The Healthy And Unhealthy Way To Open Up To Him

This is article #59 to be published on the Get The Guy blog from Stephen Hussey. Stephen helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.

(Photo: Hernan Pinera)

Enter Stephen

I nearly thought I had said everything I had to say about vulnerability in last week’s post.

That was until I read a comment on that post by Victoria, which completely hit the nail on the head about how to use vulnerability to its maximum effect.

Here is her excellent analysis in full:

There are right ways to be vulnerable, and there are wrong ways to be vulnerable. The right way is to have a “vulnerability dance” with your partner. As you are getting to know each other, express your feelings.

The wrong ways are to confess your weaknesses before your partner is ready to accept them, to use vulnerability for accelerating the development of the relationship, and to try to get the partner back after the breakup.

The main choices are:
1. No vulnerability – always holding back to avoid getting hurt.
2. Vulnerability due to the lack of self-control.
3. Vulnerability as manipulation.
4. Vulnerability as an expression of a growing intimacy.

The last option (4) is the one worth pursuing.

This was so clear and perfect, I just had to share it for those who missed Victoria’s comment.

I want to explain some of the different types mentioned in Victoria’s list above, because they quite accurately describe varying approaches I’ve seen taken by men and women in expressing vulnerability, particularly those who do it in a misguided way, and then wonder why their partner finds it a huge turn-off when they open up emotionally.

Option 1. No Vulnerability (Always Holding Back To Avoid Getting Hurt)

As I mentioned in last week’s post, this could have easily described me in my early twenties.

I used to find it incredibly difficult to show any failings or weaknesses in my personality, for fear they would be pounced on or ridiculed by a girlfriend. I was also scared to express any strong feelings, for fear I could be disappointed or shot down later on.

Many people will be familiar with this one, and the consequence is simple: You feel less pain, but you also feel much less love.

Option 2. Vulnerability due to lack of self-control

This kind of person is the opposite of the one just mentioned. It’s usually someone who cannot help but wear all of her insecurities, hang-ups, and emotional trauma on her sleeve.

We call this person the ‘over-sharer’.

She can’t help but resist telling you her sad story all about the exes who spurned her right after he told her she was ‘The One’, and about how traumatic her parents divorce was, and about how she has a scar on her leg that she hates, and how her mother told her she didn’t have the fingers for piano when she was ten and now she still cries about never having taken it up anyway, and on, and on, and on….

What makes this person unattractive isn’t her sad stories, it’s the fact that she is indulging in them. She is revealing way too much way too soon, and it becomes tiresome to listen to someone’s baggage before you feel very close to them.

She is sharing these vulnerabilities BEFORE any intimacy exists. In fact, she may even be doing it subconsciously to try and create intimacy. This doesn’t work. You can’t fast forward a relationship by spilling your heart out in the first month.

The consequence of this one: You drive people away who see you as ‘damaged’ or ‘too emotional’.

Option 3. Vulnerability as manipulation

This is the person who uses vulnerability to exploit their partner.

This might be the guy who tells you sad stories in order to get you to stay with him. Or in extreme cases, the person who threatens to harm themselves if you leave. It may be the person who exacerbates their own fragile state, in order to make sure you stay at home rather than go out with your friends.

This person may not always be aware, but they are using vulnerability to create guilt.

You can especially fall prey to this type if you are very kind-hearted, or a natural people-pleaser, but you must be able to recognise this behaviour for what is usually is: Attention-seeking and manipulative. Beware of the delicate flower spiked with thorns.

Option 4. Vulnerability as an expression of growing intimacy 

This is the ideal I talked about last week. It’s engaging in what Victoria calls above the ‘vulnerability dance’.

We share problems with each other. It’s a relationship where each individual is there to support their partner in his or her weaker moments. It is not one-sided, with one person playing constant nurse to the other’s fragile ego.

True vulnerability is mutual, gradual, and is an expression of the strength of intimacy, not the weakness of the person revealing themselves. It is something to be shared and enjoyed when it happens. It’s an expression that your relationship has moved forward a level.

Sometimes it ends with a hug. Sometimes with reassurance and soothing, beautiful words you’ll remember forever. Sometimes it even ends in wild passionate sex.

But it’s function is always the same: to make you a stronger team.

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