Let’s talk about vulnerability in dating.
This v-word scares a lot of people, but being vulnerable is the prerequisite to making an authentic connection with another person. So instead of being afraid of it, let’s explore it.
What is vulnerability, exactly?
The dictionary defines it as “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”
For dating purposes, let’s add “rejected,” “humiliated,” “embarrassed,” “judged,” and/or “betrayed” to that list.
With all of these potential negatives…why would anyone choose to be vulnerable, let alone while on a date with a new person whom you don’t know yet?
Should You Be Vulnerable While Dating?
I vote yes. But before I explain why…
Let me first say that many people come to the dating process with their guard up. It’s as if they have an imaginary wall or “shield” around themselves, protecting their heart from being broken while blocking all possible pain, rejection, and humiliation.
Perhaps they’ve been hurt in the past—and instead of being fully open with their date in the present moment, they’re more concerned with making sure that past pain doesn’t happen again.
In some cases, women may have past trauma that makes them wary of being vulnerable while on a date. In my article, “Why Do My Relationships With Women Never Last?” I wrote that “the rate of sexual trauma for women is about 25%. For very obvious reasons, victims of sexual abuse often have a hard time letting themselves be vulnerable.”
Even if you don’t have trauma in your past, you might simply have the experience of a bad breakup, or intense emotional pain, or someone cheating on you, or dishonesty from a previous partner (or all of the above)—which make you wary of opening up your heart again.
While the need to protect yourself from emotional pain is understandable, unfortunately, having the “shield” up also blocks connection, meaningful communication, trust, and honesty with the other person. The shield (which is the opposite of vulnerability and openness) makes it hard for you to connect with your date—which, in turn, blocks potential love down the road.
They’ll feel it. Your guardedness might feel uncomfortable to them. You’ll come across as “standoffish,” which kills connection.
Vulnerability, on the other hand, is like a flower opening itself up, leaning in towards the sun. Think of how the petals open gently, creating a beautifully soft, rich expression in nature. The flower just is. It’s not guarding or protecting itself from possible threats. It’s opening right up to the sun.
Connection with your date—who could be your potential partner—is the whole point.
While you’re dating, you’re getting to know someone—and they’re getting to know you. You’re sharing about yourself, and you’re listening to them share about themselves.
You’re being present in the moment, having real-life thoughts, feelings, and reactions, in response to this other person and their energy. It’s a conversation, an exploration, an experience in which you’re feeling out whether or not you’re a good fit for each other.
Being authentic and present in the moment creates this vulnerability, and if there’s a natural connection, the other person will want to lean in closer to you.
What Does Healthy Vulnerability Look Like?
First off, let me say what healthy vulnerability is NOT.
It does NOT mean getting naked on the first date…or blindly trusting the other person…or sharing your entire life story of rejection or pain right off the bat. It does NOT look like treating your date as your therapist or someone to vent to.
Signs of healthy vulnerability are:
- You have your guard down (i.e., you’re not listening to your date through the lens of “How is this person going to hurt or f#ck me over?”)
- You’re open and present, showing a genuine curiosity and interest in who this person is
- You’re willing to communicate honestly with your date (e.g., “I’m so excited to meet you!…but also a little nervous!”)
- You’re sharing how you’re feeling, and what you’re perceiving—to see if there’s a real connection
- You have healthy boundaries
- Your body language is physically open (e.g., your arms aren’t crossed and you’re making eye contact)
- You’re asking open-ended questions (not “yes” or “no” type questions) about how the person feels about something
One of my clients, Shanna, was willing to take a risk by showing some vulnerability. She shared with her date:
“I haven’t been dating in quite some time. I definitely felt some jitters. But I’m really happy you said yes to this date because I’m having a fantastic time.”
How to Tap Into Your Actual Feelings
How do you share what you’re feeling? That requires you to actually know what you’re feeling. Start by identifying how you feel.
The basic feelings are:
- At peace
“I’m so glad that you invited me on this date!”
“I’m sad that this thing recently happened in my personal life…”
More intricate feelings include:
- (Many more)
“Honesty, I was nervous that you’d think I was a loser…”
“I feel giddy in your presence…”
“This is so exciting! I feel thrilled!”
Vulnerability is Worth It! Your Future Partner & You Will Share Feelings and Life Experiences
If you’re dating to find a long-term partner or spouse, vulnerability is a must!
Think of it this way. Your future partner is going to be someone you share life experiences with—the good, the bad, the ugly, all of it. You want someone willing to share those experiences with you, and vice versa.
Vulnerability—which is essentially sharing how you feel (not what you “think” or what your opinion is, but how you FEEL)—is the magic sauce that makes a relationship have a stronger bond over time. When both partners are open enough to share their feelings, including the deeper ones, it’s like the flower opening up to the sun. Of course, the sun is going to be there for the flower and nourish it!
Feeling your feelings is a part of life. Sharing your feelings is a part of relationships. It can be healing and incredibly rewarding to meet someone with whom you can be completely vulnerable.
Recommended Reading: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown