Emotional availability is defined as “the ability of a person to reach out and make an emotional connection with another person” (Collins, Emotional Unavailability). If you find yourself not being able to understand the feelings of the people around you, you may be emotionally unavailable. Even more serious is you may not be in touch with your own feelings, at least not the important ones. We are not talking about maintaining a healthy level of confidence and appropriate boundaries. One of the hallmarks of emotional unavailability is keeping people who are supposed to be close in too far away. This can play itself out in many ways. Below are a few questions you can ask yourself to figure out if you may be emotionally unavailable.
Do you find your relationships start off hot and burn out quickly?
In the beginning, you are wonderful and attentive. You are interested in the person and ask them lots of questions to understand them better. Over time, you find yourself unable to make that date night. You are not in the mood to send those flowers. Relationships are too much work. You like the romance. It is, after all, easier to navigate and way more fun. It is intense and pleasurable, and you expect it should always stay that way. If it does not, then this must not be the relationship for you. Things happen. Time to move on.
Do you always find yourself in relationships with people pleasers?
This may sound strange, but if you are in relationships with someone who tries desperately to please you and yet you believe they never quite succeed at it, part of the problem may be you. Why? Because you may be too absorbed in yourself to emotionally connect to the intentions of the other person. So while you are an expert at observing the behaviors of others, it can be a challenge to understand that projecting your desires onto others causes them to feel manipulated. You think you always have to manipulate people or situations in order to get what you want when the opposite is true. You could just ask.
Are you avoiding commitment until you have achieved a certain goal?
Of course you care about your partner, but how can you be expected to commit until [insert expectation/goal here] is achieved? That goal will take time so your partner should understand and wait until you achieve it. What is wrong with growing? However, what happens when the stated goal is actually reached? Is there another one? What do you do if you partner sets expectations you are not “ready” to commit to? Do you move on?
Are you the adventurous type who likes to keep relationships light while maintaining the fun?
You love to tell your partner about all of the exciting adventures you have had. Your partner loves to hear about them… until they don’t. Now you’ve lost interest in the relationship and you find more adventures to go on and new people to meet (aka tell your stories to). Or perhaps you are with someone just as adventurous as you are. Great! Except you now have to be a daredevil inside the relationship as well as outside of it. You are competitive with each other. You hike the mountains, they skydive. You get a $5,000 raise, they get $7,000. Rarely is there any effective communication to develop a comfortable space for the two of you to grow toward each other.
Do you expect your partner to just “know” what your needs are and meet them?
Kind of like your mother or father always do? That is, after all, what unconditional love looks like – right? You are supposed to see where I am struggling and anticipate where I will need you. So why aren’t you ready? Why should I have to deal with all of the consequences of my decisions? That’s why I have you. Unfortunately, you may be looking for someone to shield you from taking responsibility for yourself; from feeling how bad mistakes can feel.
OK, so you may be emotionally unavailable. Now what? Check back next Tuesday!