misunderstand about the topic is that when you’re vulnerable, you still need to set solid boundaries. If you don’t, what may happen is that you lose yourself in a one-hour long thrash talk about your ex partners, childhood traumas, or relationship failures, without ever realising that you’re making a fool out of yourself and the person listening to your shit uncomfortable.
Keep in mind that without setting self-limits, the line between being vulnerable and a pain in the ass gets quickly blurred.
But how do you decide when to be vulnerable?
Well, it’s always a gamble, I mean vulnerability is defined as opening up to uncertainty. But here’s a rule of thumb of when to open up:
Can your girlfriend/boyfriend hold the emotional weight of your desire/story/idea? Meaning do you two have a deep and robust enough emotional bond? If that’s the case, then express whatever is on your chest.
Now sometimes things don’t turn out the way you want.
For example, if you’ve faked for years who you are in your life and just recently began working on being vulnerable, you will experience a pain period, that is, a time when you’ll encounter numerous rejections and disapproval from your partner. However, the opposite can also happen. You can gain instant respect and form a deeper emotional bond with them as soon as you begin opening up more.
Becoming vulnerable is different for everyone, and it’s a long process. Flip a coin and see how it goes for you.
In the end, It’s worth committing to no matter what happens because when you reach the other side, you evolve into a better person, and your relationship gets richer.
My closing thoughts, are exactly the same as my opening ones. Vulnerability is a bitch. It’s hard and painful to open up and be who you are unapologetically, but it’s also a crucial ingredient for any sturdy and meaningful connection, and a massive contributor to the attraction between two people.
It’s how healthy relationships are built and kept intact. The kind of relationships where your partner isn’t in love with who you put out to be, but with who you really are.
And that’s worth all the pain that comes with you living out your truth and being vulnerable with your partner.