Emotional vulnerability is a risk in nearly all intimate relationships.

How to Be Open Emotionally With Men Without Getting Hurt

by Anna Green

If you have been in a bad relationship in the past or have experienced other types of hurt, the thought of being emotionally open might make you feel vulnerable or scared. However, without being emotionally open, it can be difficult to get to know men and potentially form meaningful bonds and lasting relationships.

Set Boundaries

Being emotionally open does not mean that you need to share all your thoughts, feelings and experiences. By setting clear boundaries about what you are willing to talk about, you can protect yourself and move your relationship at an emotional pace that is comfortable to you, explains marriage and family therapist Licia Ginne on her practice’s website, LATherapists.com. In the early stages of getting to know a man, it is particularly important that you use discretion in what you share.

Move at a Slow Pace

Along with setting boundaries, not moving too quickly in a relationship can potentially protect you from getting hurt. If you jump into a serious relationship without fully understanding each other’s habits and personality, you may find that you are not a good fit. “The phrase ‘too hot not to cool down’ has validity,” explains counselor James Dobson. “Romantic affairs that begin in a frenzy frequently burn themselves out,” he explains. Such relationships can lead a breakup and the potential hurt that comes when you part ways. The negative effects of a breakup can be particularly hurtful if you moved quickly with your emotional disclosures.

Manage Your Own Emotions

If you have emotional triggers from past relationships or experiences, try to address these issues on your own before and during your relationships. In some circumstances, this might mean talking to a counselor. In other cases, you may be able to manage your fears on your own by journaling, partaking of exercise or by speaking with trusted friends or family. One of the keys to an emotionally healthy connection with a man is to look at your own relationship patterns, habits and personal history, advises counselor Margarita Tartakovsky and psychologist Mark E. Sharp in the PsychCentral article, “How to Prepare to be in a Good Relationship.”

Take Calculated Risks

Every relationship poses some degree of emotional risk. In other words, there is no guarantee that a man will not hurt you after you are emotionally open with him. Additionally, in some cases, your fears about getting hurt may not be based on your present interactions, but they might stem from people and events that have long passed out of your life. These worries may be irrational and unfounded, says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, professor of psychology, in the “Psychology Today” article, “What to Do When Your Relationship Worries Get to You.” Whitbourne urges people who worry about emotional vulnerability in relationships to do a reality check and see if their fears are grounded in the man’s behavior or in their own anxiety that stems from personal unresolved issues. If you are not seeing signs that your emotional openness will lead to hurt, then it might be worth taking the risk and talking to your man about your innermost thoughts and feelings.

About the Author

Anna Green has been published in the "Journal of Counselor Education and Supervision" and has been featured regularly in "Counseling News and Notes," Keys Weekly newspapers, "Travel Host Magazine" and "Travel South." After earning degrees in political science and English, she attended law school, then earned her master's of science in mental health counseling. She is the founder of a nonprofit mental health group and personal coaching service.

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