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Are you comfortable being emotionally vulnerable with those around you? Have you been in a relationship with someone who just couldn’t open up to you? Whether you’ve been on the giving or receiving end of such a dynamic, the chances are good that either you’ve struggled with your own lack of emotional availability, or have fought to connect with someone you’re close to.
Being emotionally present can be difficult, particularly if you’ve been hurt in the past. With effort, however, it’s possible to work through these feelings, making you a better and more supportive partner.
Are you struggling with your own emotional availability? By making gradual adjustments to your behavior, you can learn how to be more open and present in future relationships.
Am I Emotionally Unavailable?
Some of us may believe that we’re emotionally available, even though we’re really not. A lack of emotional connection can manifest in a variety of ways. Perhaps you push people away when they express their love for you. Maybe you struggle to accept help from others. Perhaps you find that you “shut down” when others try to communicate with you. Maybe, instead of discussing serious issues with friends, family, and lovers, you constantly deflect with humor or change the subject. Some may find dating or “friends with benefits” relationships easy, but serious commitments difficult.
We can be in physically intimate relationships with others but still struggle with emotional closeness. Realizing that we might be able to grow in this area is the first step towards enriching our bonds with others.
Why Am I Emotionally Unavailable?
There’s no single reason why individuals become emotionally distant. In many cases, we become emotionally distant as a reaction to events affecting our past or present lives. Some of us experienced loss and abandonment during our childhood years, breaking our trust in others. Others may have been open and trusting in their younger years, but have pulled away as a result of betrayal or abandonment in past romantic relationships. Some of us may find ourselves becoming emotionally withdrawn from time to time as a result of our current life circumstances. Pressure in our personal or professional lives may throw us into a downward spiral of anxiety and depression, for instance, leading us to shut out our partners and others in our lives. Becoming disconnected from others, however, will likely harm our relationships and prevent us from healing emotionally.
Take some time to reflect on your emotional availability. Do you use excuses to detach yourself from others? Do you pull away as a means of protecting yourself? Is this a lifelong habit, or something that has developed over time? Take a few days to monitor the ways in which you emotionally engage with others. If you find that you’re struggling, make it a priority to practice opening up to others.
Ways to Become More Emotionally Available
Becoming more emotionally available ultimately hinges on self-awareness. Strive to recognize when you’re growing distant. Be honest with yourself. Many of us, for instance, may act in distant ways, insisting that we’re simply being “independent” and “self-reliant.” Being vulnerable, and openly admitting that we need others, however, is a core part of being emotionally available. Work on first being open with friends and family members. Could you use some help with something? Allow yourself to be vulnerable and ask for assistance.
It is likely that your lack of emotional availability has harmed your ability to authentically connect with those around you, too. Being closed-off may have led you to neglect the emotional needs of others, for instance. If you have a romantic partner, evaluate whether or not you are truly engaged with their emotional needs. If you’re not currently in a relationship, think of the ways in which you may be shut off from the needs of your friends and family members. Reach out and see what others might need from you. Emotional availability works both ways. Even if you’re struggling to be vulnerable with others, you can work on being empathetic towards others in your life. By meeting the emotional needs of others, you will likely learn that you can let your guard down, too.Becoming an emotionally available person doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, take small steps towards opening up. Gradually chip away at the wall you’ve built up around you. Allow a friend to do you a favor. Let your partner see you without your makeup on. Take a deep breath, and set aside your fear of rejection. You are worthy of love and acceptance. Give others the chance to offer you their emotional support, and strive to do the same for those around you.
Emotional availability is built on honesty. If you’re not currently in a romantic relationship, practice being more emotionally honest with your closest friends. If you’ve recently entered into a relationship, work on this with your partner. Be vulnerable and open about your past and who you are. Perhaps you’ve always had a “backup plan” in the past, something you’d do if you felt abandoned or betrayed. Instead of worrying about the “what ifs,” focus on fully committing to your partner. Your relationship might end, but it’s much more likely to end if you’re distant and withdrawn, expecting the worst to happen. Instead, be honest, and make time for your partner.
Being emotionally present for your partner will help you form a healthy, lasting relationship. By communicating with your partner, and being there for them both physically and emotionally, you’ll build a relationship where you both feel emotionally supported. When one partner grows emotionally distant, the other often grows increasingly needy. This increased neediness may cause an emotionally distant partner to withdraw further. Break this cycle by communicating with your partner and tending to their emotional needs. When both partners’ core needs are met, both individuals will feel more secure, allowing for a healthy, interdependent relationship to develop. In such an environment, both partners can blossom and grow both within the context of the relationship as well as outside of it.
If you’re comfortable doing so, ask your partner, or a close friend or family member, to let you know when they notice that you’re becoming emotionally withdrawn. Ask them to provide you with feedback in a way that you know you’ll be able to respond well to. Perhaps some written advice would give you the time to process this information better, or maybe sitting down once or twice a week and discussing the matter would work well for you. It’s often hard to process our issues with emotional availability when we’re already in an emotionally closed-off state. Instead of discussing things in the heat of the moment, address them at a later time or date.
Keep reflecting on your emotional responses, and strive to be more vulnerable, open, and communicative. If you find that this is a bigger issue for you, consider talking it through with a professional. A good therapist may be able to help you see the ways in which you are shutting others out, and may be able to offer additional tips and strategies for modifying your communication methods. By really reflecting on your emotional availability, you can transform the ways in which you connect with others, changing your life for the better.
Working to become more emotionally available can be difficult. In the end, however, it is worth the effort. If a friend or partner cannot accept your authentic self, the relationship did not have a strong foundation to begin with. Take small steps, and work on becoming more open each day. Like a flower, you’ll be most attractive when open and in full bloom.