Jess and Brandon discuss what emotional unavailability might look like and they challenge the “fix-it” mentality. They share specific strategies for overcoming emotional unavailability including language and approaches to support your partner. They discuss the five languages of love, simple questions to make daily interactions more emotionally open, and emotional compatibility.
**Please find a rough transcript of this podcast below**
Welcome to the Sex With Dr. Jess Podcast brought to you by Desire Resorts and Cruises. I’m Brandon Ware.
And I’m Jess O’Reilly, your friendly neighborhood sexologist. Today we’re going to talk about emotional unavailability, because a number of folks have been referencing this topic on Instagram and I posted about it last week.
Emotional Unavailability isn’t a formal diagnosis, so it’s one of those terms that tends to be tossed around rather flippantly without a universal definition. Some of us are emotionally unavailable by choice and others don’t even realize that we're putting up a wall. Emotional availability often refers to the ability to talk openly about your feelings and this is a skill as opposed to a state of being. This means that emotional availability can be cultivated with effort and need not be a universal relationship deal breaker.
Some signs of being currently emotional unavailable include:
They avoid intimate conversations or withdraw when you bring up difficult topics. This is a good example of the fact that emotional unavailability is not a matter of character, but of skill, experience and comfort level. We’ve all avoided intimate and difficult conversations at some point in time, so you can understand why your partner might utilize avoidance behaviours. They may be trying to avoid conflict or tension. They might be distracted or stressed out by other issues in their life and simply don’t have the emotional bandwidth to open up at this time. Or they might simply not have the communication tools/skills to speak openly about intense topics. The good news, of course, is that circumstances change (you can help to put them at ease) and with practice, they can develop the skills to communicate more effectively. It’s important to note that just because you believe you’re more emotionally available, does not in fact make it so. Your perception of your own skills in biased and you can’t expect them to communicate in the same way you do; they may have a different communication style and you’ll be better off finding middle ground as opposed to expecting them to get on board with your expectations.
They refuse to express vulnerability. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable requires trust, so emotional availability can increase over time as you get to know and trust one another. If you feel your partner is not opening up, I’d avoid labels like emotionally unavailable and the associated accusations altogether. You’ll find that you’re more likely to get a positive response and a willingness to consider behavioural change if you talk about how you feel as opposed to what your partner is doing wrong.
For example, you might be frustrated by the fact that your partner won’t talk about sensitive and personal topics. Related to this frustration, however, may be a sense of insecurity, as you might expect someone who loves you to trust you with their most vulnerable feelings. Talk about this insecurity and what behaviours (e.g. opening up more about the past) might hep to assuage your fears as opposed to accusing your partner of being emotionally unavailable. Opening up about your own emotions including your vulnerabilities (e.g. insecurity) may foster a safe environment that encourages your partner to do the same.
They cut people off without working on relationships. Not all relationships (including friendships) are intended to last forever, but if they cut people off often (e.g. parents, siblings, friends, exes, co-workers), it’s easy to identify the common denominator.