It's always a big risk emotionally to open up to someone else: to be real and vulnerable. Opening up means chancing rejection and hurt. It's also the only way to know and be known, and develop authentic and close relationships. Taking healthy risks is sometimes good for us.
Over the years, I've counseled lots of young adults, men and women, who have survived their parents' divorce. They witnessed the pain, betrayal, hurt, loss, and if they were fortunate enough to see it, perhaps they saw their parents accept the loss with grace and move along towards a future. Judith Wallerstein's research on children of divorce, in her ground-breaking study at the Center for Family in Transition, showed us that children of divorce are more scared about risking, opening up, and potentially being hurt than their peers.
Whether you've experienced your own losses and disappointments, or watched it happen to those close to you, building a protective barrier around your heart is not a good strategy. In order to avoid being vulnerable, sometimes people resort to sarcasm, numbing themselves with alcohol or substances, acting "chill" like nothing matters, or shutting down all possibilities for closeness.
In relationships, we have to take calculated risks to succeed. You have to try, even if you're afraid. You have to ask for the things you want and need emotionally. If you don't open up and invest and open up to close, intimate relationships, you don't get them. In relationships, it's no deposit, no return.
Risking enough to selectively open up to others is an essential part of the human journey. It means you can share your hopes and fears, your struggles and your triumphs. Vulnerability and openness is reciprocal as well, and a relationship is deepened as each person reveals more of him or herself over time.
We can take healthy risks with opening up in parenting by putting down the parenting role from time to time to share appropriately a bit of ourselves beyond the parent. It could comfort your child to know about a time when you messed up or learned from a mistake. Sharing beyond the mask of parent could make you more real.
In friendship, taking a risk to invite someone closer to you, to get to know you, or to take the time to really get to know them could be an important road in. Many adults are more afraid to open up and reach out to make new friends than children are. I think it's ideal when a person is open enough to be able to add friends throughout their life cycle, not just in youth.
Risking openness and being vulnerable gives our relationships the opportunity to go deeper and grow more meaningful. Healthy risks push us to grow and be known. Why would you settle for anything less?