Are You Emotionally Available?
Emotional Availability is probably one of the key factors in establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. It is a subject well worth knowing about and understanding. This page is made up of the following sections:
Article: Are You Really Available?
One of the questions which often comes up in relationship work involves how available people are for a healthy relationship. As someone at a recent workshop cried out, "No one today has time for a relationship!" Singles often have a difficult time plugging into a new dating partnerís busy lifestyle, and may see their dates as being essentially unavailable for creating a deep, intimate relationship. Couples in a committed relationship may complain that their partner is consumed and distracted by everything but their relationship: they may be around physically, but never seem to want to connect in any meaningful way. Indeed, in our crazy, driven, time-starved world, it often seems as if our adult relationships take the lowest priority.
There are various levels of availability for intimate connection. While physical availability is the most obvious one, being physically present is no guarantee of intimacy, as many married people will tell you. Being in the same house or room or even bed with someone else can still feel very lonely if the two people are not in sync and do not connect. Nonetheless, consistent physical availability is a necessary prerequisite for deeper levels of intimacy to occur.
After physical presence, the next level of availability is sporadic emotional availability. On this level, both partners are capable of being emotionally present with their own feelings, as well as with the feelings of their partner. The capacity to communicate to your partner what you are feeling is also present at this level. However, while the capacity for being emotionally available is present, the willingness to choose to do so on a consistent basis is limited. At this level, each person engages in some forms of withholding of parts of themselves which results in inconsistent availability. This withholding can manifest in any number of ways, such as inconsistent time schedules; shutting down or withdrawing emotionally; avoiding difficult topics; or numbing feelings through food, drugs, work or sex.
The deepest level of availability is what we call conscious emotional availability, where the capacity to be fully present and mindful of your own emotional process, as well as your partner's, is present most of the time. In this level, the capacity for being emotionally available is present, and there is a strong willingness to use that capacity. Authentic feelings are acknowledged and communicated on a consistent basis, whether they are positive or negative. Joy and bliss can comfortably co-exist with sadness and despair, for there is a commitment to sharing the truth of oneís experiences with oneís partner.
Why are so many of us unavailable for this deepest level of human connection? Isnít the need for bonding a fundamental human desire? Why do we create these complex, overextended busy lives, which Shakespeare aptly described as being "...full of sound and fury, signifying nothing", while our heartís deepest desires go unmet? This answer is clear: we are unavailable when we are afraid. We want true love but are terrified of how it may hurt us, how it may recreate some painful experience, how we may be abandoned or smothered or lose our familiar identity. So we make sure that there is no room in our lives for genuine love to blossom. We stay in control, and keep the unpredictability and vulnerability of genuine intimacy at a safe distance.
Many people think they are available when they really are not. We have seen this demonstrated countless times in intensive work with singles and couples. When presented with all the tools, knowledge, support and guidance possible to create more intimacy in their lives, the fears take over and they sabotage, distance, avoid or deny.
How available are you? This is really the only question about availability you need to ask! If you are attracting unavailable partners, there is something unavailable in you. How available are you to yourself on a deep level? Our relationship with others is but a reflection of our relationship with our inner self. Reflect on what you may be running away from within yourself with your endless external activities.
How can you make yourself more available to present or future partners? Be gentle and compassionate with yourself and begin by becoming fully available to all aspects of who you are. Discover what your fears and barriers to intimacy are, and take steps to remove them. If you find yourself running away or afraid of certain aspects of intimacy, get some help from someone who has been down that path themselves. Strip away the barriers to availability and notice what comes up for me, mindfully, consciously, and lovingly. For when you are fully available for conscious emotional connection with yourself, you will attract the same energy into your life from others. Creating and maintaining a healthy relationship is quite similar to creating and maintaining a beautiful garden. If the gardener is unavailable to tend the garden, the consequences are quickly revealed. Similarly, relationships need time and open communication to weed the inevitable hurts and resentments that occur. Consistent time to bond on a physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual level is necessary to water the roots of your love. Like a plant, your love is a living, breathing, organic process that will get stagnant or eventually wither away and even die if both of you are not consistently available to keep it healthy.
Authentic, genuine love is safe. Not loving is far riskier to human life and health than opening yourself to love. So cancel some of those appointments in your Day-Timer. Delete those lines on your To-Do List in your Palm Pilot. Take a deep breath and make room in your life and in your heart for more love to come in: what better use of your time and your life could there possibly be other than giving and receiving deeper, more authentic love?
Other relevant issues:
Private matters are those traits, truths, beliefs, and ideas about ourselves that we keep to ourselves. They might include our fantasies and daydreams, feelings about the way the world works, and spiritual beliefs. Private matters, when revealed either accidentally or purposefully, give another person some insight into the revealer.
Secrets, on the other hand, consist of information that has potentially negative impact on someone else-emotionally, physically, or financially. Secrets, when revealed either accidentally or purposefully, cause great chaos or harm to the secret-keeper and those around him or her.
Private: I believe in reincarnation.
Secret: I have a wife and a mistress and neither knows about the other.
Private: I got terrible grades in high school.
Secret: I forged my medical degree.
Truth is empirical, demonstrable fact. Your bank balance, todayís date, whether or not youíre married.
Honesty is about feelings. If youíre honest, you are open and clear about how you feel. You can be truthful without being honest and you can be honest without being truthful (the latter a little more difficult). The best relationships, stating the painfully obvious, are both truthful and honest. Trust is built on both truth and honesty, tempered by the proof of predictability and reliability.
Below are excerpts from one of the books on this subject, as well as links to Amazon.com.
From ďHow To Recognize Emotional Unavailability And Make Healthier Relationship ChoicesĒ by Bryn Collins, M.A., L.P.
An emotionally unavailable relationship occurs whenever one partner is unable to reach out and make a heart connection with another person, while the other partner feels as is it is somehow his/her fault and thus bears the responsibility to fix it by being perfect. Such a relationship seems easy to spot-until you are in the middle of it.
An emotionally unavailable partner does not want love as much as he or she wants control. Emotions seem unsafe; control lends an illusion of safety. If you are in a relationship, you expect the relationship to grow and deepen over time; you expect a heart connection to be made and maintained, and you operate your life on the basis of this expectation.
When your partner does not make the same emotional connection, the result is trauma and pain. Often the emotionally unavailable person has no awareness his or her own contribution to the relationshipís collapse. Nevertheless, at a certain point it is essential for you to cut the entangling ties and move on.
Excerpts from one of the Emotionally Unavailable types:
James Bond: Spies & Lies
He wonít tell you where he lives. She will give you only a work number. Heís evasive about his history, friends, job and background. A year after you marry her, you find out sheís been married before. A mistress shows up. You find bills for credit cards you didnít know you had.
Secrets and the lies that support them make it very hard to make an emotional connection. In part thatís because the secrets create a wall. In part itís also because the secrets take a lot of energy to maintain and that energy is stolen from having a relationship with a person.
James Bonds are secret-keepers who with hold information from people with whom they are in a relationship. Sometimes this is because they believe the secrets give them power or an illusion of mystery and excitement; other times it is because the revelation of the secrets will end the relationship and they wonít get what they want-the reason for keeping secrets in the first place.
When you get into a relationship with a James Bond, you may enjoy the mystery at first. Itís kind of exciting not to know when he or she will suddenly appear to sweep you into whatever passed for his or her Aston Martin or private jet and then just as suddenly disappear again.
As the relationship moves along, however, predictability becomes more important and desirable to you, but the James Bond has no interest in being trapped by your rational expectation of continuity in the relationship.
You begin to snoop. Bond leaves you alone in the car or the apartment for a few minutes, and your fingers stray to the glove compartment or desktop. You hate yourself for what youíre doing, but you canít stop. Bills, letters, scraps with phone numbers-a flood of information without explanation. What youíre looking for are the missing pieces of James Bondís life that you donít get to know. The problem is that you have no threads to weave into a fabric of truth. All you have is scraps that have no clear meaning.
Or, worse perhaps, you DO find something; a breathless love letter you didnít write, a sexy card you didnít send, a photo that isnít you. Now what do you do? Now you have information and a whole new conundrum. In order to confront James Bond with the information, you have to admit youíve been snooping. Then Bond has the perfect out: he or she can get mad at you for snooping, and never have to own up to the rest of it.
The other thing that happens is that you lose trust completely. Being in a relationship with someone you donít trust isnít being in a relationship at all. It begins to undermine your trust in yourself as well and that undermines your self-image, which makes you more vulnerable, which undermines your self-confidence-you can see the descending spiral here.
Meanwhile, James Bond isnít making any changes. The secrets and lies continue, surrounded by denials and protestations of honesty or indignation that you would even suspect him or her of not being completely truthful.
James Bond has difficulty with both trust and honesty, which makes trust impossible.
The sad thing is that even if he or she changes completely, itís still really hard to build trust because of the history. So you get more and more suspicious and less and less trusting while James continues along the self-focused path of getting his or her needs met above all else.
When the situation (we canít really call this a relationship) finally blows up-and these relationships almost invariably blow up rather than fade away-your ability to trust anyone blows right with it. The next person who comes into your life will be under the microscope, and that is a very uncomfortable spot for anyone. The new potential partner often departs to avoid being distrusted at every turn.
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