Vulnerable – What is it & How Can it Improve Dating Results?
Have you ever watched an episode of the Batchelor where approximately 25 hot singles compete for one person? The Bachelor is often seen telling his date to open up and be vulnerable because otherwise, he can’t connect with them. Easy for the Bachelor to say but so much harder to do. How do you expose yourself emotionally when the person is dating 24 other people at the same time! That is anything BUT safe!
Yet it is the ONLY way to form a real connection with someone else!
It isn’t just the contestants on a dating show who protect themselves.
- Choose to say this is who I am take or leave it while showing their date things about themselves that EVEN they don’t like.
- Have their walls up to protect themselves.
In fact, they will do anything and everything to avoid being hurt. Yet the real honest truth is that neither of these approaches works!
Both are used for self-protection but they are the very things that prevent a genuine connection.
I see people who really want to find a loving relationship but their unconscious fears get in the way. This causes them to put their guard up when meeting new people and when dating.
All this does is stop you from having the loving relationship you are looking for.
The truth is that learning how to be vulnerable despite your insecurities and fears is the secret to being successful dating.
What Does it Mean to be Vulnerable?
It is about being open and being yourself without the mask you feel you have to wear to be accepted. Vulnerability is risking that someone won’t accept you after you have told them something.
It is consciously choosing NOT to hide your emotions or what you want. Vulnerability is about letting your walls down and being yourself. When you are vulnerable you are able to freely express your thoughts, feelings, desires and opinions regardless of what anyone else thinks of you.
The key to true vulnerability is that you are willing to accept the consequences of being vulnerable. Basically, it comes with uncertainty, risk and being exposed.
Because when you tell someone else something about yourself you have no control over how the other person responds.
It can be painful when the other person rejects you rather than responding with compassion, kindness and accepting you despite what you have told them.
However, taking that risk to let other people in is the only way you will get a loving relationship. In fact, breaking down your walls is essential.
You also learn a lot about other people when you are able vulnerable. This allows you to see if they are the type of person that you would like to be with.
A Word of Warning
Vulnerability should never come from a victim’s point of view nor is it an excuse to share too much too soon.
Let’s look at what it means to be a victim –
a person who has come to feel helpless and passive in the face of misfortune or ill-treatment.
A victim might go into dating thinking they are being vulnerable and saying no one wants me or likes me. They may say they are the good guy or they are too ugly, etc. Thinking the other person will feel sorry for them. Getting someone to feel sorry for you is not vulnerability it is manipulation.
I love the definition in Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly –
Vulnerability is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust. It’s not oversharing, it’s not purging, it’s not indiscriminate disclosure and it’s not celebrity-style social media information dumps. Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earnt the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust-building process. We can’t always have guarantees in place before we risk sharing, however, we don’t bare our souls the first time we meet someone. We don’t lead with, ‘Hi, my name is Brene, and here’s my darkest struggle. That’s not vulnerability. Why? Because sharing appropriately, with boundaries means sharing with people whom we’ve developed a relationship that can bear the weight of our story. The result of this mutually respectively vulnerability is increased connection, trust and engagement.
6 Tips to be Vulnerable When you Are Dating
1. Why Do You Need to be Vulnerable When Dating?
It is the only way you really get to know each other and be able to decide if you are compatible. If you keep your walls up they will keep EVERYONE out!
Walls and not sharing yourself may keep you safe from rejection but it will also keep you from love. It is time to see vulnerability as a normal part of dating so you can push past your fear and be open.
2. Change Your idea of What it Means to be Vulnerable
Vulnerability is often seen as weakness! Especially for men! The message men get from women is, ‘Please share yourself with me, but don’t share too much or in a way that makes me feel like you’re not a strong confident man.’ The key for men is to share but not in a victim or manipulative way. You can be vulnerable and strong!
In fact, vulnerability = strength. When you are able to be vulnerable it signals to the other person that you are emotionally available and emotionally intelligent. What vulnerability really does is that it makes you relatable to others. It allows other people to see what they have in common with you. That, just like them, you aren’t perfect. When you are able to feel comfortable with who you are and be vulnerable without being a victim it is a real form of confidence and self-acceptance.
3. Vulnerability Has Different Stages
It is important to understand that vulnerability will look and feel quite different at different stages of dating and different stages of your relationship.
What you talk about on a first date will look totally different to what you talk about on your seventh date.
On that first date, you might talk about the things you love – your passions and your interests. But you wouldn’t talk about the ins and outs of your relationship history until further down the track.
Way too many singles fall into the trap of TMI – Too Much Information way TOO SOON. Your first date is not the time to show yourself, warts and all!
This is not vulnerability, it is often a shield that pushes people away.
Examples of TMI
Examples of too much information on a first date can be:
- Talking about what went wrong in past relationships.
- Saying you have trouble getting anyone to date you.
- Talking about health issues.
- Sharing the negative stuff about yourself.
- Talking about how unhappy you are in life or how you hate your job.
- Or telling them you don’t have a job and aren’t likely to work anytime soon.
Just because someone has asked you a question doesn’t mean you have to answer it! You can respond in a polite way that won’t offend the other person!
Examples of ways to respond:
- If someone asks you what went wrong in your last relationship. You can respond with, ‘It didn’t work out, if we get to know each other over time I will tell you more. If you have asked the question, accept the answer and don’t continue to dig deeper.
- Or, if you haven’t ever dated. You can respond with, ‘I have been focussing on my career and dating wasn’t a priority. I now feel I want to focus on that area of my life.
- If someone asks you what you do for work and you don’t want to fall into a stereotype. You can respond with, Talking about work is boring, right! I have a stable job that allows me to do what I want in life. Again, if you have asked the question, accept the answer.
Healthy sharing on the first date is vastly different to vulnerability on the seventh date because you have taken the time to build up trust between the two of you.
What you are able to share will build over time as you get to know each other. Having healthy boundaries in place lets you talk about what is and isn’t acceptable for you. You also need to remember to accept the other person’s boundaries as well! What you may feel comfortable sharing could be so much harder for the other person and they may need more time.
Vulnerability is a process that progresses over time as you continue to be more and more invested in your relationship.
4. One Step at a Time
If you are used to dating with your walls up, it will feel uncomfortable letting them down. That’s normal! It will take practice. Start slowly and always make sure that your conversations aren’t one-sided. Take turns talking, sharing, listening and asking open-ended questions. Oh, and avoid assumptions because they shut down conversations. People stop being open and receptive to you when you make assumptions because it makes them feel like you don’t know or understand them at all.
5. You are Enough
Dating can be brutal so I want you to remember that you are enough. I see way too many singles who feel a little insecure and worry too much about what other people think of them. This makes it really difficult to get out and date.
If you don’t feel like you are good enough you will:
- Avoid dating
- Put up a dirty great big wall to protect yourself
- Basically, do anything to make sure no one rejects you or gets too close!
The reality is that rejection is just a natural part of dating.
You won’t like everyone, nor will everyone like you. It’s not personal and the sooner you are able to stop taking it personally the better your results will be.
Remember that you have a lot to offer others! Oh. and if you feel like you don’t have anything to offer, it might be time to do some work on your self-esteem. I also recommend going out and starting to live a life that you enjoy. Make new friends, find new hobbies, and learn so you do have something to say that is interesting.
6. Be Kind to Yourself
When you share personal feelings and stories about yourself you may feel exposed so it is important to be kind to yourself.
Maybe, you just told someone you have children and you worry that they may not accept you because of that. Or you have told them your age and you feel like that may be a barrier. It feels vulnerable for you because they may reject you based on the information you have shared.
These are simple differences and you may have more challenging ones. When you are vulnerable it WILL feel uncomfortable, that’s normal.
Breathe and make sure you don’t beat yourself up in your own head! Sometimes the words we all say to ourselves are the worst and you can interrupt that negative self-talk and be supportive and accepting of yourself instead.
It is NORMAL to feel uncomfortable and is all part of the process of dating and being vulnerable!
The key is to not take rejection personally if someone doesn’t want to continue to date you because of something you have told them.
I see way too many singles make up stories in their heads of not being good enough because someone didn’t want a 2nd date or to continue to date them. Don’t!
In the example of telling the other person, you had children and they see it as a deal-breaker because they want to have their own children. It isn’t personal.
The reality is that you often won’t find out the reason why someone doesn’t want to date you and won’t know what THEIR deal breakers are. The dating process is all about working out if you are compatible and there really isn’t any point in continuing to date if you aren’t compatible.
Things like them wanting to have children and you not or already having some are deal-breakers that you have no power to change and, therefore, aren’t personal.
It is time to be you and own it!
If you are struggling with your dating life or being vulnerable a Relationship Coach can help! Just book a free discovery call to find out how. Or if you feel like you are unclear about what your deal breakers are, why not check out How to Choose the Best Match for You.