Research shows that vulnerability is key to strengthening a marriage, unlocking greater intimacy with your spouse, and feeling more secure in the most important relationship in your life. But it isn’t easy to open yourself up, even with the one you love the most. We all have trouble overcoming pride and exposing every part of ourselves to another person.
Someday, though, your spouse may be the one to bathe you or help you go to the restroom. Learn to see this as a beautiful sacrifice of service—not as an icky chore to be endured—right now. Because that’s the kind of closeness and self-giving that will get you joyfully through life together. You accomplish that by getting comfortable with being vulnerable.
- Ask for help.
Staying honest is a huge part of staying vulnerable in marriage. Healthy marriages don’t keep secrets.
It’s not easy to come to your spouse and say: “I’m not handling this well today.” It’s difficult to admit weakness to the person whose opinion and respect you value most. But it’s essential to feeling supported and loved by your spouse.
So, on difficult days, in tough trials, and even just when you’re fighting the worst cold of your life, set aside your pride and tell your spouse that you need some extra help. It’s not that you can’t do it—it’s just that you can’t do it alone. That’s the beauty of marriage: you shouldn’t do it alone.
And by the way, this isn’t just about needing an extra hand on chores or some time to unwind. Ask, too, for what you need emotionally: something they can do to show appreciation for you, or affection, or whatever area in which you need extra care.
- Keep trying to make each other laugh.
My husband and I don’t have the same sense of humor, so we don’t always laugh at each other’s jokes.
But laughter is good medicine. It’s a balm for tense conversations and stressful circumstances. So, when I’m feeling good and silly, I think up a joke that might tickle my husband and let it loose. Often, I just get a little chuckle for my effort, but sometimes it’s a big laugh—a big, validating laugh.
Trying to make someone laugh is an inherently vulnerable behavior. It implies trust (that our silliness won’t be mocked or rejected). It seeks approval. It boosts our self-confidence and it delights us to see our partner amused. A husband and wife who work to delight each other, even and especially in this small way, are a more bonded team.
- Go to bed at the same time.
It’s almost natural for a man and woman living their very busy, very grown-up lives to fall into habit. They divide tasks; they manage a calendar; they get through each day.
But are they working together? Or are they simply living together?
Complacency is dangerous, in part, because it’s so easy to find yourself in it without knowing how you got there. You might wake up one morning and realize you and your spouse haven’t spoken about anything beyond logistics or the children in weeks. You might realize one Friday evening, while your husband is out with friends and you’re relaxing at home, that you haven’t done something new together in months.
Date nights and deep conversation are important ways to dodge this trap. Another is prioritizing each other in your daily routines. You want to avoid becoming two adults living in the same house on their own schedules. To do that, you build a schedule together—and you are open with one another about what that schedule needs to look like.
Does this mean you can’t have a night or two each week to focus on your own passions and go to bed when you want? Of course not—and that can be a healthy outlet. But if you’re ending most of your days side by side with a kiss goodnight, you’re prioritizing intimacy and vulnerability.
- Resist the urge to get defensive in response to honesty.
Sometimes your spouse calls you out. Often, that perspective is helpful. But almost never is it pleasant to hear.
It could be that he’s holding you accountable for a broken promise or an incomplete task. Maybe she’s pointing out a bad habit you’ve discussed before, but fallen back into. There will be plenty of moments like these throughout your marriage.
It’s difficult to face these confrontations because we want to be superheroes for our families. We want to be good at everything we do for them. And yet, deep down, we know we aren’t good at everything—we know we’re far from perfect. It’s hard to face someone else’s acknowledgment of that fact.
So we resort to defense mechanisms: “I don’t know what you’re talking about” or “You’re not understanding me” or “I’m sorry you feel that way.” But these things don’t help. They build walls that are hard to break down.
Try very hard to listen instead of lay bricks when your spouse approaches you with a difficult truth. It’s hard to let them open that perceived wound and accept their criticism, but you can’t heal what you refuse to see.
- Don’t prioritize “mystery” in your marriage.
Real talk: I don’t like using the toilet or passing gas or inspecting my face for blemishes in front of my husband. Privacy is important to me in these contexts.
That’s not true for everyone, and many comfort levels are okay. What’s not healthy, though, is forcing a sense of “mystery” into your marriage. Are modesty, privacy, and hygiene preferences among your rights, married or not? Absolutely. But these aren’t the same as hiding what’s raw and human about you from your spouse in the interest of “keeping the mystery alive.”
Don’t get me wrong: spontaneity and surprise are important for a happy marriage. You can embrace those by sharing no-reason gifts or conversation prompts, exploring new locations together, and staying curious about one another.
But when you’re suffering or recovering from an illness, experiencing the less-than-glamorous details of childbirth and postpartum recovery, or trying to get a better handle on your health, you deserve to have a partner by your side—someone who loves you, down to every last bit, and isn’t squeamish about it. So don’t hide yourself. Don’t be ashamed.