Why do we back away from vulnerability in our intimate relationships?

Stepping into vulnerability can evoke a range of feeling experiences. It can be both liberating and terrifying. It can feel difficult, risky and scary. And it can also be the very thing that takes your relationship to the next level.

Vulnerability has the power to take your relationships from feeling disconnected and “blah” to more connected, bonded and deeply loving.

Witnessing this phenomena through my work with clients, my experience is that the thought of revealing ourselves can feel like TOO MUCH. Sharing our doubts, our confusion, our uncertainty (or indeed our certainty), our loves and passions, our deepest fears or our greatest hopes often feels too scary to lean into.

Fear of feeling rejected, dismissed or invalidated can weigh heavily over vulnerable conversations, and have people pull away from potentially beautiful exchanges rather than leaning in to feel, express and be seen.

I have experienced many moments of feeling stuck and not knowing how to express myself in my relationship. And yet, as soon as sharing happens, I feel more alive, more free and more open!

It is my fear that often holds me back. I know it’s about me and my patterns. And I have certainly felt the increase in connection and intimacy that comes from sharing the things I am most afraid to share.

Sadly, this is quite a common experience, and I see this a lot in my work. Many of my women clients share their fears with me… Fears of sharing how they feel about their partner, or letting their partner know they need to slow down, or being afraid to talk about sex and intimacy.

And yet every time one of my clients has one of those excruciatingly vulnerable and revealing conversations, they come back and share with me that they feel much closer and more connected afterwards.

Let’s look at how this works in more specific detail;
In new relationships, a woman may hold back the expression of her feelings, waiting for the man to share his feelings about her and the relationship. But men are slower to process their emotions than us women. And feelings are an area where women can beautifully lead the way into vulnerability.

As we women are feeling beings, taking the risk to express comes more naturally to us, but also helps us to process and know on a bodily level what we feel. 

When a woman waits for a man to open emotional conversations, she will diminish her own feelings in the waiting, which can lead her into confusion and doubt about the relationship and her new partner.

 But when a woman takes the risk to share, she opens the door for both her and the man to more fully know what they feel. It’s important to not push a man to express his feelings, give him space to move at his emotional pace. Any demand for him to express in the way a woman does, will have him close down and withdraw. See my video A New Level of Sensitivity (Not sticking your fingers in too soon) for more on this.

Sharing our feelings can feel, raw, messy, painful, terrifying, empowering, challenging… But when a woman shares how she feels, and leans in to the power of her vulnerability, she opens her heart more fully and this holds the power to significantly
change the relationship dynamic.

This then encourages her partner to be more vulnerable with her, cultivating deeper connection and intimacy.

My most recent vulnerable share with Rod was about my desire for more sexual touch. This is particularly challenging as we have both been through some big changes since Rod’s injury last year.

Sharing how I was feeling opened the space for both of us to express what we need, feel a whole lot more loving with each other AND inspired some more sexy touch!

Sharing the thing you are most strongly holding back could be what changes your life and relationship most significantly. In the words of Brene Brown, “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” and “Vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”

Where can you lean in and take a risk?

Are you waiting for your partner to open up, be more expressive or vulnerable? 

What step might you take today to be more expressive, to lead with your vulnerability?