Who you want to date. Who you want to be.
Are you emotionally available to others?
Most of us like to think we are — at least on a good day — but it’s not that easy to be that way consistently.
Some people find it extremely tough to connect deeply. It’s not their fault — unless they’ve made an active choice to shun emotional ties. Our genetics, early environments, life experiences and the feedback we get from the world all play a role in how we connect with others.
But for those who can form secure emotional connections — and have healthy relationships as a result — life is a little sweeter. A lot sweeter, actually.
What’s Emotional Availability?
Emotional availability (EA) is the ability not just to make an emotional connection with another person — but to sustain it.
Most people can connect on a superficial level. But to be truly open, all the time — and make it last — is hard. And scary. Most of us tread carefully, we don’t rush in to risk being hurt.
For people who’ve been through trauma, are painfully shy or neurodivergent, trying to make deep connections with partners and friends can be a struggle — if not agonising.
But, no matter who you are, striving to be available to (well-chosen) others is a worthy goal because, as we all know, healthy relationships make a positive difference to our lives.
It’s especially important in partnerships because emotional connection is a conduit to love.
Here’s how the best in the game do it.
1. They embrace the big, deep stuff.
This doesn’t mean emotionally available people spend all day in deep, meaningful conversations. They may do banter and light-heartedness as well as anyone. But when there’s an important topic on the table, they don’t shy away from it. They don’t procrastinate or get defensive or take the exit door. They’ll sit down and talk it through even if it’s not what they want to talk about and the outcome may not be what they want to hear.
2. They do “uncomfortable” well.
It’s easy to do all the light emotions — to keep things on the surface — but it’s a real test to sit with the difficult ones. Emotionally available people are up for being vulnerable. They’re not afraid of any emotions, even those that are negative and painful. They are easy with emotional discomfort. They realise it’s just part of being human and can be helpful for their personal growth.
They realise they don’t have to do anything with difficult feelings. They just have to notice them, feel them, and know they will pass.
3. They let others behind their wall.
If you’re reading this saying “I don’t have a wall”, hold up a minute. We all have walls. Because we all have vulnerabilities and sensibilities. And we do need walls because they help us make good choices in our relationships; they allow us to keep people who are not good for us out of our orbit.
But emotionally available people have low walls. When someone comes into their life they stay open to possibility. And when it’s someone really worthy they let them all the way in.
4. They trust others — and themselves.
In relationships, there are two types of trust: The trust you have in your partner and the trust you have in yourself. Naturally, if you’ve been hurt or let down previously, you may struggle to trust others.
But the more important facet of trust is that you have in yourself. Trusting yourself prevents you from being insecure and needy in relationships; it stops you from sabotaging potentially good ones, it enables you to relax and be fully yourself.
5. They express their feelings appropriately.
We all operate on an emotional pendulum. Highly emotional people swing in a wide arc, while inexpressive people have a small range, more a flicker than a swing. People with high EA tend to have a balanced swing. They’re self-aware and in touch with their feelings so their emotional reactions are appropriate for the occasion. But they don’t give their emotions full rein to do whatever they want, either. They use mind power too.
6. They don’t crash and burn friendships.
That’s because emotionally available people don’t turn and run when the going gets tough. Because they are open to listening and another person’s perspective, they are able to work through most problems. That doesn’t mean all their friendships work out — they don’t. But they can walk away from a relationship that’s not working, rather than sending it up in flames.
7. They’re brave in love.
Love requires courage. They’ll take a risk in love even if it’s scary because they know they can handle the feelings if it doesn’t work out. They know they will be okay — even if it takes time. And that’s a great comfort.
It’d be wonderful if every relationship we got into was with an emotionally available partner. Sorry, it’s not going to happen unless you’re one of the truly lucky ones. Most people have emotional work-ons. So the best we can do is keep building our emotional skills and to stay open to emotional experiences, even if they’re not ones we’d choose.
To be open-hearted is to live fully. Which is what makes it the highest, and maybe hardest, goal of all.