I stumbled upon the concept of emotional (un-)availability a few days ago and it really resonated with me. I’m always amazed when something I’ve been experiencing in some form or another can be put into words and even has its own name.
(BTW*, I don’t know what all these sudden mind-blowing realisations of mine are about, but there’s no harm in sharing them with you, am I right?)
Emotional availability is the heart and bones** of any healthy relationship − without it, there is no way for an actual, deeper connection to happen. If people are closed off and not ready to open up, even shielded away from their own / other people’s emotions, they’re not ready to connect with anyone. Consequently, any relationship they may be involved in can’t go beyond the surface and will most probably not be a very fulfilling one.
There are many reasons why someone may be emotionally unavailable: they’ve been hurt in the past, they’re still hung up on a past relationship, they haven’t healed their wounds from past heartbreak or they’re simply afraid of getting hurt, regardless of whether this fear stems from a past experience or not. Emotionally unavailable people like to hide behind excuses and generally don’t make room for someone other than themselves − they’re too busy, always working, not ready to move things around in order to fit some quality time into their busy schedule and not willing to accommodate others. When they finally do commit to shared time, they tend to fill it with activities, unable to just sit and talk. They’re keeping their opponent (whoever this may be) at arm’s length.
Emotionally unavailable people also have a tendency to deflect blame on someone else. Instead of listening to how you feel and creating a safe space for you to open up to them, they either criticise or point out your flaws or they simply brush off or dismiss your attempt to share your emotions, leaving you feeling inadequate and possibly even rejected.
Wanting to stay in control plays a huge part in being emotionally unavailable − you can’t get hurt if you keep a firm grip on the course of the relationship, deciding just how far you’re willing to go. This presumed “safety” comes at a price though: building a wall around your heart may well keep the hurt out, but it also prevents joy and happiness, which an authentic emotional connection usually entails.
Dealing with an emotionally unavailable person can be very frustrating. As mentioned before, it makes you feel rejected, inadequate, unimportant, like your feelings and, by extension, you don’t matter. It also always makes me question my own behaviour when in fact, this is nothing but a complete waste of energy: people are always going to hear what they want to hear. Nothing more. If they’re unavailable, they’ve made up their mind long before you even open your mouth to talk to them. There’s no way to make them hear you, it’s like talking to a wall − a complete waste of breath!
This is particularly frustrating when you’re completely hooked on the emotionally unavailable person, meaning that you genuinely care about them and you just want them to come out of their shell and to hear and see you for what you are, to really connect with you, BUT there’s no friggin way to make them. Aaaaaarghhhh.
I’m gonna be so bold and call myself an expert of emotional unavailability, given that I’ve been emotionally unavailable for big chunks of time during my twenties. Interestingly, I’ve rarely closed off completely − I chose to pursue a mix of opening up and hiding away, which I have previously described as the “push & pull back dance”. I never typically had major issues with opening up to people but I’ve been known to freak out and retreat to a safer distance when things started to get more serious. Luckily, I’m smarter now and therefore usually manage to detect my own bullsh*t in due time, thus giving me the opportunity to tell people what’s going on and reassure them that I’m working on it − this is where things can get even trickier IF the person I try to explain this to is emotionally unavailable… Believe me, the struggle is real 😀 !
While I was doing a little bit of research in order to be able to write this post, the following piece of advice struck a nerve:
If you keep getting hooked on emotionally unavailable people, this may disguise your own problem, thus keeping you in denial of your own unavailability.
Food for thought: before labeling other people as emotionally unavailable (which is what an unavailable person would do, remember − deflect blame!), make sure that you’re emotionally available yourself. You can’t expect others to be available if you’re closed off.
As you can see, emotional availability is a bit more complicated than it might seem at first and I sincerely hope I didn’t lose you along the way − kudos if you made it this far!
What are your thoughts on emotional (un-)availability? Feel free to share your experiences below!
* BTW = By the way
** This expression probably didn’t exist but I felt like somebody needed to start using it − you’re welcome, world.