My Partner Can’t Be Vulnerable (5 key tips)

In this article we will look at why your partner can’t be vulnerable and what could be holding them back from you emotionally.

Why can’t your partner be vulnerable?

There could be an array of reasons why your partner can’t be vulnerable. Usually, these are deep-rooted in past experiences. Let’s try to understand some of them.

  • They have trust issues 
  • They have had bad experiences in the past 
  • They think it makes them weak
  • They are not good at expressing their emotions 
  • They do not know how to be vulnerable
  • They fear rejection  
  • They have abandonment issues
  • They want to safeguard their heart
  • It’s a trauma response 
  • They are a product of their society

How do I make my partner more vulnerable?

You can’t force someone to be vulnerable, but you can do the following things to make them feel emotionally safe enough to open up to you. 

  • Show them that they can trust you
  • Be supportive of their needs
  • Take responsibility when you make a mistake
  • Don’t use what they have told you in confidence against them
  • Refrain from making jokes at their emotional expense 
  • Open up to them yourself
  • Offer them a safe space in you

Vulnerability is the willingness to be emotionally exposed and comes with a certain degree of uncertainty of what will happen next. It involves taking the risk to love and be loved. 

No one likes getting their heart broken and some people will do anything in their power to prevent that from happening. Your partner can’t be vulnerable if they are fearful of what might happen when they are. What if you changed your mind about them?  

People build walls around their heart and have their guards up to protect themselves from emotional pain. Rather than aiming to take those walls down, try to climb them by earning their trust. 

Let your partner know subliminally that you are there for them in whatever capacity you need them to be.  

Why can’t your partner be vulnerable?

They have trust issues 

Trust is a fragile thing. It takes years to build and can be broken in an instant. Your partner can’t be vulnerable if they have trust issues. It can seem naive and risky for them to be too trusting. 

In trusting you, it would mean that they have to relinquish their power to some extent, and in doing so, they are at risk of being harmed if you do not take seriously the ethical demands of having that power.

If you are expecting them to be vulnerable with you, you have to first earn their trust. 

They have had bad experiences in the past 

If your partner is carrying emotional baggage from their previous relationships into the one they share with you, it could be why they can’t be vulnerable. 

Maybe they have opened up to previous partners and it has backfired on them. Unresolved stresses from the past can create barriers that are hard for them to come back from. 

Being vulnerable in love may bring out painful memories and demons that they do not want to face. These difficulties may be challenging to overcome and require patience and love till they are ready to overcome them.

They think it makes them weak

Vulnerability is no way a weakness. In fact, it is one of the most courageous acts a person can do, especially when in a relationship. 

Your partner can’t be vulnerable if they do not see it for what it is though because maybe they were actively discouraged from opening up. It may have made them into the person they are. 

Help them see that vulnerability is a state of empowerment where a person may not have control over a situation but is willing to attempt something. 

Show them that failing at making headway or having some emotional success is better than making no attempt at a connection at all.

They are not good at expressing their emotions 

Let’s be honest—being in touch with your emotions and then expressing them to another takes some serious courage. Not everyone has the willingness to even acknowledge their emotions, much less when it comes to sharing painful ones. 

Your partner can’t be vulnerable if they are not good at expressing their emotions. Their instinct to avoid feeling bad may be keeping them from doing so. 

You can’t force it out of them and should not. They need to feel comfortable enough to share these experiences with you. What you can do is let them know that whenever they are ready, you’ll be there to listen.

They do not know how to be vulnerable

A lot of people, especially those who have spent their entire lives hiding their emotions, find it difficult to understand what vulnerability exactly is. They only have a notion of what it actually means and it is probably a negative one. 

Your partner can’t be vulnerable if they don’t know how to; It’s up to you to explain it to them by opening up to them first. 

If they see you do it, they will be more at ease to let you in.

They fear rejection  

Self-loathing is a curse and can fuel the fear of rejection. If your partner is afraid of showing you what they think are flaws, it could be why they can’t be vulnerable with you.

They do not want to be unworthy of your love and risk losing you, so they keep their emotions stifled and bottled up. 

It is up to you to not judge them for sharing their innermost thoughts and deepest feelings. 

They have abandonment issues

People with abandonment issues often struggle in relationships, be it romantic or platonic. This stems from their fear of losing loved ones. 

They could be mentally preparing for you to leave however far-fetched that may be. Their inability to communicate this angst may be why your partner can’t be vulnerable with you. 

It’s difficult for them to convince themselves of the possibility that this may work out, so they shut themselves off in anticipation of your exit.  

They want to safeguard their heart

We all have suffered through heartbreaks and hopefully learned from our previous relationships. Sometimes, however, we hold on to bad memories as life lessons. 

To safeguard their heart from getting broken again, your partner may feel like they can’t get vulnerable with you.  

Sure, they may not get hurt this way, but they will never truly know the power of love and the joy it brings either. Reassure them with your words and more importantly, actions that you won’t use their vulnerability against them. 

It’s a trauma response 

The need for hyper-independence and stonewalling in a relationship are signs of deep-rooted trauma. Stonewalling is the persistent refusal to communicate or to express emotions. That there lies the problem of why your partner can’t be vulnerable.

Acknowledging and accepting emotions is the first step towards being open about them to you. Over the years, they have learned to carry on like this as a means of coping with whatever trauma they hold within themselves. 

Therapy can greatly help them face these issues. Suggest seeking the help of a counsellor at an appropriate time without being forceful about it.  

They are a product of their society

If your partner has been raised to believe that strength lies in keeping emotions in check, they will not let what they are feeling come to the forefront. 

Men, right from when they are little boys, are told that they must not feel things.  They are repeatedly discouraged from showing any emotion (other than anger, of course) or risk being looked at as being weak. 

Your partner can’t be vulnerable out of the blue if they have been told their whole life to be a certain way. It will take some time for them to unlearn these damaging behaviours. 

They should be able to with your help and compassion and that of a profession, if needed.


Yes, vulnerability can be terrifying, but once people get over their initial apprehensions, it is so worth it. Not only does it bring partners closer than ever, it is also a freeing individual experience.

Let your partner take baby steps to open up to you. Any coercion may spook them to retreat back into their shells. Let them see how being vulnerable improves your relationships, and it may even become more attractive for the both of you.

FAQs: My partner can’t be vulnerable

What does it mean if you have a hard time being vulnerable? 

Vulnerability can be scary. Being vulnerable means agreeing to open the doors to the possibility of getting hurt. It often means expressing your weaknesses and letting someone in to see them. 

Can you fall in love without being vulnerable? 

It is possible to fall in love without being vulnerable, but loving someone without being emotionally open means that a part of them is already prepared to let them go. This happens when you are wary and don’t expect any reciprocation from the other person.

How vulnerable should you be in a relationship?

Being vulnerable in a relationship is necessary to build intimacy with your partner. You allow them to get to know you fully warts and all. Connections are forged in shared thoughts, feelings, challenges and weaknesses. 

Why is it hard to be vulnerable in a relationship?

Vulnerability requires a great deal of trust in your partner. You have to trust that they won’t use your weaknesses against you, but more importantly, you have to be open to yourself. The ability to be vulnerable requires one to believe that they are worthy of a meaningful connection.


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