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October 5, 2021

How Can You Improve and Strengthen Your Relationships?

Written by Dr. Gia Marson

When it comes to developing healthy relationships, you may be overlooking an important key to success. 

Opening up, sharing, and letting people in is key to building a healthy relationship. Yet, being vulnerable around a loved one isn’t easy. Part of the reason is that vulnerability can feel like a weakness, and being emotionally vulnerable can be very discomforting.

But one of the best ways to build a strong relationship and increase intimacy is to show your true self, to open up.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” —Brené Brown

Why is it important to be vulnerable?

While it might seem easier to bottle things up, we need to be vulnerable to grow, understand new perspectives and connect with others.   

Having a trusted ally when you are trying to grow or do something new can be very helpful.

If there are aspects of your life that you would like to work toward—such as enjoying exercise, experiencing emotions without using food to cope, stopping an unhealthy behavior, or being able to tolerate your emotions—then you need to open up first. Accepting who you are and communicating honestly and effectively about your feelings is key to enhancing your connections. 

“In any kind of relationship we can make the assumption that others know what we think, and we don’t have to say what we want. They are going to do what we want because they know us so well. If they don’t do what we want, what we assume they should do, we feel hurt and think, ‘How could you do that? You should know.’ Again, we make the assumption that the other person knows what we want. A whole drama is created because we make this assumption and then put more assumptions on top of it.” ―Miguel Ruiz

We can’t fix something that we don’t understand or make assumptions about. Opening up and becoming vulnerable is the first step to understanding.

In addition to helping us understand ourselves, vulnerability can also help others to understand us. If we don’t open up to the people we’re close to then we’re not giving our loved ones the information they need to be close to us. The vulnerability allows the people in our life insight into who we are and what we need, helping them to support us in the most appropriate way. 

Why does vulnerability make you feel weak?

We know that vulnerability is key to emotional connection and understanding, but it can still be hard. Vulnerability can feel like a real risk; it’s jarring, exhausting, and sometimes downright scary to share your true feelings.

Understanding why vulnerability can be hard may help you to tackle it head on. Vulnerability may make you feel:

  • Shame. You may feel as if the person you’re sharing with is judging you, leading to feelings of shame and self-consciousness. Vulnerability can be confronting, but opening up to a supportive person will make you feel validated, loved, and connected.
  • Weakness. People often feel that needing to be vulnerable is a weakness. The pressure to be “strong” and never need help from others can create a misconception that opening up is a sign that you’ve failed, you’re weak, or that you need help. It’s important to remember that this is not the case. In fact, it’s usually the opposite. Being vulnerable requires a lot of strength and is a way to identify and improve on aspects of your life. Notice what you can control that makes you feel safe and secure, and circle what you are already doing and what’s currently present in your life. 
  • Overly reliant on others. Sharing and being vulnerable around others can make you feel like a burden. No one wants to be the needy friend that always needs help, but it’s important to keep in mind that just because you’re opening up to others doesn’t mean that you’re being needy. Being vulnerable can create connections that are not just valuable to you but also to the person to whom you’re opening up. 

How to be more vulnerable

Opening up and becoming more vulnerable can lead to stronger connections, a better understanding of yourself, and the freedom to change. If you’re struggling with vulnerability, these steps may help you to start sharing.

1. Confront your feelings

Being vulnerable with yourself is the first step to opening up to others. Admit your true feelings to yourself. Identify what you need to grow.  If this is a habit you need to cultivate, try naming the emotions you are experiencing by journaling for 5 minutes each day. 

2. Don’t be afraid to say what you need 

When building connections, it’s much easier for the people in your life to support you if they understand what you need. Being direct about what you need from others not only helps people to be there for you, it also helps them to connect with you, build friendships, and understand what you’re feeling. Remember that it’s okay to be different from your friend, partner, or family member. Part of your connection rests on your differences.

“Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness.” —Esther Perel

3. Trust yourself 

One barrier that stops us from being vulnerable is the fear and uncertainty of how others will respond when we do. Rejection and judgment can be off-putting and hurtful, but if you choose to share with trusted loved ones, you will likely find yourself supported. Trust your judgment in with whom you decide to be vulnerable, and also trust that the benefits of vulnerability typically outweigh fears you may have. 

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” —Golda Meir

4. Share

The final step in being vulnerable is to take the plunge and share. Open up about your feelings and failures with someone you trust. You’ll quickly see that sharing takes away the power of these fears. While it may be intimidating, being vulnerable can leave you soothed, better connected, and feeling more positive about the future. 

Try being transparent and bold

When it comes to growing in your relationships, show up fully as yourself. That way, you will connect with people who truly fit with your soul self. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable and to authentically connect with others, not only will your relationships be stronger, they will be more inspiring too. 

“Our ability to communicate our own feelings, and to pick up the feelings of others and thus to heal fractures in connection, threatens the structures of hierarchy. Feelings of empathy and tender compassion for another’s suffering or humanity make it difficult to maintain or justify inequality.” ―Carol Gilligan


Jaffé, M. E., & Douneva, M. (2020). Secretive and close? How sharing secrets may impact perceptions of distance. PLoS One, 15(6), e0233953. 

Lackey, S. A. (2020). The role of relationship-based care in developing empathy through vulnerability: Visual cues for conversation and change. Creative Nursing, 26(4), e97–e101.

Peters, K., & Kashima, Y. (2007). From social talk to social action: shaping the social triad with emotion sharing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93(5), 780–797. 

Rimé, B., Bouchat, P., Paquot, L., & Giglio, L. (2020). Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and social outcomes of the social sharing of emotion. Current Opinion in Psychology, 31, 127–134.

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