Vulnerability is a key component of intimacy.
In relationships, it means sharing our deepest thoughts and feelings with someone else.
When two people connect emotionally, they become vulnerable to each other.
Here are the strong signs a guy is being vulnerable with you, and how best to encourage and support that vulnerability.
5 signs your man is being vulnerable with you
1) He shows his emotions
There’s a stereotype that men aren’t as good at showing their feelings as women.
But research highlights that guys are not any less emotional than women. So it seems a lot of this hesitance to open up emotionally still comes from societal pressures.
One global survey talked to men aged 18-75 about their perceptions of masculinity and expressing emotions.
Well over half (58%) said that they don’t feel free to show their emotions and feel like they need to be “emotionally strong and to show no weakness”.
And more than a quarter of guys (29%) admitted to intentionally holding back their emotions and avoiding crying in front of others to try to protect their image of masculinity.
Guys can feel more pressure to bottle up their feelings. That is exactly why if your man can show you his, it’s one of the signs he feels safe with you.
He isn’t afraid to cry in front of you or he is willing to let you see more vulnerable emotions like sadness, anger, frustration, disappointment, and despair.
It’s actually a vulnerable thing to do to allow someone to see us when we’re feeling particularly low or in a bad mood.
If your man can show you a wide range of his emotions, rather than always trying to put on a brave face, it’s a big sign of vulnerability.
2) He’s prepared to take a risk on love
Why are guys scared to be vulnerable?
For the same reason we all are — it feels like a huge risk. Opening up leaves us feeling exposed.
Love is a risky business. In itself, it’s a vulnerable thing to do to give our heart to someone.
We never know if they are going to end up giving it back in pieces. And that is hella scary.
If he is all in, regardless of the risks that love holds, then that is vulnerability. He is prepared to put himself out there and care for someone else deeply.
In practical terms that looks like:
Being willing to put yourself on the line and ask someone out, still pursuing a relationship even when fears and insecurities creep in, and riding out the inevitable rough patches that will crop up in all relationships from time to time.
The risks exist, but the rewards outweigh them.
In the words of vulnerability researcher and author Brene Brown:
“I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. With that definition in mind, let’s think about love. Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or may leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or betray us tomorrow—that’s vulnerability.”
Giving and showing you his love is a sign of his vulnerability.
3) He is his true self around you
There’s a very good reason that we’re often on our best behavior when we first start to date someone. And that’s Image control.
Many of us live with a deeply ingrained fear:
That if we dare to show our real selves the other person might not like what they see.
Rejection can be terrifying. In fact, rejection and physical pain are the same to your brain.
No wonder we all wear masks and put up defenses to shield certain people from getting too close.
One of the bravest and most vulnerable things we can do in life is to allow someone to see the real us.
In its simplest terms, this is the very essence of what vulnerability is. As Mark Manson puts it:
“Vulnerability is consciously choosing to NOT hide your emotions or desires from others. That’s it. You just freely express your thoughts, feelings, desires, and opinions regardless of what others might think of you.”
Your guy is being vulnerable with you when he doesn’t feel the need to be anyone other than who he truly is.
He can share his beliefs, ideas, opinions, and thoughts. Even when they differ from yours.
He doesn’t feel the need to try to be someone else. Becasue he feels safe and free to be exactly who and what he is (warts and all).
This allows for emotional intimacy to grow because he is showing you the real him and freely expresses himself.
4) He reveals his secrets to you
It’s a sign of vulnerability when your guy trusts you enough to reveal something he feels protective of.
Maybe he shows you a side of himself that no one else knew existed. Perhaps he opens up about a painful experience that he doesn’t like to talk to people about.
And in doing so, he gives you a glimpse into his soul. In the process, you learn more about him, become more intimate, and strengthen your bond together.
Unlike someone who happily overshares and spills out personal information to anyone who will listen in order to get attention, this is very something very different.
It’s a brave and conscious choice to delicately unfold parts of yourself to a special person as an act of trust and vulnerability:
Here’s writer Brene Brown again, who gave a poignant Ted Talk on vulnerability:
“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 earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust-building process.”
5) He talks about his fears and flaws
Opening up to potential rejection and criticism is the epitome of vulnerability.
Shame means that most of us try to keep hidden and locked away the parts of ourselves that we see as less desirable and that bring embarrassment, guilt, or discomfort.
Of course, there’s nothing shameful about having weaknesses, fears, and imperfections. They make you human and they make you unique.
But something within us still finds this sort of exposure pretty terrifying.
Perhaps it is partially innate.
It has been argued that we humans are programmed on an evolutionary level to fear social rejection, because once upon a time our very survival relied on being accepted into the group.
As School of Psychology researcher Dr Kelsey Zimmermann explains:
“Anything that seems intuitively aversive to us is usually there for a reason – it’s the brain trying to protect us from a perceived danger and keep us safe. In the same way, we naturally have an aversion to spiders and snakes – we don’t necessarily have to get bitten to know they’re something we shouldn’t touch.”
Discussing our biggest fears and flaws is so incredibly vulnerable as we are revealing what could be perceived as weakness. And that runs the risk of rejection.
So if your guy is prepared to share with you these things, it shows just how vulnerable he is being.
How to help a guy process his emotions and encourage vulnerability
1) Listen without judgment
Listening to your man without criticism or judgment should always be encouraged anyway. But it’s even more vital at times when he is being vulnerable with you.
It is a way of signaling to him that it is safe for him to share.
Really listening to him shows that you respect him. Him opening up to you is important enough for you to give him the time and space to do so.
- Don’t interrupt
If he starts talking about something, don’t immediately jump in, interject or give your input.
- Focus on hearing what he is saying rather than planning what you will say next.
The reality is that many of us are busy off in our own heads thinking about our part in a conversation, rather than staying focused on what the other person is telling us.
As explained in Forbes:
“This deeper, more engaged and empathetic style of listening is often referred to as active listening because it’s just that – active. Passive listening can in fact be counterproductive because it sends the other party the clear message that their message isn’t very important. Ultimately, it may send the message that the listener doesn’t think they’re that important – ouch. Instead, active listening is often described as “listening to understand” vs. “listening to respond.”
Engaging in active listening is a great way to encourage your man to open up even more.
2) Don’t offer him advice unless he asks for it
For many of us, the urge we have to try and help someone we care about means that we quickly rush to present solutions, particularly when they are telling us their problems and pain.
I know that I find this one really tricky.
Whilst it comes from a good place the reality is that unsolicited advice can contribute to relationship problems that end up undermining the act of vulnerability.
According to Psych Central:
“It’s disrespectful and presumptive to insert your opinions and ideas when they may not be wanted. Unsolicited advice can even communicate an air of superiority; it assumes the advice-giver knows what’s right or best.
“Unsolicited advice often feels critical rather than helpful. If it’s repetitive it can turn into nagging. Unsolicited advice can also undermine people’s ability to figure out what’s right for them, to solve their own problems.”
Instead of offering advice, try to ask him what he needs from you.
Sometimes he may want your advice and counsel, other times he may just want to vent or feel heard and understood.
3) Give reassurance and encouragement
Whenever your man is vulnerable with you, validate how he feels with reassurance and encouragement.
This can come from affirming words like:
“Thanks so much for sharing that with me”, “I feel so much closer to you now I know that”, “Thank you for trusting me”.
And it can also come from showing physical support too, through touch, hugs, and even reaffirming eye contact and head nodding to show you are being attentive.
There isn’t one specific right way to give reassurance. It is more important that you do it sincerely in a way that feels genuine for you.
Be less concerned about performing and saying the right thing and let it come from an authentic place.
That way you show him vulnerability too.
4) Never stop working on your relationship or yourself
The very best relationships never stop growing.
A healthy relationship is one where you’re prepared to constantly put in the work needed to improve. That means as individuals as well as a couple.
The best thing we can do for our partner is to work on ourselves. Understand yourself, and never stop working on yourself.
If you want to strengthen your relationship then a proactive way to build your bond can be with the help of an expert.
Relationship Hero has highly trained relationship coaches that can give you advice and support to help you grow stronger together.
You can talk to a relationship coach as either a couple or on your own.
They can help you identify areas of your relationship that you may need to work on.
And they can walk you through the practical steps to take in order to create a happier, more loving, and vulnerable relationship.
To conclude: what does it mean when a guy is emotionally vulnerable?
When a guy is vulnerable with you, it means a lot.
It shows he trusts you enough to be honest about his insecurities and fears.
He’s not afraid to express to you who he really is. And this suggests that he feels safe and comfortable around you.
When he is able to reveal to you his flaws and imperfections, you can help him become more confident and self-assured.
Showing vulnerability gives you the opportunity to grow as a couple.
Vulnerability is an important part of healthy relationships. It helps couples build trust and respect for one another.
In the words of novelist Paulo Coelho:
“The strongest love is the love that can demonstrate its fragility”
That’s why if you want a relationship to last, vulnerability is something you need to cultivate.
Can a relationship coach help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.
I know this from personal experience…
A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.
If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.
In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.
I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.