Vulnerability exercises to get more fulfilling relationships

Doing vulnerability exercises allows you to be more open with the world
Photo cred: Eleanor Preger. Sculpture cred: Marco Cochrane

In this post I explain how vulnerability is the ingredient that makes connections feel powerful. I’ll then offer three potent vulnerability exercises you can try with a partner.

Wanting more out of partnership

So you are in a partnership. And you love your partner. But you have this sense that there is more. That you could feel closer with them, more alive together, more enthralled in the unknown together.

And it’s true – there is a space I’m sure you’ve touched before. Where you feel completely known, seen, felt, and accepted. Where the love and connection feel so pure, that time stops to wait for your lips to slowly part from their’s.

These moments are beautiful, and can feel rare. But there is a way to get there more often. And to make your entire relationship feel more like that. 

And the one way to get there is… 

Constantly taking the leap into deeper vulnerability.

But being vulnerable is scary!

The difficulty is, it’s inherently scary to be vulnerable. Merriam Webster defines vulnerability as “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded.” Assuming you don’t like being wounded, no shit it’s scary!

On an emotional level, to be vulnerable with another person is to reveal the parts of yourself that expose you to being hurt. These are parts of yourself that you are still working on fully accepting. And so to show them to another person gives that person the power to reject or judge you, and to reinforce your stories of non-self-acceptance. But to be vulnerable also extends a bridge into deep connection. It offers up the raw parts of your soul to be felt and loved by another.

An act can only be deemed vulnerable as a subjective experience. In other words, no matter how open and raw it appears that you are being from the outside, vulnerability is a measure of the amount of fear you feel expressing a part of yourself. For some it may be vulnerable to talk about their speckled past with their parents, for others it could be easy. To be vulnerable is always to step beyond fear, and is thus is a form of courage.

As vulnerability researcher Brene Brown puts it in this interview: “when you are in uncertainty, when you feel at risk, when you feel exposed, don’t tap out. Stay brave, stay uncomfortable, stay in the cringy moment. Lean into the hard conversation…try to be aware of your armor, and when you feel vulnerable, try not to..(keep your armor) up..try to stay human.”

What vulnerability can look like

Here are some examples of opening up a deeper vulnerability with your partner:

  • Sharing a sexual desire you’ve never shared
  • Expressing a deep emotion they’ve never witnessed you express before
  • Acknowledging where you feel the most shame in your life
  • Expressing past actions that you feel unresolved guilt about
  • Revealing the parts of yourself that may be deemed “bad” or “taboo.” Such as the parts of you that think you’re better than everyone else, or the parts of you that want to control others

Expressing vulnerability does come with a risk

As we learned before, being vulnerable means sharing something you’re afraid to share in that it may not be recieved.

And here’s the tough reality. That fear is valid.

There will be times where you stretch and share something vulnerable, and the other person laughs, recoils, distances, or judges. Those moments are terribly painful. And they do happen.

But that’s the whole game of love and intimacy. The more you open your soul to another person, the more you allow yourself to experience pain. However, the gatekeepers of the realms of love, meaning, and magic give keys only to those who have risked opening their souls.

Being vulnerable makes life worth living

Vulnerability creates true, meaningful connection. The deepest and most satisfying moments of intimacy come about through vulnerability. There is no other way. To sit at the unknown with another, and reveal what you are most scared to reveal creates a bond and a closeness that gives you a taste of what it means to be human and can give you shared moments that feel surreal and timeless. Simply put, the more you and your partner are vulnerable with each other, the closer you’ll feel, the more nourishing your connection will be. 

And so, the choice is your’s. You can create a relationship shelled off from vulnerability. Safe, cocooned. But also grey, distanced, and predictable. Or you can dare to reveal yourself. Unstitching your heart and exposing yourself to love and all the glory it has to offer.

So, if you want to take the step to becoming a practitioner of vulnerability, below are three core vulnerability exercises that can help you on your path. You can practice these vulnerability exercises with your partner or a friend.


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3 vulnerability exercises

Each of these vulnerability exercises touches a different side of the vulnerability prism. And this list of activities is by no means exhaustive. You can do any of these activities, or all of them. If you do all of them, I’d recommend doing them in order.

Vulnerability exercises!
Practice #1: revealing yourself

This is an activity to help you and your partner reveal whatever is happening inside of you real-time. You are giving your partner access to your inner world and noticing what emerges in presence with each other. This activity is built to create some distance between you and your inner experience, which can give you more freedom to express what you find.

  1. Set a timer for 5 minutes
  2. Sit across from your partner
  3. Make eye contact
  4. Take a moment to settle into the connection with each other. Be with what you feel for a few seconds
  5. Partner 1 share: “being with you, I notice ________.” Share whatever you notice in your inner experience. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, beliefs, etc.
  6. Partner 2 take in what you just heard. Let it land. Then share: “hearing that, I notice _________.” Again, share whatever you notice in your inner experience
  7. Partner 1 take in what you just heard. Let it land. Then share: “hearing that, I notice _________.” Again, share whatever you notice in your inner experience
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until time runs out
  9. Reflect together – what was that experience like?

Vulnerability exercises!
Practice #2: walking straight into fear

This activity uses fear as a compass to point to deeper connection. Often the thing we are most afraid to say is actually the thing that will create the most intimacy. You won’t know what’ll come out of your mouth until it does. This activity is inherently scary.

  1. Set a timer for 10 minutes
  2. Sit across from your partner
  3. Make eye contact
  4. Take a moment to settle into the connection with each other. Be with what you feel for a few seconds
  5. Partner 1 share: “the thing that I am most afraid to say right now is ____________”
  6. If there’s anything to process from that share, do so
  7. Partner 2 share: “the thing that I am most afraid to say right now is ____________”
  8. If there’s anything to process from that share, do so
  9. Repeat steps 5-8 until the time runs out

Vulnerability exercises!
Practice #3: coming out of hiding

  1. Sit across from your partner
  2. Make eye contact
  3. Take a moment to settle into the connection with each other. Be with what you feel for a few seconds
  4. Partner 1 respond to the question: “what are the ways that you avoid being fully seen?” Share for 90 seconds
  5. Partner 1 respond to the question: “what are the parts of you that are afraid to be seen?” Share for 90 seconds
  6. Make eye contact with each other. For 90 seconds, partner 1 become one of the parts that is afraid to be seen. Feel it all the way. Embody it. Even speak from it. All while in eye contact – let your parter fully witness and experience this part of you
  7. Pause and process what just happened
  8. Repeat steps 4-7 in opposite roles

Take the vulnerable leap!

If you avoid vulnerability, your relationships will feel shallow, grey, and unfulfilling. While it is terrifying to continually step into vulnerability, it will create intimacy that makes life feel meaningful and worth living.

Try these exercises out, and see what you discover.

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