Surprise! Men Also Find Vulnerability Attractive and the Reasons Why: He Said, She Said

Here are excerpts from an article I co-wrote with Dr. Lisa Kaplin that recently appeared in The World of Psychology. In view of the many cultural pressures put on both men and women today to conform to established norms about what it means to be male or female, the article may offer a few surprises.

 “He said”by Andre Moore

The biggest secret about why men find vulnerability attractive, in the bedroom or otherwise, is this: We need women to inspire us to show our deeper feelings, so we can feel safer with them and they can feel safer with us. But it’s hard for men to be emotionally vulnerable even though, deep down, they want to be. Most men grow up believing that women expect them to:

  • Always show emotional control
  • View work as a top priority
  • Place a high value on the pursuit of status

Sometimes my wife teases me by telling me I’m “so gender-sensitive.” Once, she even called me a metrosexual, I suspect to get a rise out of me. Well, it worked. I pulled the darling woman into my arms and reminded her that I’m an ex-paratrooper who rides a motorcycle — in addition to being a good couple’s shrink. The point is that underneath her teasing, I sensed she really wanted me to remind her that she married a guy who’s stronger than any of her ex-boyfriends.

And it’s a myth to believe it’s any easier for my wife, not when she’s constantly being reminded that she should:

  • Always act nice and be graceful
  • Stay as thin and hot as a 20-year-old, even though she’s in her early 40s
  • Be modest
  • Use all available cosmetic aids to enhance her appearance (but thank heaven she’s avoided Botox!)

The greatest opportunity for men and women to express their vulnerabilities is when they’re making love. But the bedroom is often a place where they hide their true feelings, like in this scene from HBO’s Girls: Hannah in bed with Adam makes a half-hearted effort to make a deeper emotional connection with him but lapses into-role playing his sexual fantasy. “I knew when I found you on the street, you wanted it this way,” Adam tells her. “But we didn’t meet on the street,” she answers laughing. “We met at a party.” But as Adam thrusts into her she whispers, “Ah, ah … my god, on the street. Yeah, the street.”

What would have happened if Adam had shared the deeper feelings that drove his control fantasy? It may have gone differently if Hannah had told Adam what she was really feeling instead of zoning out. If one had taken the lead by showing real feelings, the other may have been inspired to follow. This is what therapists call modeling behavior.

“She said,” by Dr. Lisa Kaplin:

Women truly do find vulnerability in men attractive for so many reasons. When men are vulnerable they allow their partners into their lives. Their partner feels closer to them, which then leads to improvement in every aspect of the relationship.

Vulnerable men teach women something about themselves that allows women to understand them better and to be available to them in a way that isn’t likely without that vulnerability. If you are looking for a truly compassionate and intimate partner, let her into your emotional life.

When men are vulnerable women find them more desirable both emotionally and sexually. Women don’t want men to be vulnerable to “get” sex from them, but to be vulnerable so that they can be closer, which ultimately turns most women on. When women feel closer to men emotionally they want to be closer to them sexually and are more likely to feel safer and more adventurous because of it.

Women can’t read men’s minds either, so when men open up and tell their partner what’s going on the likelihood of long-standing arguments and misunderstandings reduces dramatically.

Being vulnerable will not hurt men’s masculinity: just the opposite. Women love boyish charm, periodic machismo, and vulnerability. Emotionally well-rounded men are more desirable to more women and are ultimately likely to be emotionally stable and better long-term partners than men who are closed up and unwilling to share intimate parts of their lives.

Here’s how to get your man to be more vulnerable with you: Don’t push! Some men are very uncomfortable with emotional vulnerability, so you need to create a safe place for him. Pushing him is likely to backfire on you, but being open when he is sharing something personal is the best thing you can do. Don’t judge what he says, don’t pity him, but rather acknowledge what he’s saying and validate his feelings.

For example, if he tells you that he really cares about you but it scares him to be so serious with someone, don’t say, “Don’t be scared, tell me more!” Instead say, “It sounds like it’s hard for you to get serious with someone and to be so open. I really understand how you might feel that way. Is there anything I can do to help you be more comfortable with it?” A safe, open space will help your man feel more open and vulnerable.

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