The conversation of vulnerability comes up so often in our group discussions that I felt it was an important and meaningful topic to address. So many relationship challenges can be traced back to our fear of vulnerability.

Naturally so, because many of us learned to become risk-averse, especially when it came to our emotions. Vulnerability is scary!

There are relationship coaches out there who tell women to date around, while others suggest not dating at all; that we should act aloof, or we should hold scorecards on attentiveness.

All of this advice, as well-meaning as it may be, serves one purpose and gets one result – to create an invisible, protective wall around our hearts, to prevent us from getting hurt.

Unfortunately, this feels like game-playing, and it sends mixed signals. When we keep everyone at arm’s length, there’s no intimacy. When our actions and words don’t align with our feelings, the disconnect is obvious. We appear awkward, closed off, and unavailable.

Guess what happens in return? Our partners seem closed off, protected, and distant. It becomes a circular, reactive, self-fulfilling prophecy in relationship shutdown.

No one wants to get hurt. It all comes down to fear of rejection.

Fear of rejection is a pervasive feeling that affects men and women alike, and many of us learn that to avoid rejection, we expertly stage an emotional life with less openness to hurt.

Less vulnerability.

Whether that means burying our insecurities, overly boasting about our achievements, or “one-upping” those around us, we find all sorts of crazy ways to avoid vulnerability.

We may worry that if we showed our fears and flaws with those we love, they’d change their minds about us. They’d reject us, judge us, or leave us.

Yet, without vulnerability, we miss out on the truest value of life – the beauty of intimacy and connection. Shared vulnerability is what deeply connects souls together.

To bring this into the romantic relationship context, we find that men are attracted to open-hearted women because of the way it makes them feel. It gives him the signal that you, too, can be trusted with his fears and thoughts.

Letting our guards down and trusting someone with whom to share our deepest fears and wishes is like jumping off the high dive – elating.

When you take time to discover what makes you feel vulnerable, as well as what makes him feel vulnerable, you create ways to support each other, validate each other, and open up to each other.

And, that kind of connection is what creates the really beautiful, mutually-nurturing relationship that inspires sonnets and love stories.