Not everyone is always actively seeking a relationship, but when we do land in one, we do all want it to be happy and successful. Although there is no way to ensure this, Brooke Williams, a counselor from Better Way Counseling & Coaching, says achieving vulnerability with your S.O. is a good start. Without it, Williams says relationships become based on assumptions, specifically about the other person鈥檚 wants and needs.

A couple hugs

Unfortunately, however, vulnerability 鈥 or the expression of one鈥檚 wants and needs openly 鈥 doesn鈥檛 come easily to many people. 鈥淭his can be because of previous rejection that has shut them off or just from learning behaviors that don鈥檛 support openness,鈥 explains Williams. But, as with most things, she says practice makes perfect. Here are five of her professional tips on attaining openness.

1. Accept your feelings. If you haven鈥檛 taken the time to be honest with your partner, there鈥檚 a chance you haven鈥檛 done so with yourself either. Williams says you must acknowledge your feelings with yourself to start. How? She recommends journaling 鈥 and not just about menial things. 鈥淕o as deep as you can to uncover the thoughts and feelings that you may not have realized were there,鈥 Williams urges.

2. Ask for support. If you have been in a committed relationship without being actively vulnerable, there may be a noticeable shift in the dynamic as you begin to open up. Prepare them for this. 鈥淕et your partner on board,鈥 says Williams, because 鈥渧ulnerability means the good and the bad.鈥 But the payoff 鈥 fulfillment, connectedness, intimacy 鈥 is worth it, Williams assures us in the same way you should assure your partner.

A couple smiles together on the couch

3. Take it slow. It may seem inorganic initially, but Williams recommends actually scheduling time each week to have these conversations. 鈥淭his can help to alleviate constant brain/emotion 鈥榙umps鈥 and sort your feelings and thoughts first.鈥 Make sure to make these conversations balanced with both positive and more difficult talking points, she suggests, so as to make them more productive and less burdensome.

4. Reciprocate. By being vulnerable with your partner, you are inviting them to do so in return. So Williams underscores the importance of responding to their vulnerability the same way you would want them to respond to yours 鈥 with acceptance, empathy, and a lack of judgment or reproach. 鈥淭he more you do these things, even in moments of surprise or upset, the more you will cultivate vulnerability as a value in your relationship,鈥 she encourages.

5. Practice, practice, practice. Throughout the process, Williams recommends continuing to journal about your feelings, because by identifying your thoughts in this way you will begin to feel safer sharing your feelings out loud. Also, keep up with your weekly check-ins with your partner, and remain open to your partner鈥檚 vulnerability. In time, it will become second nature.

If you are still struggling to open up, Williams suggests seeking professional help for support. They will be able to help you identify feelings and open up in a different, non-judgmental environment.

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