You search and search for Mr. Right…then you finally find him…and you struggle with a new challenge: how to be vulnerable with a man.
Whether you haven’t been in a serious relationship before…
Or you’ve been terribly hurt in one…
Vulnerability does not come easy for most women (or men). But it’s also a key component of a loving and healthy relationship. Here, I want to give you some tips on how to open up and let this man into your heart fully.
Why You Should Learn How to Be Vulnerable with a Man
Let’s look at Scarlett O’Hara, the main character in Gone with the Wind, to understand why being vulnerable is a good thing.
She flitted from husband to husband during the Civil War, mainly focusing on her own financial security. She never really loved any of them…until she met Rhett Butler.
After some trials and tribulations, she realized that her marriage to him wasn’t just one of convenience…she actually loved the guy! And so…a little too late…she opens up to him.
Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.
Scarlett built a fortress around her heart, and it wasn’t until she removed it that she actually learned how to be vulnerable with a man. Unfortunately for her, that happened too late.
Don’t be like Scarlett.
Being vulnerable with someone you love (and who loves you in return) creates a deeper level of intimacy. You’re essentially putting your heart on a platter and saying, here. I trust you with this. Please don’t break it.
When you and your man both allow yourselves to be vulnerable with each other, you build a deeper bond of trust. You’re saying, I’m showing you my underbelly here, and hope that you do the same for me.
Scientific research has proven that mutual openness between partners plays a role in creating and sustaining a healthy relationship. That’s what you’re aiming for, isn’t it?
And lastly, you want to be emotionally naked because it’s incredibly sexy to men. When you’re able to open up to someone you trust, he knows he’s doing all the right things to make you happy and will continue to work for your love.
What Being Vulnerable in a Relationship ISN’T
But Adam, you say, if I’m vulnerable with a man, it means I’m weak.
Being vulnerable isn’t being weak or submissive. It isn’t about letting him walk all over you. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything he says.
Vulnerability isn’t about letting a man control the relationship, or even needing a man in your world.
As research professor, Brené Brown, says: Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage arenʼt always comfortable, but theyʼre never weakness.
On Being Vulnerable After Being Hurt
I’ll be honest with you: when you successfully learn how to be vulnerable with a man, it opens you up to getting hurt…again.
Women who have been divorced, who have been lied to or cheated on, or even abused, find it incredibly hard to expose themselves to pain again. That’s completely natural. If this describes you, you very well may be building that Scarlett O’Hara fortress around your heart, thinking it will keep you from ever being hurt again.
Perhaps it will…but it will also keep you from truly loving anyone. In my book, it’s worth it to take down that wall and let a little love in, even if it means risking pain again.
One point I should make is: you have to be 100% healed from past pain before you can open up your heart to someone new. If you’re trying to rush into a new relationship so you don’t have to feel that old pain anymore, you’re not being fair to this new guy or yourself. If a new relationship has any hope of success, you must completely let go of past heartache and be open to a fresh start. No wall around your heart required.
10 Tips for How to Be Vulnerable with a Man
Learning how to be vulnerable with a man may take some time, so don’t expect overnight results. But if you’re putting in the work, you should see him doing the same, which can make it easier to continue to open up to him in new ways as your relationship evolves.
1. Share Your Feelings
In the early days of a relationship, it can be daunting to tell your boyfriend how you feel…especially if you’re not sure those feelings are reciprocated. Ironically, the best way to move a relationship forward is to tell him how you feel!
When I’m worried about getting hurt by expressing myself, I ask myself: what’s the worst that can happen?
If you tell a guy you’re falling for him, what’s the worst that can happen? He could laugh in your face and run maniacally down the street…though I’m 99.9% certain that won’t happen. Maybe he won’t feel the same. Can you handle that? Everyone falls in love at a different pace, so don’t assume that him not saying he’s falling too means he never will.
And if you’re further into your relationship, you should continue to share how you feel. Let’s say he didn’t call for his nightly check-in with you, and you start to panic (this actually happened to me and my girlfriend a few years ago). The next day when he calls, your first instinct is to scream at him. How inconsiderate! How could he treat you like that?
But instead, you take a deep breath and tell him that you were worried. You were scared something had happened to him.
Which reaction do you think he’ll respond best to: being yelled at or you being honest that you were worried?
When you communicate how you feel rather than letting anger take center stage, you develop a really beautiful way to communicate with your partner.
2. Talk About Past Pains That Make Vulnerability Hard
While I certainly don’t want to tell you to constantly talk about past boyfriends, giving your current guy a little insight into the situations that have made you shy away from love and trust can be helpful in your relationship.
Telling him, for example, that your ex-husband cheated on you and that trust doesn’t come easily to you will help your new boyfriend understand that there are areas he may need to be especially sensitive about with you.
While you want to tell him about past experiences that make trust difficult, you also want to make sure you’re fully healed and don’t play the victim in your current relationship. Own your past experiences, but also let them go. I know; it’s hard. But this new guy didn’t make the mistakes. The old one did. Don’t punish your boyfriend for past heartbreak.
3. Pay Attention to His Behavior
As you learn to be vulnerable with a man, you understandably want him to be vulnerable with you as well. So pay attention to what he’s communicating.
Is he sharing his feelings? Telling you about past experiences? Being open and honest? Really listening to you? These are all good signs that he’s being vulnerable with you.
If you’re not getting these things, it’s time to step back to decide whether or not he’s on the same page emotionally as you are or not. You don’t want to pour open your heart to a man that will never commit.
4. Always, Always Be Honest
You might worry what he’d think if he knew how you really felt about something, so you tell an occasional white lie. What’s the big deal?
It is a big deal, actually, because lying prevents you from learning how to be vulnerable with a man. You can’t be emotionally open if you’re keeping things from him. One tiny lie can snowball, and down the road, it could threaten your relationship.
Know that if this is really The One, there’s no truth you can say that he won’t be okay with.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Your Mind
I know a lot of women who are afraid of conflict…so much so that they never tell their partners when something is bothering them.
If they are finally brave enough to bring it up, they’re often pleasantly surprised to realize that, instead of causing an argument, they had a really productive conversation with their mates instead.
So if something’s on your mind about your relationship (maybe it bothers you that he doesn’t call very often), find a way to bring it up without being accusatory. Tell him how this thing makes you feel, and focus on how the two of you can work on things to make them better.
6. Know Your Attachment Style
Each of us has a different attachment style, and understanding yours can impact how you become vulnerable in a relationship. For example, if your attachment style is anxious, you may want reassurance that your man feels the same as you by having him tell you he loves you, texting you throughout the day, or giving you physical touch. If you have an avoidant attachment style, opening up to him may be more challenging, so you need to figure out how to take down those barriers.
It can be helpful to have a conversation about attachment styles so you both know the best way to communicate feelings and emotions with the other person.
7. Ask for Help
Another way you can learn how to be vulnerable with a man is to ask for help now and then. I get it; you’ve been single a while, and you don’t like feeling like you need a guy for anything, whether it’s killing a spider or being there for you when you’re going through hard times.
And yet, learning to lean on your romantic partner is a necessity.
Look at it like this: if he was having a hard time, you’d want him to ask you for help, right? So why can’t you do the same? True partnerships take turns being strong for one another. If you’re the one stressed about work, he should be the one to support you. If he loses a family member, you’ll be the strong one.
But you have to be willing to be vulnerable by letting him know you need his help.
If this is hard, start small! Ask him for help around the house (opening a jar, reaching something up high). Over time, try to lean on him more emotionally until it becomes second nature.
8. List Reasons You’re Afraid of Being Vulnerable
If you struggle with how to be vulnerable with a man, consider writing out the reasons you’re afraid. Your list might look something like this:
I’m afraid he won’t reciprocate my love.
I’m afraid of getting hurt again.
I’m afraid I can’t trust him.
I’m afraid I’ll look weak or needy.
Sometimes just the simple act of writing out our fears can help us overcome them. After making your list, see if you are as afraid of being vulnerable as you were before. No? Great. Start opening up slowly, seeing that it doesn’t hurt, then increase how open you are over time.
9. Get a Reality Check with Your Friends
If you’re not quite confident enough to trust your gut in a new relationship, turn to your friends for an outsider’s perspective. They may be able to see things you can’t.
For example: do they see him reciprocating your love and affection, or do they see it as one-sided? Do they see him going out of his way to do things for you, or do they consider him selfish?
Your friends love you and want what’s best for you, so if they aren’t seeing him returning what you’re giving, they’ll let you know before you make yourself too susceptible to getting hurt.
10. Do a Vulnerability Check-in Every So Often
More than likely, you’ll do the bulk of your work learning how to be vulnerable with a man at the start of your relationship, but it’s just as important to remain open and communicative about your feelings throughout your relationship. Over time, the normal ups and downs of your relationship may cause your vulnerability level to increase or decrease, depending on what’s going on.