There's a lot of talk in the dating world about what to do if you're involved with an emotionally unavailable person. Typically that advice is to ditch and move on - I think I even said that in one blog post somewhere. But what if you are the unemotionally available one? You might have been labelled as the a**hole, you've perhaps claimed that you're 'just not very good' at dating or relationships or haven't met the right person, but deep down, know at the core of it that there's something more going on.
So what to do if this is something you want to change? (Which eventually, you will probably need to at least work on if you want a happy romantic life somewhere in the future.)
There isn't a manual to being good at relationships. Or a good dater. Or good at that in between bit. If you've been claiming you're not good at it, the real answer is that you probably just don't want to be in a relationship and haven't been able to communicate that in an honest way, you're unsure about commitment or getting close to someone, there's things going on in your life that need work or that you're unhappy about, you're not ready for it or you're just plain scared of getting hurt. None of these are wrong or even need solutions right now, but to change them, you have to be prepared to be honest with yourself. If you have been the a**hole in the past, just admit it. That's only when you can start to look at how not to be one in the future. No one wants to be that guy or girl forever.
Usually, when I speak to people who have felt emotionally unavailable, there was one thing, event or person that triggered it. So identify it. But don't place blame. What matters now is how to move on from that.
Write it down
Journaling is a really effective way of unraveling our thoughts and emotions. Especially when it comes to admitting things to yourself that you might have been suppressing or making excuses for. Journaling can get tarnished with the woo woo brush but don't let that put you off. It's a really good thing to do. Let yourself be vulnerable and write down everything that you're thinking and feeling about this issue (or issues). It doesn't have to be structured or make any sense but getting it out of your head on paper can be incredibly therapeutic and it can also help you come to some realisations about yourself that you didn't even know were there.
Talk to a friend
It can really help to share what you're feeling about all of this to someone who you trust. Allowing yourself to be emotionally vulnerable is the only way to tap into what's really going on. A good friend will support you and very likely respect you even more for opening up. It doesn't mean you're being weak (it means the exact opposite) and you don't have to be overly emotional. Just talk to them about what's bothering you and get their viewpoint on it.
Let it go
Just like clinging onto an old relationship or an ex that moved on months/years ago, to be able to let people in, you need to let all that stuff from the past go. Not letting go could be sabotaging you because if you've been hurt in the past, a coping mechanism can be to hurt others (and that usually isn't even intentional). It will never make you feel good, it's creating blocks, it's in the past, it doesn't exist right now and it's probably destroying your ability to have fun, get close and allow something potentially special to blossom with someone else.
Understand that being emotionally available doesn't mean you have to get into a relationship
If you don't want to be in a relationship but still have fun and date, that's more than fine and no one is judging you on it. You just need to think about how you communicate it to the people you're dating or seeing. Be compassionate because if you're dating someone, giving them mixed signals or all the signs of a green light and then running a mile (which could be a reoccurring pattern if you're in the emotionally unavailable camp or labelled as such), you're likely to hurt them if they were clearly into it. Just be honest and mindful of the feelings of the people you're getting involved with.
Look at the rest of your life
If you're an emotionally unavailable person and keep dating or getting into the start of something and then running time and time again, maybe take a break and focus on what's going on in the rest of your life. It can be tempting to look to other people to fill a void but that hasn't worked out too well so far because you've probably met a number of really great girls/guys yet the same blocks, sense of dissatisfaction or fears still keep appearing. Take away all that and you'll be more likely to have to face other things in your life that maybe you're unhappy about or need to focus on. Are there bad habits that you could do with changing, does your lifestyle need some reassessment, how healthy is your social life and social circle? Do you live with purpose, are you striving for something? Do you generally feel positive and excited about your life and where it's going? Are you happy with yourself? Are you surrounding yourself with people who make you feel good and who are decent people themselves?
Sometimes it's a shame because emotionally unavailable men in particular, get given a hard time when the real reason they struggle in the emotional availability dept can be because they feel inadequate in other areas of their life and can't envisage someone else in that out of fear of it not being good enough. But they can't communicate that, face up to it or know what to do about it, and so they come off as a bad guy. That's where you need to start though. Do something proactive about it or change the way you think about it. Small steps make big change.
Take a risk
Maybe you do have your life sorted and you're just scared of getting hurt. That's ok - most people if they're honest, are. If you've met someone you genuinely like and can feel yourself pulling back, sometimes you have to step into what's scaring you most and see what happens. It doesn't mean you're committing your life to this person, but what it does mean is that you're taking things a little beyond what you normally would. And that's progress because allowing yourself to be even a tiny bit vulnerable is what will help you. Again, doesn't mean you have to keep engaging in deep and meaningful conversations about being scared. Many guys for example say they 'don't really do emotions' or struggle with them, but really it's is just being a bit more transparent to yourself and the other person about how you feel. No tears or emotionally fuelled conversations needed ;)
Don't future trip
It's helpful to remember to avoid going from A - Z in your head when it comes to future tripping, as doing this can make it 10 x more scary than what it needs to be. Being emotionally available isn't selling your soul away to the next person you date. It's doesn't have to be all or nothing. It's just allowing things to evolve, going easy on yourself for feeling a bit out of your comfort zone, not putting pressure on yourself and not running away at the first sign of what you think means 'commitment'.
Remember that perfection doesn't exist
Whilst I am a definite fan of indulging in the dating buffet, in today's world it can be very easy to use the idea of finding the perfect person as an excuse for other things going on. If you're searching in pursuit of that unicorn holding the moon on a stick, you'll be looking for a long time or might have even already found him or her but run. I absolutely do not mean 'settle' but be realistic and honest with yourself about the real reason that you're unable to stick around.
Don't be an unripe avocado ;)
Being involved with an emotionally unavailable person isn't usually much fun. I saw a recent article liken it to an unripe avocado, which I thought was a clever comparison. (I'm really into my avocados and it's very disappointing!) Fruit and veg aside, I think we've all been that way too at some point though. I know I have. It's rare that you can seamlessly go from relationship to relationship with everything all perfectly figured out. At the end of the day whatever end of it you're on, you have to take responsibility for yourself.
I'd love to hear what you think about this one and any experience you've had, so please do leave any comments! And as always, all emails are welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can catch me on Twitter @laurayatesUK