5 Reasons Vulnerability is Attractive in a Partner (and How to Prioritize It)

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When most people sit down to describe their ideal qualities in a partner, “vulnerability is attractive” doesn’t usually make the list. Instead, we list values like honesty, kindness, and a sense of humor. Maybe we include a few interests or hobbies that we’d like to share. Then, we generally round out our wishlist with a couple of physical characteristics.

All of the items on our list attempt to add up to one thing: love. We think that if we find a person who checks these boxes, we’ll find the true love we’re looking for. (And hopefully, they’ll come with a 401k, amIrite?)

These lists also shape our perspective on what we find attractive. After all, attraction is important for the chemistry of a relationship.

Unfortunately, we’re often wrong about what we should find attractive.

I know what you may be thinking. If it’s something I find attractive, how can I be wrong about it?

This post will teach you all about what’s missing from your outlook on attractiveness. It will also give you undeniable reasons why vulnerability should be the most attractive quality, as well as how to prioritize being vulnerable in your partnership.

First, let’s look at how you can, in fact, be wrong about what you find attractive.

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What Influences Who You Find Attractive

Have you ever seen a person walk by and thought, Damn, they look good? There’s a reason that we have models. Some people are better looking than others, and they invoke all sorts of biological responses for physical attractiveness.

But you probably know that physical attractiveness cannot be the only thing you have going for your relationships. 

We’re attracted to individuals for their characteristics, mind, and actions, too. It’s in these categories that we’re often wrong. But how?

A lot of reasons. First, your culture broadly defined your list of attractive qualities. This cultural influence includes gender stereotypes, family expectations, and limited viewpoints on what success is. False cultural narratives filled your checklist with “important” characteristics. (And then unapologetically shoved the list into your hands before you can react.) Oh, and we buy into a lot of relationship myths that are perpetuated in media.

Second, shame holds you back from expressing your real needs. We’re social creatures and are terrified of rejection. This fear encourages us to play it safe rather than be vulnerable about what we really want.

Think about it. Suppose you’re at the bar with friends. Is it easier to say, “I want a woman with a hot body,” or “I want a woman who’s intelligent and can challenge me emotionally”? Is it more comfortable to describe the ideal, muscular, money-provider, or the sensitive yet scrawny man down the road?

When we’re in social situations, we often say the ideas that our culture has promoted. 

Eventually, we accept these ideas as our own. In doing so, we miss a significant attractive quality: vulnerability.

healthy relationship

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What is vulnerability, and why should vulnerability be attractive?

According to Dr. Brené Brown, vulnerability is taking an emotional risk when we don’t know the outcome. It entails moments – big and small – when we present our most authentic selves without knowing if we’ll be accepted. 

In a relationship, vulnerability is showing up. It’s choosing to say (literally or figuratively): “This is who I am, how I feel, and what I want.” Then, we have to hope that our partner accepts us.

Being vulnerable taps into our innate need for belonging. We’re hardwired to depend on social relationships, which is why a fear of rejection affects us so potently. Fear and shame often hold us back from being vulnerable. We can’t stand the thought of not being accepted by our partners. Our fear of vulnerability literally takes over our body. (Especially at the beginning of relationships – damn, dating is stressful.) 

Acts of vulnerability in a relationship might look like:

  • Admitting we care about something
  • Being the first to say “I love you”
  • Being the first to apologize for a mistake
  • Opening up about genuine emotions
  • Being honest even if it’s the harder option
  • Giving up independence and taking a step toward a “we”
  • Trusting again after you’ve been hurt

Some of you might be thinking this list of vulnerable acts sounds excellent. If so, why don’t we promote the attractiveness of vulnerability more often?

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Myths about Vulnerability

Unfortunately, society has created some damaging myths about vulnerability. The biggest one is that vulnerability is considered a weakness. Our culture has promoted the ideals of independence, emotional aloofness, and “going at it alone.” Any time we talk about our emotions or how we’re really feeling, society tells us we’re not strong.

These ideas paint vulnerability as being weak when this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Another big myth about vulnerability is that it’s reserved for deep, dark emotions. We equate acts of vulnerability to shooting stars: rare, impressive, and fleeting. But being vulnerable isn’t reserved for our deepest feelings. (Nor is it as flashy as a shooting star.)

Instead, being vulnerable in a daily decision to show up as your true self.

Imagine all of the movies you’ve seen. How often are the protagonists aloof and closed off with their feelings? Maybe they open up at the end of the film. When they do, we celebrate their triumphant moment of emotional vulnerability – as if it’s a rare thing to work toward.

These great “opening up” stories overlook the fact that being vulnerable requires incredible courage every step of the way, not just at the end. What’s more, it’s the everyday steps that demand greater courage.

Finally, humans lack self-awareness. (Like on a colossal level.) We want vulnerability in our relationships – we just don’t always understand that we do.

lack of vulnerability

P.s. If you think you are self-aware, then you’re part of the 80% of the human race who also thinks they’re more self-aware than they actually are. Check out 6 Signs you Lack Self-Awareness to learn the truth.

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How to learn to see vulnerability as attractive

Another obstacle in realizing vulnerability is attractive is our own vulnerability. Remember how it’s hard for us to be vulnerable? It triggers all sorts of fear and anxiety in our brains. And then, after we’re vulnerable, we feel an emotional backlash that’s rightly been named a vulnerability hangover.

I have a deep fear of vulnerability in romantic relationships. In the first year of dating my fiancé, I would have to force myself to give up my freedom and schedule plans with him. My brain switched between the thoughts, “You’re independent! You don’t need him!” and, “Don’t do this. He’ll only disappoint you.” (Sounds really emotionally healthy and stable, right? Don’t worry, I’ve had therapy.)

And when he did disappoint me, or I felt burned? Man, oh man, the backlash was terrible.

Because vulnerability was so difficult – and at times, unpleasant – I often painted it in a negative light. I got stuck in my own emotions and couldn’t zoom out to see why vulnerability was so attractive. As a result, I didn’t always prioritize it.

Researchers have actually proven this disparity between how we view vulnerability when it comes to ourselves and others. If someone else has a lot to offer, we appreciate and admire their vulnerability as a “beautiful mess.” However, we feel horrible about our own messiness.

The sooner you model being vulnerable in your own actions, the sooner you can recognize and promote it in a partner.

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5 Reasons Vulnerability Is Attractive In a Partner (And Should Be Most Attractive to You)

Enough about the myths and challenges of vulnerability. What does a vulnerable partner look like, and what makes vulnerability so attractive?

Vulnerability should be the most attractive quality because a vulnerable partner:

1. Will express their emotions more clearly

No matter how many emotionally closed-off protagonists you watch in the movies, you don’t want to come home to one at night. A vulnerable partner can express how they’re feeling. The more emotionally mature they are, the better they’ll be able to identify, label, and manage their emotions. Instead of having to guess about your partner, you’ll understand how your partner feels and what their needs are. You’ll also know how they’re feeling about you. Sure, the uncertainty at the beginning of relationships might be fun. Still, it’s way more attractive long-term to be with someone who can express themselves.

2. Understands the importance of trust

Trust is not something that can be built in a day. Instead, it’s a repeating cycle of acts of vulnerability and the reactions to it. If you find someone who values being vulnerable, they also value trust. After all, every time they’re vulnerable with you, they’re putting their trust in you to accept them. Healthy relationships need to be built on trust, and a vulnerable partner understands this. 

3. Have a deeper level of empathy and understanding

Another reason vulnerability is so attractive is that your partner will have a deeper level of empathy for you. When we’re vulnerable, we push past our fear of rejection to present our truest selves. This is hard work, and it takes a level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence that not everyone possesses. It also leads to higher degrees of empathy. After all, when we appreciate the struggle of our own experiences, we can better appreciate others.

4. Communicates better

I don’t know about you, but about 90% of my biggest relationship communication breakdowns have to deal with underlying emotions and unexpressed thoughts. Often couples aren’t on the same page because they’re not saying how they really feel. Vulnerability should be attractive to you because vulnerable people have much more experience communicating. And this isn’t just for expressing emotions (although that certainly is a significant element). Vulnerable partners can speak, listen, and find the language to tackle the real issues at hand.

5. Believe in growth

Nobody is going to be the same person at age 50 as they are at age 30. We’re continuously changing and evolving with new life experiences. However, this growth will be much healthier if we’re willing to be vulnerable and lean into the process. If you’re with someone who can’t be vulnerable, they’ll be resistant to feedback and reluctant to change. Conversely, if you’re with a vulnerable partner, they can overcome their negative emotions and realize the value of self-growth. Ultimately, you’re going to want to be with someone who is willing to grow as a person and as a couple.

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How to Prioritize Vulnerability as an Attractive Quality

Have I convinced you of the attractiveness of vulnerability? Awesome! But you might still be wondering what comes next. 

Realizing the importance of vulnerability is the most significant step. Once your eyes open to what vulnerability looks like, you will begin to recognize it in the actions of the people around you. Remember, being vulnerable is rarely big, emotional acts. Everyday actions exhibit vulnerability.

The other thing you need to do is be vulnerable yourself. If you’re waiting for 100% trust to be vulnerable, then you’ll always be waiting. Being vulnerable means taking a leap of faith. 

Try being more vulnerable in your relationship and presenting your authentic self. Not only will this show your partner that you value it, but it’ll pave the way for more vulnerability between the two of you.

Not sure who your authentic self is? Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered for that too – learn why self-awareness is the key to healthy relationships.

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Top Books on Vulnerability: Brené Brown Quotes and Books

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Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown

A groundbreaking book on how to be a vulnerable leader and why it’s critical for success. In this NY Times Bestseller, Brené Brown in fighting against our current culture and answering the question: How do you cultivate braver, more daring leaders, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture? Packed with stories, research, and interviews, this book is not only informative, but incredibly engaging.

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Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

A book that will change your thinking about how you live, love, and interact with others in our society. Brown dives into the cultural expectations that we face, as well as the emotions that hold us back from finding true joy. In the book, she writes, “When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.”

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Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown

A book that will transform the way you think about belonging, vulnerability, and courage. Brown writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. In a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet…But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity.”

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Conclusion

We’re influenced by cultural standards when it comes to what’s attractive. Unfortunately, these standards often leave out a very attractive quality: vulnerability.

Vulnerability should be one of the most attractive qualities you’re looking for because it means your partner:

  1. Will express their emotions more clearly
  2. Understands the importance of trust
  3. Have a deeper level of empathy and understanding
  4. Communicates better
  5. Believe in growth

Want to learn how to cultivate vulnerability in our relationship? Check out my posts about what vulnerability can look like in your relationship and how to be more vulnerable in your everyday life.

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FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS

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Comment below with answers, ideas, and more questions, or contact me to collaborate on a future post!

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EXPLORING YOURSELF

[/fusion_title][fusion_checklist icon=”fa-question-circle fas” iconcolor=”#0216f2″ circle=”no” circlecolor=”#e0e0e0″ size=”18px” divider=”yes” divider_color=”#ffffff” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility”][fusion_li_item icon=””]

How do you exhibit vulnerability in a relationship?

[/fusion_li_item][fusion_li_item icon=””]How often do you find yourself seeking vulnerability in a partner?[/fusion_li_item][fusion_li_item icon=””]

What do you find attractive in a partner? How much is your mindset influenced by cultural standards?

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EXPANDING YOUR WORLD

[/fusion_title][fusion_checklist icon=”fa-question-circle fas” iconcolor=”#0216f2″ circle=”no” circlecolor=”#ffffff” size=”18px” divider=”yes” divider_color=”#ffffff” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility”][fusion_li_item icon=””]How can media better represent healthy relationships?[/fusion_li_item][fusion_li_item icon=””]What resources are there for people to be more vulnerable?[/fusion_li_item][fusion_li_item icon=””]

Is it more difficult for males or females to be vulnerable?

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