Would you consider yourself emotionally available? Would your relationship partners consider you in the same way?
If I had to rate the most important aspect a relationship for guys, that I think that they could improve upon, it would be to learn how to be more emotionally available to others, especially to their relationship partners.
I know other people (including therapists) might disagree, and name such things as communication skills, more quality time, or more physical or sexual connection, but I think that the ability to be emotionally available goes a very long way in terms of things like connection, repairing old wounds, having a closer relationship, and preventing problems from arising in the first place.
I think those other qualities are certainly important, yes, but if you don’t have emotional availability, none of those things are going to be maximized.
Men and Emotional Difficulties
Being emotionally available is really difficult for most guys that I talk with. I think to be emotionally available means several things, including learning how to be more vulnerable, learning how to be more self-aware about what you’re feeling when you’re feeling it, and being able to stay present with those emotions, even when they’re difficult. It also means to be able to bring those emotions back into the relationship to improve it, by communicating them and sharing them with your partner.
I think the mistake that men make when they talk about emotional availability is that they think it means to be tearful or to cry. Although I think that, too, is difficult for guys, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re emotionally available. Plenty of guys can cry at a movie; being emotionally available is something bigger.
Developing Emotional Availability
To begin, you have to identify what you are feeling at the time you’re feeling it.
A lot of guys don’t really have a clue about what their emotions are, because they’re too stuck in their heads and try to orient themselves to relationship problems with the kind of strategies that they use for work, which include figuring out solutions to problems, solving them, and working through things logically.
That’s all headwork, ways to thing and logical orientations. Dealing with emotions is a different skill, that you can also learn over time the more you expose yourself to your emotions.
Relationships and marriages simply don’t always work with the logical/headwork orientation that guys think they will. Relationships and marriages need a different way of orienting, and learning how to tap into your emotions is the key.
Through better self-awareness, you can learn how to recognize, name, and communicate the emotions that you’re feeling. If you’re used to being in your head and thinking about things logically, don’t beat yourself up if this is difficult for you.
Learning how to express your emotions is a skill, which takes time and effort. A lot of times, therapy can help you identify those things, when you’re having trouble doing so yourself.
Emotions vs. Thoughts: The Differences
Many times, emotions are stored physically, within one’s body, and often times they don’t really have to do with anything that’s in your head, such as thinking about things. In fact, thoughts can often times get in the way of feeling. Just put it this way: if you’re thinking about something, you’re not feeling it, and if you’re feeling it, you’re not thinking about it. Make sense?
Learning how do identify and name those emotions is the first critical step. You can ask yourself: “am I feeling sad today? Scared? Inadequate?”
“Positive” vs. “Negative” Emotions
Do you know how to recognize positive emotions? Sometimes the positive emotions are a lot easier to recognize and to talk about, rather than the so-called “negative” emotions, or the more difficult emotions. Bottom line: emotions are just emotions, neither good nor bad. When you judge them either way, you cling or avoid, and the “negative” emotions often get pushed away or not dealt with, accumulating over years or lifetimes without ever being dealt with.
Once you started to identify your emotions, it’s then time to start to develop self-awareness by exploring them through curiosity. If you’re used to running from your emotions, you may want to stop and not run anymore, but try to explore your emotions with more interest, rather than avoidance.
The more you can stay with your negative feelings, the more tolerance you will be building up, and the more likely you will be too able to communicate those emotions to someone else, such as your partner.
Taking Risk to Share Your Emotions with Others
Once you’ve started to identify, understand and connect with your emotions, it’s time to start to take the risk to start to share them with your loved ones, including your relationship partner.
What holds us back from sharing our emotions, which is the essence of emotional availability, is often times fear, of being criticized, of being rejected, of not being loved and cared for despite what we’re feeling.
Sometimes, we’re afraid that our partner won’t take kindly to the feelings that we’re having, especially if those feelings are negative and they have to do with your partner and your relationship. Those are indeed the times to take the risk and share, because if you don’t, you don’t get your emotions off of your chest, and you run the risk of never working through the problems that brought on your feelings.
Taking the risk to share and be more emotionally available, whether it has to do with feelings about your relationship, feelings about yourself and your life, or any other way to express vulnerability, takes time and practice. Again, this is a skill, but it’s a skill that requires practice and repeated efforts. You’ll start to feel better, and hopefully, you’ll start to achieve the kind of relationship that you’re striving for.
What’s worked for you? Do you consider yourself emotionally available as a partner? What would your partner (or previous partners) say about you?