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Published on March 25, 2020

How Being Vulnerable Leads to a Healthy and Fulfilling Relationship

How Being Vulnerable Leads to a Healthy and Fulfilling Relationship

What does it mean to be vulnerable in a relationship?

If you look up the word vulnerability in the dictionary, the results don’t look all that promising. You’ll end up seeing expressions like, “capable of being wounded or hurt” or “Susceptible to attacks.”

We can all agree that nobody in their right mind wants to be hurt or feel weak, especially not in front of someone they love.

The good news is, being vulnerable in front of your partner isn’t a weakness at all — it’s actually something that will strengthen your romantic relationship.

To be vulnerable with a partner means showing them your true self, including your fears, dreams, and emotions. However, not everyone is comfortable showing vulnerability in relationships — that’s why we’re here to help!

Keep reading to find out how being vulnerable will help your relationship and 6 ways to make it happen.

Why Is It Important to Show Vulnerability in Relationships?

Being completely open and honest with your spouse or partner can be a little scary at first.

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After all, you want your partners to see the best in you. You don’t want them to know what keeps you up at night or point out your insecurities. However, there are many benefits to being vulnerable with your significant other.

Here are some of the ways that vulnerability in relationships can help strengthen them.

Humanize Yourself

When we are in a relationship with someone, we want them to see the best in us. We want to seem absolutely perfect. Perfection is great when you’re filling out a job application, but not when you’re trying to connect with a romantic partner.

Perfection is boring, unattainable, and may just leave your partner feeling bad about themselves. On the other hand, the more vulnerable you are, the more relatable and “human” you become to your partner.

Boost Partner Intimacy

Intimacy is both a sexual and emotional bond you share with your partner, and you cannot have satisfying intimacy without vulnerability in the mix. Showing your vulnerable side to your spouse means giving yourself to them wholeheartedly.

Strengthen Empathy

It’s easy to have empathy for someone’s thoughts, feelings, and problems when you know who they are deep down. The more willing partners are to share vulnerable moments, the stronger their empathy will be for one another.

Embrace Your True Self

As you open up and connect with your spouse or partner, you start to build trust in one another. Your significant other knows you’ll always be honest with them, and you know that your partner will never judge your thoughts or feelings, which can help you begin to let go of some of your self-judgment.

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Open up to True Love

As cheesy as it might sound, it’s true! The walls you’ve built up in your heart were put there to protect you from getting hurt, but they are also preventing you from fully loving and committing to someone new.

How to Show Vulnerability in Relationships

For some, showing vulnerability in relationships is awkward, emotional, and sometimes downright uncomfortable. So, how do you do it?[1] Here are some simple tips to help you learn how to open up and share your inner self.

1. Take Baby Steps

You can’t learn to run until you learn to walk. Being vulnerable with your spouse doesn’t mean you have to share your every insecurity right off the bat. Start small by opening up about little things.

The longer you practice opening up about the little things, the easier it will be to start sharing bigger parts of your life with your partner.

2. Be Open About Your Struggles

If you’re someone who doesn’t naturally share their feelings, be honest about it!

Let your partner know that you struggle with vulnerability and reassure them that your feelings on the matter have nothing to do with who they are as a person.

Tell them this is something that you’re working on and ask for their patience as you go through this journey together.

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3. Get to the Root of Your Discomfort

If you’re not crazy about opening up with your spouse or partner, it can be helpful to ask yourself why. If you love and trust your partner, why wouldn’t you want to take your relationship to the next level?

It could be that you’ve been burned in the past by a friend, romantic partner, or family member, and now you’re reluctant to trust someone new with your heart.

Whatever the case, getting to the bottom of your refusal to share can help you work through past problems.

4. Be Honest

We’re often so caught in what we think our partner wants us to be, especially at the beginning of a new relationship, that we sometimes forget that the person we are deep down is pretty awesome, too.

Practice being honest with your significant other. When they ask for your opinion, give it. Don’t tip-toe around the question or give the answer you think they want to hear. Be uniquely you.

5. Ask for Help

If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to ask your partner to lend a hand/a listening ear/whatever you need at that moment.

The more willing you are to ask for help, the easier it will be to express your worries, insecurities, etc. with your spouse. In turn, you will learn how to communicate and build emotional security.

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If you’re not sure how to go about asking for help, this article may be able to help.

6. Practice Self-Love

The more you love yourself, the easier it will be to open up to other people about who you are. You have to be able to look in the mirror and say, “I’m not perfect, and that’s okay!”

This isn’t an overnight journey by any means, but loving your good qualities and being okay with the ones that still need work will help you feel comfortable sharing your truths with the one you love.

The Bottom Line

The thought of being vulnerable in relationships may make you queasy at first, but the more you do it, the more natural it will feel. Strengthen your relationship, build trust, and establish empathy by showing your partner your real thoughts and feelings.

More Tips on Vulnerability

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Sylvia Smith

Sylvia is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt its principles in their relationships.

How To Resolve Relationship Conflicts without Hurting Each Other How to Leave a Toxic Relationship When You Still Love Your Partner How to Overcome Jealousy in a Relationship How to Stop Nagging And Communicate With Your Partner Better 6 Reasons Why You Should Not Give Up on Love

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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