How To Be Vulnerable Without Being Needy- 7+ Love Experts Share Fascinating Insights On Creating a Strong, Passionate and Long-Lasting Relationship
Wondering how to be vulnerable without being needy? In this column, the top relationship experts and love coaches reveal invaluable insights on how to practice vulnerability without worrying about coming across as insecure or needy...
Vulnerability is a very scary place.
You can only truly be as close in a relationship as you can be vulnerable. So how do you do something that scary for such a huge reward?
By reminding yourself of how huge that reward is.
No one can truly live and experience the wonders of life has to offer without having people in your life that you care about but also care about you. So, again I repeat, you can only be as close to others as you allow them to be to you. You have to be vulnerable.
This does not mean that you are a damsel in distress.
Understanding where you begin and where you end is important. The amount of independence and need depends on who you are. Everyone is different and being true to you will allow you to be with the person that fits with you and friends that make up your world.
The idea is to accept assistance with grace, not demand or expectation.
When someone inquiries about what has you down, discuss only what you wish to tell, not pushed into. When you’re in a new relationship, friend or intimate, discuss your preferences and views of the world. Once you have a relationship with new trust gradually let your back story be told. Along the way, accepting help or finding security in kind words of comfort, encouragement and understanding of who you are and what make you, you, the relationship will flourish.
Understand if someone provides a compliment, accept it with a “thank you”.
This is a vulnerable thing. If someone feels bad about something you are experiencing and have kind words or assistance, accept this not a pity but as someone showing kindness to you. Kindness that for whatever you did in the past has them feeling positive about having you in their lives. This is a good thing but can be felt as an insult if rejected.
Accepting kindness of others is the vast majority of feeling vulnerable. When someone cares about you and wants to assist, we feel bad that we cannot take care of ourselves. Although this is a fantasy we tell ourselves. Everyone needs assistance, and everyone needs kind words. Be plentiful with this to others, and you will see how people wish to be around you.
Needy is vulnerability to excess.
Generally, out of desperation or fear. Fear of losing someone. This can make vulnerability look as needy. We all have times we need more than normal. That itself is normal. This is not the everyday.
If you are being told you are needy, then realize it is the view of the other person who feels your being to “needy” so learn to back off gradually not completely shut down. Don’t feel insulted because we can only interact with the understanding of who they are, as they need to know us. Learning how to interact and allowing others to know about us, is being vulnerable. We grow as we learn to listen and accept.
There is no requirement of how many, what kind or how often you have people in your life, but your experiences with them is what makes life. Go and find that treasure chest waiting to be opened!
Katherine Woodworth, LPC, CRC – www.fairwaycounseling.com
Anyone who has looked up the definition of vulnerable in the dictionary would certainly surmise it not to be a quality worth aspiring to.
The first definition is capable of being wounded, the second is open to attack or damage. Not only are these definitions unappealing, they have “run for your life” written all over them. Where is the definition that says “brave beyond measure?” Or one that says, “The only way to get the joy you crave?”
All of these definitions, the ones currently in the dictionary and also the extra two I described embrace more fully what vulnerable has meant to me in my own life.
I remember the specific moment vulnerability set me free.
It was a day in April that I was walking down the middle of the beautiful dead end street that we call home in the Adirondack mountains of NY. I had been separated from my first husband, the father of my kids, for about 6 months and we had been fighting over some minor custody disagreement for 3 weeks.
Our separation had been more than amicable, and so this disagreement was out of character for the whole “feel” of the situation. This April day as I walked, I was thinking about our ongoing disagreement and I had a realization that was completely new.
I thought, “All of this conflict is happening because I am afraid to get hurt.” I stopped walking. It was a moment of truth and I felt the freedom in my body and mind. I could see that we were both fighting because of that fear.
The thing we fear the most, hurt, was exactly what we were causing each other.
I smiled, free from the pain I had been experiencing as I consciously choose to open my heart despite the fact that I could have an arrow thrown directly at it the next time my phone rang or I checked my email.
Our fear of being hurt is a lie, but it feels true.
The reason for this is because every thought that we think is paired with a body sensation and every body sensation is paired with a thought. The sensation may be so imperceptible that we don’t even notice it, but in the case where our fear of being vulnerable overrides the ability to receive the love that we really want, that sensation can get completely overwhelming. So overwhelming, in fact, that our thoughts flood the conscious mind with ideas of retreat, hiding or defensiveness.
In order for us to continue to move forward in the face of these overwhelming sensations and thoughts, we need to use our conscious mind in a very focused way to understand and know that the dragon we feel like we are fighting is merely an illusion to protect ourselves.
In order to be vulnerable and get the love, money and success we want in our lives we actually need to consciously open ourselves up to a barrage of possible sensations and thoughts that are telling us, “RUN AWAY or you will die!”
Anyone who want to take their lives to the next level in love, business, relationships AND joy, rather then pushing through in a way that leaves us hardened and armored to the world must get through this onslaught of thoughts and sensations that will bubble up from the subconscious mind. In order to achieve success with this, our company has developed a process to help people “getting REAL”; realize, expect, align and love.
First reveal your true desires. What are do you really want, for example more love, joy, peace or freedom? Look one step deeper than your current situation and ask yourself, “What do I really want here?”
Second, understand that you are used to expecting what you’ve always gotten in your life, not the outcome that you are longing for.
For example, if you have wanted more freedom in your life, but you are used to life seeming hectic and overwhelming, you expect hectic and overwhelming and so that is the outcome that your going to get again and again.
The meaning we attribute to our current circumstances is manufactured by our subconscious mind, that part of the mind that we are unaware of and helps us by running any body or mind program that we do not need to consciously think about.
If you want to change the program, you need to first realize that you have an expectation that you will get the life you have, not the one that you want.
Next, you’ll need to make sure that your behaviors, thoughts and words align to what you really want.
This will begin to consciously change your programing, resulting eventually in a new expectation and a new result.
Lastly, once align with our desires, new opportunities will show up in our lives.
And we need to lovingly step into those new opportunities in order to create the life we are looking for. That process WILL require vulnerability because we will need to challenge the sensations that tell us we are not safe.
When I realized that day, walking down the street, that I was afraid of being hurt, I saw my sensations and thoughts in a new, conscious, light.
I realized that my behavior was being driven by my fears rather than by love and I was able to align with what I really wanted, a compassionate relationship with my ex-spouse, my kids and myself.
I changed my behavior from fighting to listening, I changed my thoughts from “what’s the matter with him” to “all is right and I am safe and loved” and I changed my words from defensive words to loving words. All of the sudden vulnerability left nothing to fear. And I got what I wanted.
Ani Anderson, Motivational Speaker and Life Coach – www.practicalalchemist.com
When it comes to relationships, to be vulnerable is to open and expose yourself to the possibility of being hurt.
It’s not that you are putting yourself out there for the sole purpose of getting hurt by any and every one. You’re simply saying, hey look, I’m willing to take a chance.
That’s confidence in yourself that you know you’ll be able to handle what comes.
It takes a woman who is comfortable in her own skin and confident with who she is, to leave a part of herself exposed for potential harm. Of course, she hopes she doesn’t; but she’s willing to chance it.
To be needy on the other hand, is to have a serious lack for something; to the point that it puts you in an awkward and compromising position.
It’s like there’s no out for you. No way of escape or other option. It’s a delicate place to be in. This woman lacks the confidence to back herself up with what’s needed, and therefore looks for it in others; mainly men.
While being vulnerable can be a scary thing, it’s not something you go around doing with everyone you meet just because you’re and open person. You should be selective. It should be a conscious decision to disarm yourself with someone so that you can get to know them, and in turn, they can get to know the real you.
It’s times like these that you want to listen carefully and be observant.
When you are not clear about something, ask questions for clarity. If you don’t get answers, check how you’re feeling about this. Move cautiously. It may come back to bite you. Listen to yourself. Learn to trust yourself.
Practice openness in small ways, with something that’s not as delicate.
If these small tests make it, continue to proceed. If they don’t, be very cautious. Not picky. Cautious. You must not only take good care of you, but also teach him how to do the same; as well as watch what he’s teaching you.
It takes this to get to real intimacy in a relationship. Take it slow and steady. Don’t expose too much at one time. And watch the guy who does.
Your relationship will teach you more about yourself than you would learn on your own. So, enjoy the journey, as you learn to be open, honest, and vulnerable with yourself first. That’s growth.
Barbara Ann Williams, LPC, MS – www.barbaraannwilliams.com
There is a reason that so often you’ve heard that the key to any successful relationship is self love, this seems counter intuitive but its true.
Without a strong sense of self to tether back to, you will constantly be looking for your validation from your partner or potential partner. This is the “needy” feeling or vibe that you give off when you’re not whole and secure within, this is the place that gives love just to receive it, with expectation and conditions attached. A Conscious man of value will feel that immediately.
Now, there is a vast difference from “needy” and longing… longing for the next touch from he who’s fingers are so delicious, longing for the moment when he holds you into his chest and his scent infuses your being, longing to merge together to create art, to create ties, maybe even to create life. Longing to hear how his day was, longing for him to open up to you and share his hopes, his dreams, his fears, his deepest desires. THIS longing is a delicious place to be.
Within your full life that you’ve created with yourself, within your fullness and inner peace, you have this longing for this man because you value him and your connection.
A conscious man of value will feel that as well. Not only will he feel it, he will be drawn in by the vulnerable open beauty of your heart.
Express your desire for him.
When he least expects it, let him know why and how he makes your soul sing. Tell him your hopes and dreams for yourself, for each other, tell him when he let’s you down, or you feel triggered or afraid of loosing him…. Express yourself from your heart in the hopes of a coming together, an understanding, a compromise, of going deeper into the deliciousness of what could be… being authentic, being vulnerable, being real… is very different than being needy.
Remember that at the end of the day it is a feeling so if you’re questioning now ‘how AM I giving love…’ check in, are you sharing authentically as you feel, are you giving to give because you feel it and it feels so good! Not keeping tabs or playing games, or withholding until you receive etc etc etc. just open heartedly giving? You’ll also feel the difference.
Are you truly witnessing and experiencing your partner or potential for who they are?
That’s the thing about needy love, loving just to be validated or to receive, you’re constantly waiting for your expectations to be met and fulfilled that so often you don’t even truly SEE the other person. You’re so upset that you haven’t gotten a response that you can’t see that; they never connect in when they are traveling or they don’t like to talk when they’ve had a bad day, or sometimes they need space to breathe to process before they can speak.
To witness that they thoughtfully picked something in your favorite color, or shared one of your favorite songs…those are things you can only see when you love just to love without need, without condition. That, my friends, the experience of knowing someone deeper and deeper and deeper layer by layer by layer, of two full souls giving and receiving and giving and receiving love, fluidly, without tabs, just because is the most incredible experience you will ever have. To deeply know another person, to long to please, delight, serve, value, inspire them and they you.
So, check in with yourself, if you’re in that needy place, fill yourself with that love, look in the mirror and see how amazing you are, and do the work necessary to get yourself to a place of fullness where you can be authentic and vulnerable and deliciously thirsty and openly longing for love. The right man will find that to be a breath of fresh air, even when it’s challenging at least its true.
Ashley Davene, Relationship Counselor - www.ashleydavene.com
I have been in a handful of relationships that ended with no clean, defined conclusion.
These ex-partners continue to pop up in dreams, in the faces of people on the train, and in my daily thoughts. These relationships are my unfinished business, and until I am able to examine why they ended so abruptly, they will keep haunting me.
The one thing these relationships had in common was a lack of openness with one another.
In each of these relationships, I never quite felt like I could be my total, 100% authentic self. It always felt like there was something lacking. And if I felt that, I’m sure my partners did as well.
But now I am in a commitment that is 100% different than any other one I have ever been in, one that not only ended in marriage, but has taught me so much about myself and about how to truly be with someone.
It’s all about vulnerability.
Have you ever looked back on a relationship and wished you’d shared more of yourself? Opened up more? Made yourself more vulnerable?
Just the thought of vulnerability can be terrifying and cause a person to hide under her down comforter.
Being vulnerable is scary, but it can also be a time for growth and opportunity.
But how do you make yourself vulnerable in your relationship, without coming off as needy, or even worse, desperate?
Start small. Try it a little bit at a time. Give a tiny morsel of yourself to your partner, and see how he reacts. If you feel comfortable and secure with how he accepts what you’ve told him, start to share a little bit more, and so on.
Vulnerability needn’t be an all or nothing exchange.
It doesn’t have to be you telling your date about how you’ve failed at all of your relationships because your expectations are too high. Whoa sister, pump the breaks. Start off sharing something small, but still intimate, like how your previous partner caught you masturbating while watching midget porn.
Then, see what he shares back with you. If he takes your vulnerability bait and shares some tidbit about himself that is equally as open, then you two may be on the same page.
Once a bit of trust has been established, move on to something a bit more personal.
Let your partner see you in your natural element: among family or friends. This is a huge step for lots of relationships, especially if you don’t share a common friend group. Allowing your partner to see you with people who know you best allows for him to see you in a completely new light. I act more free and open when I am with my best friends and siblings than I do, in a room, alone, with a new partner. Allow for him to see you in a space when you are your most comfortable.
Keep checking in with yourself to make sure he is sharing as much of himself with you as you are with him. Have you seen him in his natural element with friends or family?
Try for something a little bigger next.
Are you on an antidepressant? Do you see a therapist? Is your sibling transgender? Opening up at this level shows your partner that you are human and that you have a story. And how he reacts to your openness tells a lot about his worldview. Is he one of those people who still sees a stigma in mental health treatment? Is he homophobic? Are these deal-breakers for you?
Trust yourself. Trust your gut.
If it doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it. If you are too afraid to share with your partner about the horrible, awful, no good, very bad day you had at work, for fear that he will think you’re whining and complaining, how will you feel after ten years of marriage? Stifled? Inauthentic. Alone. It’s not a good feeling to be in a room with someone, or in bed with someone, and not feel like you can tell them anything that’s on your mind, and they will still be there in the morning. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Second guessing everything you say, how you say it, doubting everything about your whole existence. That is not what a healthy relationship feels like. Healthy relationships are give and take. In thoughts and in actions.
So try it. Remember, start small. See what your partner chooses to share with you, too. Vulnerability often times leads to more vulnerability which then leads to a full-blown relationship.
Stephanie Weinblatt, MA, LCPC - www.healthylivingcounselingcenter.com
Sue Johnson says "as humans we are wired to connect."
However, in order to really feel connected and intimate to another, one needs to be vulnerable.
I often coach my clients in understanding the difference between having needs and being needy.
Often times in relationships and especially in times of conflict, it is easier for us to express secondary emotions.
Secondary emotions are feelings like anger, resentment, and defensiveness. However, in order to cultivate a more vulnerable interaction, one needs to be able to express the more primary feelings UNDERNEATH the secondary emotions such a sadness, loss, and fear.
Once we are able to access those Primary emotions in our own individual self discovery and work, then we can relay those scary, and what seem like less desirable traits to our significant others.
Showing vulnerability to our loved one begins with being able to recognize an express that vulnerability in ourselves first.
Mallory Rose, LMFT - www.rosefamilytherapy.com
Vulnerability can be scary, especially if you have opened up to someone before and then got hurt.
This will make anyone considering being vulnerable again really afraid to try it again. Consider the following concepts prior to opening up to someone again….
First, you need to trust the man you are considering to be vulnerable with.
You may not know him well enough to trust him 100% but there should be some level of trust.
- Has he been really nice and thoughtful towards you since the day you met?
- How does he make you feel when you are around him?
- Do you feel secure?
- Do you feel uneasy?
- Do you feel safe?
- Do you feel he is worth your time?
Maybe you don’t have all the answers to these questions just yet, so then consider this: is he someone who you are interested in continuing to get to know?
If yes, and you are looking for a serious relationship, then consider if this piece of vulnerable information about yourself will help him to understand you better, and therefore, will help the both of you to bond closer together.
If he knows your vulnerabilities and he is a good guy, then he would never use them against you or think of you as needy. Does he seem like a good guy?
If yes, then consider taking that risk to be vulnerable. You have to risk your heart getting hurt in order to get the reward of a beautiful relationship that will last. You might not actually be risking your heart at all if he is truly a wonderful guy and the two of you are a great fit. But you don’t know that just yet and as of right now it feels like you are risking getting hurt.
If you do take the risk to be vulnerable and he then calls you needy, then this guy is no good.
First of all, the word “needy” acquired a bad reputation by people with an avoidant attachment style. Consider this: who doesn’t have needs? Name one person who doesn’t have needs. Exactly. All people have their needs in a relationship.
Being honest with him about your vulnerabilities will make it easier for him to be the type of partner you need him to be.
He can’t read your mind. You have to tell him what you need from him, even if telling him means you are being vulnerable. Being honest with him about your vulnerabilities means being honest with yourself about what you need in a relationship and what kind of man you need. If he isn’t able to fulfill your needs, then he may not be the right fit for you.
If you are being vulnerable, then you are being REAL not needy.
Do you want a man who will appreciate how real you are? How you’re not afraid to be you? To be brutally honest about your fears, you past hurts in life, your desires, needs and wants in life means to be raw.
If he is a serious minded man, then he will find your ability to be vulnerable refreshing because so many people today try to impress each other by being what they think their partner wants them to be. But in reality, they are serving a huge injustice to themselves, their relationship and their partner. If you want him to like you for you, the REAL you, then be the REAL YOU…and that means being vulnerable.
I suggest fighting that fear of being vulnerable.
When a moment in a conversation comes up and you have the urge to open up and tell him something that you fear will make him view you as needy, then ask yourself if he is worth knowing this piece of information about you?
Is he someone worthwhile to start a serious relationship with?
If yes, then consider opening up at that moment. It may even make it easier for him to open up to you and show you his vulnerabilities. That’s how bonds are formed. Deep bonds are formed when people aren’t afraid of being vulnerable and they take that chance and open up.
Let’s say you opened up to him and he made you feel very safe and secure. You just learned something new about his character.
Now, let’s say after you shared some of your fears with him, he laughed at you or made fun of you. You also just learned something new about his character. Now you know this guy has got to go.
Being vulnerable can serve many benefits, even if he reacts in an unpleasant manner that is still a benefit because then you didn’t waste any more time with him and now have proof that he is wrong for you.
Jacklyn Bystritsky, LCSW – www.psychotherapistjackie.wordpress.com
Often people have a very difficult time being vulnerable or open but not falling into the category of neediness.
So, what is the difference between the two you may ask. Also, then when you do figure out the difference between the two how do you put them into action in your day to day life.
Vulnerability is when we are open and have truly let our guard down.
We often are so guarded that we don’t let our emotions show or let other people know where we stand or how we feel in a variety of situations. So first we must feel safe in our relationship to truly let our guard down and be completely honest. In that honesty we would express openly how we are feeling and what would ease the rough patch in our emotions. This does not mean we are clingy, or needy, it means we are open and strong enough to express when we are happy with things and when we are not and what we would like to see changed in the relationship.
Neediness is when we do not feel at all strong enough to stand our own two feet, but absolutely feel that we need them to be whole.
It is also not letting our guard down because we feel safe in the relationship and can be open with our emotions and feelings in the relationship.
To be vulnerable instead of needy we need to first be able to stand on our own and not need another individual to feel whole or like we are good in life.
We should have the relationship add to our life not be our life. If we are truly in that place individually then we will be able to express how we feel openly and get what we need in a relationship not “need” to cling to the other for the relationship to be. If we are putting everything aside for the relationship or the other person we are being needy not vulnerable. If we are expressing our needs appropriately and they are understood and met appropriately then we are starting to be vulnerable.
Neesha Lenzini, MS - www.relationshipsinneed.com
The act of being vulnerable
Vulnerability as an adjective is defined as being susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm. We don’t normally show our vulnerability with strangers and so we are guarded in our interactions with others depending on the situation and setting. It is important not to confuse vulnerability with weakness in the context of a relationship. When we have been hurt in the past, we can tend to be guarded and confuse being vulnerable with being weak. Remember, we can be vulnerable and powerful at the same time.
Being vulnerable in the context of a relationship means letting your guard down and exposing yourself to him physically, emotionally and psychologically. At the same time, you cannot let your need for validation be more important than your need to stand up for yourself.
Being vulnerable does not mean you are needy.
We all need validation that we are safe with someone. Being vulnerable means that you are willing to share aspects of yourself like your feelings or intimate thoughts. The goal is to share without feeling judged or scrutinized. No one wants something they share about themselves to be used against them. No man is an island and as emotional beings we need to be able to be vulnerable with someone. The issue is who can you be vulnerable with and to what extent? This is not easy to discern when you first start a relationship.
The importance of boundaries
It is important to have healthy boundaries and be mindful about exposing too much when you first start a relationship. Let me explain. We need to first get to know someone and develop trust before we can share certain things. In a toxic situation, a man might tell you everything you want to hear. You let your guard down too soon and leave yourself exposed to harm if he is not who he says he is. No one willingly enters a relationship that is abusive.
This is why domestic violence is so hard to predict and reconcile when it happens. You want to believe the person that you love and what he says. He punches you as he says he loves you, so you use emotional reasoning to justify his behavior. “If I was a better partner” or “he is just wounded” are things one might say to justify his behavior.
The thing is that everyone has the power of choice; the problem is you don’t always see that as an option in an abusive situation because you are so “beaten down” and demoralized. The purpose of the abuse is to force vulnerability on you so that you will submit and lose your sense of power in the situation. It is a vicious cycle and it takes time to break free. This is why it is so important to see yourself as powerful before entering a relationship.
Take your time
You can test the waters so to speak and determine if you can trust him with certain information. Always be honest yet mindful of the tone you set in the relationship. He needs to earn your trust so that you are able to be vulnerable with him. Don’t hand over your power too quickly and too easily. We all want someone who is healthy and looks out for our well-being so we need to be healthy too.
Start the relationship slowly. Make sure that what he says is congruent with what he does. Listen to what he says but don’t over analyze. Pay attention to how you feel. Over time it will become easier to share your thoughts and feelings. It is okay to want to know what he will do with what you share before sharing more.
The difference between being needy and being vulnerable
Being needy might come in the form of sharing too much too fast and expecting him to do the same. You want to be mindful that you are not exposing yourself in a way that puts you in a vulnerable situation. There is a difference. Being needy might come in the form of your willingness to set your own needs aside and compromise yourself because you are afraid of losing him.
You might pretend to enjoy something you don’t like to get him to like you. He does not have to like everything about you and you about him. Being vulnerable is sharing your feelings and letting him see a more intimate side of your personality.
Maybe you are used to being all business and come across as hard and unemotional. When you are with him, being vulnerable might mean you let your hair down and let him see you being playful or silly. His reaction to what you share is important. You don’t want feel judged or uncomfortable. You want to be able to be yourself. If his words or reaction shut you down that is a red flag.
If you are vulnerable with him and you feel genuinely supported in your vulnerability; that is the goal. Take your time getting to know him. There is no hard and fast rule about being vulnerable because everyone is so different. Honor the way you feel and stay in your integrity.
Cultivating vulnerability in your relationship
Cultivating vulnerability in a romantic relationship takes time and effort. You need to take small steps and take chances sometimes. You will know with time how he uses the information you share with him, so pay attention. Call him out when you are feeling vulnerable and he might have been insensitive.
He needs to show you that you are safe with him and that he will do his part to protect you and take care of your heart. Talk to him honestly and take time to listen to him. He needs to be able to be vulnerable with you too. Take care of his heart the way you want him to take care of yours.
If you are concerned that you have difficulty discerning neediness from vulnerability, talk to a therapist. Being vulnerable is being able to be sick and without the glam in front of him. Being needy means you need constant attention and validation because you struggle with your self-esteem. Everyone struggles with their self-esteem and confidence to some degree.
Be honest about it and work on it. Journal about your experiences and talk to someone that can help you process your feelings. It is okay to be vulnerable and let someone else take care of you once in a while.
Ileana Hinojosa, MLA, LMFT – www.themindfullife.net
You may not, except with express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content. Nor may you transmit it or store it in any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system.