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Am I emotionally unavailable?

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Being emotionally available is not that easy for any of us. It is a fact that one of life’s interesting phenomena is that we often reject the very thing we seek. So, the most distant and emotionally unavailable people desperately want to be available and feel that connection, but fear and learned coping strategies get in the way. Generally, emotional availability in men is different than in women, both because of society’s conditioning and because most men experience interpersonal bonding differently than most women.{{more}}

Being emotionally available is not simply about sharing emotions; it is about openness with another person. It’s about recognizing where you are emotionally in that moment, even if it brings discomfort, instead of running or masking it as something it truly isn’t.

It is not about over-sharing or being dramatic for the sake of it; it is sharing what is relevant to develop that connection in an authentic way. It is about knowing the personal behaviours that avoid true openness and availability. It is at the start very uncomfortable, awkward and even alien to someone who wasn’t socialized to be available emotionally from childhood.

Emotional unavailability can be quite taxing and draining to deal with. If you’ve ever been in a relationship with someone emotionally unavailable, you know the pain of not being able to get close to the one you love. They’re evasive, make excuses, or are just inept when it comes to talking about feelings or the relationship. Some use anger, criticism, or activities to create distance. You end up feeling alone, depressed, unimportant, or rejected. Women typically complain about men; but we are not mindful that many of us are equally as emotionally unavailable.

There are several types of unavailability, both temporary and chronic. Some people have always been unavailable, due to mental illness or a troubled childhood. Others temporarily make something a higher priority than a relationship, such as a family obligation, education, project, or a health concern. People recently divorced or widowed may temporarily not be ready to get involved with someone new. In the middle are those who are too afraid to risk falling in love, because they’ve been hurt by one or more relationships, which may include being hurt by a parent when they were a child. Often, these different reasons for unavailability overlap, and it’s difficult to ascertain whether the problem is chronic or will pass.

When looking for a close, committed relationship, a person living in another state, or who is married or still in love with someone else is definitely not going to be your best choice. Similarly, addicts, including workaholics, are unavailable because their addiction is the priority and it controls them. Still, some people give the appearance of availability and speak openly about their feelings and their past. You don’t realize until you’re already in a relationship that they’re unable to really connect emotionally or make a commitment.

Next time, I will discuss how to spot emotional unavailability.

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

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