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Vulnerability and the Science of Falling in Love

By: Julia D'Addurno

A key component in love is mutual trust and vulnerability. Building a close relationship requires “sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure” (Aron, Melinat, Aron, Vallone, & Bator, 1997). Being vulnerable and open with someone can be one of the most important and hardest parts of an intimate relationship. It fosters closeness, builds trust, and allows both partners to feel needed and appreciated. Being vulnerable is the core of a healthy relationship but it can take time to open up fully to someone and let them in. It can also be very scary to open up and be vulnerable with someone. Many people believe being vulnerable is being weak. It actually requires a lot of strength. It involves being emotionally exposed and risking rejection. Occasionally we can get hurt and find ourselves broken from a bad or toxic relationship and this can deter us from opening up again and letting ourselves be vulnerable. When it comes to love and relationships, people tend to shut down or close off in order to avoid vulnerability. But in doing so, they also close themselves from love, intimacy and connection-something that as humans, we need. Without vulnerability, relationships struggle.

Communicating your fears, opening up about your past, sharing your goals and aspirations, and expressing your true emotions are some of the ways you can be vulnerable with a partner. Doing these things can strengthen a relationship and bring two people closer together-- especially in the early stages of a relationship.

Aron et al (1997) conducted a study in which they developed a set of 36 questions that two people can ask each other to foster closeness and intimacy. The experiment required the participants to engage in self-disclosure and relationship building tasks that become increasingly more probing. These questions are intended to get the participants to be mutually vulnerable with each other. The experiment was conducted to see if intimacy between two people could be accelerated and if “love” could be established in a lab setting. The original study results were mixed but two of the participants actually did build a relationship and fall in love. Since then, these questions have been tested out by many people and have yielded quite successful results.

A reason these questions may have generated so many successful results is due to the fact that these questions, and questions alike that call for increased vulnerability, can help people truly get to know one another and see each other fully. It suggests that love is not something that happens to us. It is a choice- a choice to be vulnerable and show our true selves.


Aron, A., Melinat, E., Aron, E. N., Vallone, R. D., & Bator, R. J. (1997). The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(4), 363–377.

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