Vulnerability Is the New Foreplay
It was all going well…until it wasn’t. I was seeing this guy. We had been dating for a few months when the ball dropped. All of a sudden, our coy politeness had come to an end. As we tip-toed around each other via text, reading into every ‘lol,’ emoji or period, we realized our issues were never going to be solved over the phone (hello, passive-aggressive responses), and we decided to meet and talk it out over a coffee. If he knew what went wrong and owned up to his side of things, I was happy to move on. But if he was going to apologize for the sake of an apology, then I had to rethink us. I realized that I wanted more for myself than a quick dusting of problems under the rug—something I’ve always done in the past.
Much to my surprise, he approached the conversation with emotional intelligence, maturity and eloquence. Even better, when it was my turn to speak, he was actively listening. Once I saw the pain on his face as I expressed my assumptions of his motives, I realized just how sincere his intentions were. While I asked for some time to think after our talk, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming attraction toward him that I hadn’t before. It was as though the walls had come down, and our demure actions towards each other (the very thing that led us to this situation) were a thing of the past. All this to say that his vulnerability left me, shall we say, turned on.
And this got me thinking…is vulnerability the new foreplay? I spoke with award-winning somatic sexoligist, Jaiya, to get to the bottom of all things vulnerability.
What does vulnerability look like in new relationships?Jaiya starts by describing vulnerability as “A powerful ingredient to creating willing alignment between two people who wish to get their true desires fulfilled and their needs met.” Basically, it’s a way of exposing your most authentic you. And here’s the thing: I understand that practicing vulnerability when you’ve only been seeing someone for a few months can be completely terrifying—but it doesn’t have to be. When you’ve been dating someone for a short amount of time, their intentions can be unclear, but if you’re willing to bare it all, it can transform your relationship.
But how do you start? Jaiya suggests gauging your partner’s willingness and responsiveness when you choose to be vulnerable. For example, “I hear what you’re saying, and I’d like to know how I can meet your needs,” shows a receptive and open partner, versus a reactive, “Why are you so needy? I’m already doing that for you,” retort that undermines your needs.
What does vulnerability look like in long-term relationships?
For those couples that have stood the test of time, “Vulnerability can be one of the most powerful emotional tools to deepen intimacy, repair a hurt or find a path towards mutual satisfaction when you want different things,” Jaiya says. The possibility of exposing deep secrets, wants or needs can cause anxiety amongst a lot of people, but taking that step towards being vulnerable, while scary, builds the fundamental trust that will hold the relationship together through trying times.
How do you practice vulnerability?
First, before you decide to get vulnerable and let the floodgates open, Jaiya suggests asking yourself these three questions to assess how ready you are to be vulnerable:
- Are you emotionally grounded?
- Do you have the capacity to self-sooth and self-regulate strong emotions?
- Have you developed your own emotional intelligence, so you’re not putting too much pressure on a new person to fulfill unfilled desires?
“You want to come to these challenging conversations with a down-regulated nervous system,” Jaiya explains. “Calm and clear-headed.” If you’re not feeling calm and clear-headed, there’s no shame, she tells us, in tabling the conversation for a better time. Taking a few days to process and weigh the various perspectives at hand before sitting down with your partner to discuss miscommunications promotes a healthy bond supported by active listening. Plus, it ensures that both parties can approach a conversation with ease rather than bracing for defense.
Once you do feel comfortable getting vulnerable around your partner, remember to use “I” statements. Jaiya says that “it is very important to speak from your personal experience and not blame, shame or judge your partner,” when you’re both at your most vulnerable. Pose questions and be adamant about resolving the situation as a team.
Even the science confirms: vulnerability is the new foreplay
If you, like me, have ever felt turned on by your partner’s vulnerability, you’re not imaging it: The same chemical that’s essential to arousal, oxytocin, is released in your bloodstream when you’re experiencing true and authentic vulnerability. In a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, researchers found that oxytocin—while a key role in sexual responsiveness—also positively affects one’s nurturing and caring behaviors. Choosing to be your most vulnerable self with your partner can also help strengthen the love and connection you both feel for each other, chemically.
The bottom line is, practicing vulnerability in positive ways can be an aphrodisiac. So, if you ever find yourself in a predicament like mine, wondering why you’re suddenly feeling hot and bothered when you look at your partner as they’re opening up to you, go ahead and let these pleasure-inducing hormones surge on (and get to the bedroom ASAP).