Why and How to Be More Emotionally Available
Healthy relationships are built on the foundation of emotional availability. It encourages transparency, communication, closeness, and depth. So, why is it that being emotionally unavailable is such a widespread problem? Because it’s also self-protective, and there are a variety of reasons why people feel compelled to maintain the kind of distance it facilitates. When overall confidence in relationships is questioned, it may be frightening, and often for very good reasons. However, you must consider whether this “protection” from emotional connection with others is worthwhile in the long run.
Let’s look at 1) what it means to be emotionally open, 2) why so many people struggle with it, and 3) how to make it better.
What is emotional availability?
- You’re not just okay with looking at your own sentiments, but you’re also okay with sharing them. This is a sensitive act, and it can feel dangerous or too near for people who innately feel vulnerable in relationships or in general, possibly due to family of origin concerns. Those who are fully emotionally open often have a generally positive sense of themselves, thus authenticity is not a problem for them.
- You have the ability to respond to other people’s feelings. In partnerships, this entails good listening skills, attunement, and empathy. It’s difficult to be present and bear witness to the emotional world of another if you aren’t aware of your own. As a result, they may not be receptive to your emotional efforts.
- You are a dependable person. You consistently show up when you say you will, and you act in a trustworthy manner. Emotionally unavailable people are more likely to be flaky, opaque, or deliver mixed messages. They could be aware of it or not.
- You’re at ease with physical love and sweetness when it comes to expressing intimacy. This necessitates a willingness to be vulnerable in interpersonal connections.
- You have excellent emotional control. You are thoughtful, considerate, and inquisitive. To keep their emotional distance, some people who are emotionally unavailable utilise anger, criticism, or dominating behaviour.
Why are there so many emotionally unavailable people?
This question has a complex response, and there isn’t a single correct answer. In a nutshell, you may have discovered that being entirely open to others, let alone to yourself, is not emotionally safe. A lack of adequate responses to your emotional needs may be due to the quality of your childhood bond to your parents or primary caregivers. Receiving no affection, affirmation, or support, as well as being scolded, abused, or downplayed for emotional displays or needs not met, can develop to attachment styles that later pose a threat to emotional availability.
Feeling unlovable or unsure if you can trust others to show up are just two storylines that might prevent you from being emotionally open. This protective reaction makes a lot of sense. However, his baggage includes concern and anxieties of it playing out, which can be self-destructive.
Many people are emotionally unavailable because they have never examined themselves from this angle. They may be unaware that issues with their family of origin or other difficult life situations are posing challenges to them. Many people are aware of this, but are unsure what to do about it. On the other hand, you could cycle through emotionally unavailable intimate relationships or friendships, being burned over and over again and wondering why. Understanding what’s going on and being curious about your part in it is the first step towards breaking toxic relationship patterns for this group. It has the potential to go both ways and be pretty complex.
Emotional unavailability might also be triggered by past break-up grief. There may also be culturally reinforced messages that emotions and vulnerability are “weak” for guys, which runs counter to feeling secure to open up.
The impact of emotional unavailability on others
- Their lack of consistency and honesty may make you feel apprehensive about your relationship. You’re not sure where you stand with them.
- A lack of emotional sensitivity and empathy can be excruciating, resulting in irritation, despair, and, eventually, loneliness.
- If there are any signs of getting closer, they are brief. It may be difficult to tell how you’re progressing as a pair, leading to increased doubt in the relationship.
- Lack of affection expressed through touch, pleasant gestures, or thoughtfulness may cause you to steadily withdraw, thus reducing your sexual attraction to them. If they haven’t already bailed out, this is the effect of constantly striking a brick wall and eventually giving up.
- You could be perplexed as to what you’re doing wrong when you can’t seem to connect with them despite your best attempts. (If this continues, you may wish to investigate codependency or difficulties with your own family of origin.)
- As your connection becomes less secure, you may regretfully lose your willingness to be emotionally open to them, leaving two people cut off from each other.
How to be more emotionally available
Although there is no “magic wand” solution, it is doable with a little effort. You’ve already made the first step in that initial awareness if you’re aware that you’re not present for folks in a troublesome way and want to do something about it. Many people never go that far because they don’t see the problem or the impact on others in the first place.
The willingness to do a deep dive into your personal history is the next task. Are there some cultural messages that should be questioned? Have you had a traumatic love history that has caused you to take evasive protection measures that aren’t actually helpful? Working with a therapist and your family of origin might help you understand why your emotional availability was inhibited. This person can assist you in exploring your prior relationships, emotional wounds, traumatic experiences, or harmful messaging. You then separate this from who you are now, including your views about yourself, others, and the world. Part of the therapy entails challenging damaging preconceived assumptions about your worth and lovability, as well as trust issues, which all obstruct your ability to be vulnerable.
These concepts can become profoundly ingrained and literally wired into your brain, affecting your physiological responses as a result (fight, flight or freeze). As a result, thoroughly removing the unhealthy roots of your garden requires time, altering narratives, and trying new things with healthy others. Allow yourself some patience if the line isn’t perfectly straight. It takes time and practise to change long-standing patterns of emotional behaviour.
In a nutshell
- To be able to change your emotional availability, you must first recognise that there is a problem.
- Any cultural messaging about how you’re “supposed” to be should be challenged.
- Make a relationship inventory to see if there are any issues that are causing you to become more emotionally defensive. Work your way through it.
- Treatment with a therapist who specialises in family of origin work to take a good look at yourself.
- To be able to show up in a more available way, address the factors that emotionally cut you off from yourself.
- Accept full responsibility for your emotions.
- Experiment with new behaviours, such as more transparent communication and authenticity, with other emotionally available people.
- If the line isn’t perfectly straight, be kind with yourself.
Not only can becoming more emotionally available enhance your emotional health, but it can also improve the quality of your relationships.