Emotional availability is a prerequisite for emotional intimacy and the cornerstone for any healthy and loving relationship.
Emotional availability is the seed that allows deep love and affection to blossom and maintains a relationship’s health when partners have left the honeymoon stage and are now in a long-term committed relationship.
Without emotional availability, a relationship is doomed to fail. When partners close off because of their availability, there is not much of a relationship left to salvage.
This article will take a deep dive into the importance of emotional availability, what happens to people and relationships when one or both partners are emotionally unavailable, and how to be emotionally available by doing some conscious inner work and being deeply unreservedly honest with yourself.
What Is Emotional Availability?
Emotional availability is one’s ability to be present, honest, and open with another person on an emotional level. The term applies to personal relationships, romantic or otherwise.
When both partners are emotionally available, they establish a strong emotional connection that elicits deep bonding and strengthens the relationship.
The relationship is prepared to handle stress and challenges effectively with such a strong connection. Even when things get tough, you and your partner understand that your connection can transcend whatever struggle you are going through. Research published in Frontiers in Psychology defines emotional availability (EA) as:
‘The ability of two people to share a healthy emotional connection, and it thus elucidates the emotional and dyadic quality of relationships.’
When you recognize emotional unavailability and you look at how your behaviors affect your partner, it shows that you are invested in the relationship.
As mentioned, relationships are a space of marked emotional vulnerability. If one partner perceives that the other is unavailable, they are likely to close off. This is a means of protecting oneself from unrequited love and emotional vulnerability.
As a partner, being emotionally available with your partner is offering them a space to be themselves.
You let them know that you are present, you are listening, and that you care. It does not mean that you agree with them all the time or do not have any conflict.
Healthy disagreement and conflict demonstrate emotional availability because it shows that you are emotionally invested in the relationship.
Why Are Some People Emotionally Unavailable?
Emotionally unavailable people tend to disregard their partner’s and their own emotional experience. As a result, a healthy relationship cannot prosper. In many cases, the emotional availability of a person is connected to their early childhood experiences.
Emotional unavailability often has its roots in one’s attachment style.
There are two main types of attachment styles: secure and insecure.
A secure attachment style is when one feels safe to be themselves without fear of abandonment or rejection from their partner. A person with this attachment style learned from a young age that they are inherently worthy through consistent care and affection from a present and emotionally available caregiver.
The other style is insecure, and this style stems from most cases of emotional unavailability.
Typically, a person with an insecure attachment style does not feel safe to be their authentic self in a relationship.
Fear keeps them in survival mode, where they apply learned coping methods to prevent others from hurting them physically and emotionally through rejection, abandonment, or neglect. Inconsistent parenting in childhood creates this attachment style and leads to adults who find it hard to trust and be vulnerable with others.
Consequences of Emotional Unavailability
1. Failed Relationships
If you have realized that you are an emotionally unavailable partner, you may have a series of failed short term or long term relationships that ended for that very reason.
Some of us take relationships lightly and do not assign much meaning to them. But most of us care an awful lot about our relationship dynamics, and as such, we want to be with someone we believe in who truly and deeply cares about us
Our past relationships may have hurt us or we may have failed to spend time and effort in recognizing our partner’s vulnerabilities because we focused too much on our own feelings.
You may have genuinely cared for your romantic partner, but the past relationship still came to an end. That may be because even though you cared in your relationship, your partner felt you were emotionally distant.
Not that we need to, or even should, constantly prove our love and affection, but we do need to be available to our partners on an emotional level. That means letting them in on our vulnerabilities, opinions, and even aspects of their behavior that we do not like.
If we do not, we will achieve short-term relief from the fear of vulnerability and closeness but ultimately increase our own feelings of isolation and loneliness.
3. Low Self-Esteem
When we are emotionally unavailable, we do not show our true selves. It may stem from fear, and as such, it may be challenging to overcome.
Still, the fact is that emotional unavailability demonstrates to a partner that you are probably not a viable partner in the long term. The result is failed relationships, confusion, and low self-esteem.
The excellent news for emotionally unavailable partners everywhere is that you do not have to continue the cycle.
It takes some conscious and committed inner work to overcome your fear of emotional openness, and it is by no means easy. But the work you put in is more than worth it.
By practicing availability, transparency, openness, honesty, and genuine emotional investment in those you love, you can create happier relationships and live a more fulfilled and satisfying life.
Best Practices on How to Be Emotionally Available
1. Practice Self-Awareness
You possibly cannot share your emotional depths with your partner if you do not know them yourself.
The best relationships are those in which partners possess deep and insightful self-awareness and understanding and relate to each other from that place. Equally, the worst, or unhealthiest, is when that deep emotional connection is not there, and in its place is expectation and disrespect.
The more aware of yourself, your feelings and emotions, your joys and fears, and your world outlook, the more likely you are to be able to cultivate a deep emotional connection with your partner. Practicing self-awareness, which brings an abundance of blessings into your life, also improves your relationships.
You can become a more self-aware person by taking an honest look at your motivation and desires.
Get in touch with how you feel by journaling, reaching out to a trusted friend, or speaking to a therapist or counselor. Find some outlet in which you feel safe enough to explore yourself.
Keep a Journal
Journaling is a popular, effective, and therapeutic approach to self-exploration. In a journal, you have the freedom to write whatever comes to mind. Nobody will read it, so you can use this space to put your weirdest, deepest, most fantastical thoughts down on paper and reflect on them.
However you choose to approach your self-exploration, be prepared to meet resistance along the way. If you find or have been told that you are an emotionally unavailable person today, there may already be a lot of resistance to authentic self-expression.
Still, stay motivated on your path to understanding yourself by reminding yourself why you want to become more emotionally available in the first place.
Would you rather remain isolated and unavailable and lose many more relationships in the process, or would you instead look within and face some potential discomfort now but reap the rewards of a conscious and authentic relationship later?
2. Evaluate the Importance of the Relationship
If you find it hard to be emotionally available to your partner, you may want to change your behavior to save the relationship.
Relationships can offer profound insight into our deepest fears, insecurities, and coping mechanisms. If you are willing to do the inner work, you can heal many early wounds and maladaptive coping methods that you have been using to navigate life.
Not every relationship will be a healing one.
If you struggle to be emotionally available with your partner, maybe you feel like that partner is not suitable for you. Do not jump to that conclusion too quickly because avoidance is a common coping mechanism—you do not want to enable continuous relationship neglect just because you are not prepared to dive into your emotions.
Sometimes the person we are with is not the right person, and we cannot ignore our gut intuition.
If, deep down, you believe that your current partner is not worth the emotional investment, take the mature approach and leave the relationship. Just make sure you speak to your partner about how you feel and let them know what you have decided to do, rather than avoiding or completely ghosting them and creating guilt for yourself and confusion for them.
If you feel that this person is the one for you and that you can have a wonderful, profoundly insightful, lovingly intimate, and affectionate relationship, if you could open up and be more available, then dive in.
Set the intention to work on your availability and be as radically honest and authentic with yourself as possible.
Many people resist emotional depth and availability in a relationship because they fear that they will have wasted time and energy if the relationship does not work in the end. But this is a deeply insightful journey to take, so if the relationship ends, you will still have gained an awful lot more than you lost.
3. Be a Responsible Partner
As mentioned earlier, you need to evaluate how important a relationship is to you if you want it to succeed.
Make concrete steps to create happier relationships.
Spending time with your partner, tuning into your partner’s feelings, being physically intimate, and reciprocating your partner’s affection, build emotional bonds and take your relationship to a deeper level.
If you find relationships unimportant, willingly live some secret life, and view interaction and time spent with your partner as a chore, then making that relationship work for the sake of company or physical intimacy is unfair and emotionally immature.
An emotionally unavailable partner can cause a lot of distress, so if you do not see a future for the relationship, then that must be made known, at least out of the kindness of your heart.
4. Allow for Healthy Interdependence
A relationship requires interdependence.
However, an emotionally unavailable partner’s fear for closeness, makes is difficult for them to allow healthy interdependence in their relationships. If you’re fighting the same internal battles, you may want to connect emotionally, but your fear of intimacy and the potential loss and rejection can keep you stuck.
It is not easy, but you can begin to let go of your fear through some light and gradual self-administered exposure therapy.
You can start by practicing interdependence, a relationship dynamic in which you and your partner agree to meet each other’s needs while also respecting each other’s boundaries. That means no attempts to demand or control, but compassionate love and support when possible, and trust and understanding that the other person cannot always meet one’s needs.
There is a lot of emphasis on independence these days, which is excellent.
The more self-sufficient, self-loving, and self-aware we become, the better.
Still, it is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As humans, we are hardwired to live in communities and support each other.
Allowing for interdependence in your relationship extends your compassion beyond yourself and lets you cultivate deep, heartfelt connections with others that feel amazing and can be incredibly life-affirming. The trick is to create this interdependence without losing yourself in it.
5. Transform Fear into Love
This interdependence is often where the fear lies for the emotionally unavailable, but you can get better at it by gentle and self-compassionate practice.
Eventually, interdependence, shared love, and mutually meeting each other’s needs feel natural. When you and your partner meet each other’s needs, both of you develop self-esteem and self-love, two essential tools that will help you stay afloat if the relationship does eventually come to an end.
Being emotionally unavailable does not mean you are a terrible person or unworthy of love.
You live your own life and need not compare your level of emotional availability to others. Still, it is important to take an honest look at your relationship approach and see if your unwillingness to be open and vulnerable serves you.
It may feel like it does because it protects you from being hurt, but it may lead to more isolation and loneliness than it is worth in the long term.
The best relationship advice you can hear is that it will always be hard to have that with another person until you develop a deeply loving relationship with yourself. So, do not be afraid to try out some more vulnerability moving forward.
It may sting, you may feel frightened, and you may want to close off again, but when you finally experience the joy of a natural and deep emotional connection, it will all be worth it.