Emotional availability – a phrase that is in essence closely related to that better-known 21st-century phrase, emotional intelligence – is guaranteed to send emotionally unreconstructed males scurrying to the nearest bar where they can chat about their garage doors and sports teams in peace without having to touch base with the spiritual vacuum within.
Emotional availability is perhaps a tricky subject for a chirpy magazine piece, however, always game to seek spiritual enlightenment and in spite of the fact that you could taxi an Airbus A380 through the dusty, windswept void that lies at the heart of my own psychic hangar, I decided to dig into the warm emotional loam with the aid of Google to see if I could locate a few pearls of wisdom.
Alas, it would appear entirely normal to have moments of emotional unavailability (mine have been known to last for years) and this is generally seen as an entirely human trait. The distractions of the modern world, with its endless spreadsheets, Netflix series, and Swarovski-crystal encrusted fitness bands, seem to ensure that nobody can be an empathic listener 100 percent time.
Generally speaking, according to exhaustive research, people tend to fall into two camps, i.e., they are either emotionally available or they aren’t. For those that aren’t, fear is often closely related to emotional struggles to connect. A fear of love or lack thereof, fear of trusting others, fear of letting others into their deeper souls, fear of complex emotions. Traumatic, difficult past experiences often play an important role in such emotional defence mechanisms and circumspection.
People often feel braver with some of their friends and acquaintances than they do with others. However, emotional availability ultimately means being able to be in the presence of difficult or even upsetting emotions without succumbing to the urge to run away and lock oneself in the toilet, and ultimately this means allowing oneself to be fully known to another.
Anyway, I think it’s about time to punctuate all of this highfaluting psychobabble with a few choice bullet points while you all consider the depths of your own souls.
Let your partner in
Don’t be afraid to spill the emotional beans, as it were, and your innermost secrets, both the beautiful ones and the darker, gnarlier ones. Closing yourself off will only distance you from your lover.
Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability
Vulnerability is actually a wonderful human trait and the quintessence of a loving relationship. In contrast, closing yourself off is likely to result in exactly what you are trying to protect yourself against i.e. heartache. Heartache is an unavoidable risk in any relationship, so there’s no point in bringing it on yourself.
Don’t fear tough talks
Trust that your lover can handle those difficult topics that many prefer to avoid. Not all in life is sweetness, light, and hazelnut ice cream. Life’s difficulties and sadnesses also demand attention. Being able to establish trust in your partner’s empathy is vital in a truly healthy relationship.
Give your partner a sense of what it’s like to be you
Sharing your worries and desires, your dreams and inner life with your partner is always a bridge-building process.
Enjoy life and have fun together
Fun and laughter create closeness and bonds between people and ease tension.
Don’t try to force things too quickly or you could end up pushing your partner away. Give them space and allow them to find their own way to you, thus building a firmer foundation of trust.
Pay attention to your feelings when your partner isn’t around
This is a great way of monitoring how your relationship is going. There are three indicators to think about here. Firstly, are you feeling irritable or restless? Is a day at work a huge comedown after an evening of joy with your partner? Do you resent the demands of family and friends on your time even though you are spending every available minute with your partner? Being emotionally unavailable is bad sure but its opposite; romantic tunnel vision, can also prove harmful in the long run. Force yourself to focus on other things and to retain a sense of balance and proportion.
Seek change in your relationship
Different does not necessarily mean worse, even if you are already blissfully happy. Relationships are organisms that must grow. Gently push your relationship towards positive growth or else it may drift into the kind of change you don’t want. Be courageous and respond to external influences and factors.
Watch out for emotional memories
Past hurts can resurface. Don’t be afraid to assess the past and learn from it. Repression of negative memories can be dangerous within the context of a relationship.
If in doubt, ask
You’ll never know how your partner feels about something if you don’t ask them. Be sensitive but talk. Miscommunications and misunderstandings can have a huge negative impact on any relationship.
So that’s my relationship counsellor’s certificate in the post, I hope. Good luck with all of your affairs of the heart. And if all else fails, you and your partner can take out life insurance policies on each other. Then it simply a case of playing the waiting game.