A couple shares a tender moment in the kitchen representing how to be more emotionally available in relationships

Have you recognized that you’re not emotionally available? This is a startling realization for many therapy and coaching clients, who often believe they “just haven’t met the right person yet” … right up until the point where their self-defeating relationship behaviors become truly undeniable. But the moment when you realize you have been putting up emotional walls between yourself and your partners is a turning point, and the start of deeper, more intimate relationships. Read on to learn about how to be emotionally available and create the soul-satisfying connections you want and deserve. 

What Does ‘Emotionally Unavailable’ Mean? 

Emotional unavailability is like having a locked door to your heart. You can go through the motions of a relationship (for a while, at least), but you can’t fully reveal your inner self to others. 

Being emotionally unavailable usually stems from past relationship experiences or attachment issues. Emotional unavailability can also be caused by mental health conditions like depression, fear of rejection, excessive stress, past relational trauma, uncertainty about your feelings, or trying to form new relationships while still being attached to someone else. 

So what does it look like to be emotionally unavailable? It can manifest in a few different ways, such as difficulty expressing feelings, avoiding vulnerability, fearing commitment, and generally avoiding things that would bring you emotionally closer to a partner or potential partner. 

In contrast, being emotionally available means being present, open, and connected with your partner. It means letting yourself be seen and known by the people you trust and care about, rather than keeping your true self hidden or protected. When you’re emotionally available, your relationships can be emotionally intimate and truly satisfying. You’ll feel like your connections to others continue to progress and deepen, rather than stagnating and becoming stale after a certain point. You’ll also feel more comfortable with taking steps in the direction of long-term commitment. 

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Why Being Emotionally Unavailable Is a Problem

Being emotionally unavailable can undermine the very foundation of a loving, lasting relationship. It creates distance, misunderstandings, and frustration between partners. It also causes relationships to stall out rather than progressing, causing hurt feelings and confusion on both sides. People who are chronically emotionally unavailable often have spotty dating histories that are peppered with many short-term relationships that “just didn’t work out” for unclear reasons. They may not realize the role that they are playing in their relationship patterns until they’ve persisted for a long time. 

Dating while you’re emotionally unavailable is also unfair to your partners. Trying and failing to connect with an emotionally unavailable partner often results in conflicts, disconnection, and relationships that feel lonely. By working to become more emotionally available, you pave the way for more fulfilling, nurturing relationships that last. 

How to Become Emotionally Available

If you are emotionally unavailable, what can you do about it? Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to increase your tolerance for intimacy, vulnerability, and true connection. 

  1. Heal from the past

To become emotionally available, it’s crucial to heal from old relationship wounds so that you can let go of the past and move forward. Take the time to grieve, process, and learn from breakups before diving into new relationships. Address any trust issues that you’ve developed because of bad experiences. Getting over your Ex before dating again allows you to break free from old emotional baggage that might be weighing you down, and preventing you from forming a deep connection with a new partner.

  1. Let go of dead-end relationships 

People who are emotionally unavailable often become entangled in relationships that are going nowhere. They do this for subconscious reasons — relationships that are doomed from the start can feel safer than relationships that will challenge you to open up and grow together with another person. But these situations can be toxic for both parties, especially if you are the “other woman” or man in someone else’s relationship. Commit to recognizing and ending relationships that have no future, and freeing yourself to fully invest in connections with true potential.

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On a similar note, don’t let ex-lovers keep a foothold in your life. Trying to be friends with your Ex (while necessary in some cases, like if you have kids together) can keep you from fully investing in new relationships. 

  1. Address insecure attachment 

If anxious or avoidant attachment patterns are making it hard for you to be emotionally available, seek the support of a therapist with expertise in attachment theory. Working through these issues can help you create more secure connections and get comfortable with getting close to others. 

(Not sure about your attachment style? Take my attachment style quiz). 

  1. Commit to radical honesty

Being emotionally available at its core means being honest with yourself and others. Challenge yourself to share your thoughts and feelings more openly, even if it feels uncomfortable. Being candid about your insecurities, flaws, and fears will help you get past emotional unavailability.

  1. Build your self-awareness

You can’t share your innermost thoughts and feelings with others until you are aware of them yourself. But people who are emotionally unavailable often struggle to identify their true thoughts and feelings, especially if they have an avoidant attachment style. If this is the case for you, you can start by spending some time reflecting on your feelings and noticing where you feel them in your body. This can help you learn to  recognize your feelings more easily when they arise. You may want to use a journal to help you identify the different sensations and the thoughts that are associated with them. When you become more able to tune into your feelings, you can communicate them with others, helping you connect emotionally and get your needs met in relationships.

  1. Practice being vulnerable 

Vulnerability is the key to getting close. Though it can be intimidating, vulnerability is essential for developing deep, satisfying relationships. By challenging yourself to be more vulnerable in all aspects of your life, you’ll increase your emotional availability in your most important relationships.

  1. Address commitment issues 

Emotional unavailability and fear of commitment go hand in hand. This is especially true for children of divorce and those who didn’t grow up seeing a healthy relationship between their parents. If you’ve struggled with commitment in the past, it’s essential to confront this fear so that you don’t carry it forward into new relationships. Getting more comfortable with commitment will help you make choices about relationships from your wise mind, rather than out of fear or insecurity. 

Support for Becoming Emotionally Available

Becoming more emotionally unavailable is not like flipping on a light switch. It takes time, and often, a knowledgeable guide. This is especially true if the roots of your emotional unavailability stretch back to childhood, if you have insecure attachment, or if you have experienced relational trauma that has made it difficult for you to trust again. A good therapist can help you connect with yourself and others and form truly loving and satisfying relationships. 

If you’d like to do this valuable work with a clinician on my team, I invite you to schedule a free consultation

With love, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. — For more free advice on becoming emotionally available, check out my “Emotional and Sexual Intimacy” collection of articles and podcasts. I made it for you!

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