Breaking Through Emotional Unavailability

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This is Part 4 of a four part series on Expectations:

Part 1: Expectations vs Contentment

Part 2: Where Do You End, and Where Do I Begin?

Part 3: Never Get Hurt Again. Ever.

vulnerability 

Last, week, my best friend and I were eating fried chicken and minding our own business when… WHAP!

Our “whaps” are like Oprah’s aha moments, but with much less grace and a whole lot less zeroes on the check.

Here’s what happened.

We were talking about boys, ourselves, and relationships in general.   And, of course, the subject of emotional unavailability came up. Because we are experts. We are experts at dating these types of guys and we are also experts at being emotionally unavailable.

What is this mysterious condition? You might ask. Well, I’m glad you did – because it’s a whopper.

Emotional Unavailability (EU) is basically when the lights are on in someone, but no one’s home. In other words, the person may be physically present, but their heart and mind are a million miles away. They are disconnected from you emotionally and, despite your efforts, you cannot reach them to connect.

EU can happen for a short period of time due to a traumatic situation (recovering from the shock of a death or car accident) or it might last for a long period of time because there are complex, unhealed wounds a person feels the need to protect.

There are some great articles online about emotional unavailability and one of my favorite is here: Understanding an Emotionally Unavailable Relationship.

We typically think of EU as a person is either emotionally available, or they are not. We say things like “oh, well, he’s just emotionally unavailable.”

What we mean is “I am trying really hard to connect with this person and it feels like they are shut down and closed off.”

Here was the “aha” moment:

Maybe a person isn’t just emotionally available or unavailable. Maybe a person can be both.

Here’s why.

box of darkness handwritten

We all bring our past experiences to the table. In every relationship, including romantic ones. We build boundaries (framework) to protect ourselves from pain. That’s all ok, healthy, and good!

Do you have a friend or partner who you trust who you can tell absolutely anything to and know they would never intentionally hurt you?

Are you that kind of person?

I hope you feel like both of the answers to those are yes. If not, no sweat.. we can chat about that later and unravel that knot, ok?

Now, do you also know people who you would not tell your deepest, darkest secrets? People whom you do not trust?

Sure! We all know folks who we feel that way about.  Here’s the math:

  • When we feel safe, our guard comes down.
  • When we feel unsafe, our guard goes up.

In this sense, we all have the ability to hold space for being emotionally available when we want to be (when we feel safe), and emotionally UNavailable when we don’t (when we feel UNsafe).

#mind.  #blown.

So, dear one, the next time we think to ourselves “she/he must be emotionally unavailable” please consider adding the words “to me” at the end of that sentence.

Then, we can begin to ask really interesting questions.  Clarifying questions.   Truth telling questions.

And we may choose to find our way to intimacy. Or, not.

Onward….

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