Opening your heart to another human being can be one of the most challenging aspects of life and love, yet it can also be the most rewarding. While it's only natural to protect yourself from potential heartbreak, there comes a point in any serious relationship where vulnerability becomes a necessary step forward for both partners.
"Being vulnerable means being real, authentic, and sharing how you honestly feel about your partner as well as the things you are experiencing," says Jane Greer, New York-based relationship expert and author of "What About Me?"
However, Greer explains that modern dating can hinder the ability of couples to truly open up to one another.
Meet the Expert
Jane Greer is a New York-based relationship expert, author, and creator of the popular celebrity sex and relationship commentary called "SHRINK WRAP with Dr. Jane Greer." She has appeared on a number of television shows including Oprah, The Today Show, The Early Show, CBS News, CNN News, and The View to offer high-quality relationship advice.
"People come and go so quickly and are sometimes so disingenuous that it does not always feel safe to share your true self," she says. Despite the fears and anxieties, Greer advises being open, but mindful, when it comes to embracing vulnerability in a relationship. Ahead, she breaks down simple steps to open up with a new love interest.
According to Greer, in a healthy relationship, both partners have a sense of connection and trust. If you're not quite there yet, it's okay to start slow. "Put a feeler out to see if your partner reciprocates," Greer says. This way, you can pace yourself while still being true to your own feelings and needs.
Start small by sharing one thing you like about the person you've been seeing or offering some insight into who you really are by telling a story about your past. This gives them an opportunity to reciprocate your feelings or give you the signal to reevaluate.
Share Internal Feelings
According to Greer, you have to let your partner know what is going on internally. "Let them see who you really are," she says. One way to approach this step toward vulnerability is to wait until your new partner opens up to you about something and then reveals something personal about yourself. This way, you'll know you're on the same page, even if it's difficult.
"If you feel embarrassed, let them know instead of acting like it doesn't matter. Sometimes, you might have uncomfortable or awkward feelings," Greer explains.
Focus on the Present
"Temper what you share," according to Greer. "Keep it in the here and now rather than the past." Thinking about past relationships or even a history with the one you're with now may drudge up feelings of anger, disappointment, or shame, Greer explains. When opening up to a partner, focusing on the present will keep you comfortable and more likely to be vulnerable to your feelings.
Enjoy the Benefits
According to Greer, the vulnerability in a relationship is what creates the intimacy and closeness that comes with a secure and trusting relationship. "You feel much more connected and understood by him or her," she says. When both partners are open and honest, it also leads to a mutual understanding of one another that is so vital for a healthy, happy relationship. "You'll feel more loved by them because they will know who you really are. They'll understand what makes you tick and hopefully will be supportive of you as you go forward," she says.
Finally, being vulnerable can help you and your partner get a better sense of what you do and don't like, which may shed some light on whether or not the relationship is really meant to last.
"You may feel scared or anxious that you're disclosing so much of yourself, but once you see your partner respond by being caring and warm with you it will strengthen your bond," Greer says. "It will bring you closer together, and you'll really feel like they have your back."
Take Greer's advice for inviting vulnerability into your relationship and reap the benefits of doing so with someone who's right for you.
Khalifian CE, Barry RA. Expanding Intimacy Theory: Vulnerable Disclosures and Partner Responding. J Soc Pers Relat. 2019;37(1):58-76. doi:10.1177/0265407519853047