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The Importance of Vulnerability in Healthy Relationships

It isn't comfortable, but it fosters communication and connection.

Alex Green/Pexels
Source: Alex Green/Pexels

Being vulnerable isn’t the most comfortable feeling to have or space to be in. We are exposing ourselves and allowing space to possibly get hurt. There are a lot of situations when it may not be safe to be vulnerable in but in your relationship, it should be. A lot of couples I work with struggle to show vulnerability to each other which can really halt communication and the ability to get their needs met.

Examples of showing vulnerability

  • Sharing your feelings
  • Physical affection
  • Talking about how you’ve been hurt in the past
  • Talking about sex and sexual desires
  • Expressing your needs from your partner

Why is vulnerability important?

Being vulnerable creates emotional intimacy and connection. Opening yourself to your partner shows and builds trust and helps them understand you on a deeper level. A way to increase trust is to test it out, and by letting your partner in, you are giving them an opportunity to earn that trust. This can increase empathy from your partner as they get to understand you in a new way. It allows them to be there for you and meet your needs. For yourself, it can improve self-acceptance, and things that once felt vulnerable can no longer feel that way.

Case Example

Imagine this: You are feeling really scared about taking a big step in your career. You’ve wanted this but fear of failure has kept you going for it in the past. You are worried to share this with your partner as they haven’t seen this side of you. If you tell them about making the step and then you do fail, your partner will see all of it and it could change the way they see you. In reality, though, if you opened up to them they could help you process those fears as they try to understand them. It gives them the opportunity to not only give support but encourage you to go for it because of the strength they see in you. If you succeed, that is something you can celebrate together as you share in the journey and joy. And if you should fail, they are there to empathize with the loss, remind you of your courage, and encourage you to keep trying. Either way, you feel closer for having shared a part of yourself — and so does your partner for having learned something about you and having been there for you.

Ways to practice vulnerability in your relationship

  • Share about a goal you have for yourself in the future.
  • Have a discussion about vulnerability in your relationship.
  • Share a memory from your past when you felt hurt.
  • Initiate physical touch like a hug or holding hands.
  • Talk about your days together.
  • Ask for a need from your partner.
  • Open a conversation about a sexual experience with your partner that you enjoyed.
More from Kari Rusnak, MA, LPC,CMHC
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