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Are You Emotionally Unavailable?

emotionally unavailable

Emotional unavailability 

Has anyone ever said you’re aloof or undemonstrative? If so, the chances are you’re emotionally unavailable. People who dampen their emotions to survive childhood stress find it hard to form relationships as adults.

They fear being vulnerable and avoid closeness. At the same time as being distant, however, they long for loving relationships. Recognizing your dilemma can prompt you to change.

Why people become unavailable

You might have become emotionally unavailable as a coping mechanism as a kid. Your parents may have loved you but had emotional difficulties.

If they found expressing their feelings challenging, they would have insisted you maintained a similar, stiff upper lip approach.

It’s also possible to become detached from your emotions in a stressful environment. Detachment is a response to anxiety, which, if faced might have left you afraid or depressed.

Those who dampen their feelings are sensitive. It’s their sensitivity that makes dealing with stress so difficult; they feel too much and switch off their pain to help them cope.

In the short term, such modifications are constructive. If the choice is between a breakdown and separation from your emotions for a while, the latter is preferable.

Difficulty arises when the coping strategy continues, making establishing meaningful relationships impossible.

Emotional unavailability is a survival tactic. Part of you has learned it’s helpful not to form attachments or experience the full extent of your emotions.

You can change by overriding detached behavior. Nonetheless, it takes time; a gradual process is more comfortable than rushing change.

Recognize your behavior

Realize what you do to block attachment and prevent emotions surfacing. Unavailable people often ask questions about others, but don’t say much about themselves. They don’t make room in their lives for people or make them feel prized.

Plus, they might self-medicate using drugs, alcohol, or another method to numb their emotions.

If you’re unavailable, you may be a workaholic which keeps you from getting close to people. Alternatively, you might fill your time in other ways, so you don’t develop relationships.

You might also be critical and quick to blame others. Facing the guilt or shame of making mistakes is too scary, so you would rather not admit blunders. Consider whether these behaviors apply to you. If so, it’s time for self-reflection.

See where your behavior originates

Look to your past, particularly childhood, to see where being unavailable originates. Did you experience loss or abandonment? Were your parents unavailable to you?

Also, consider whether you’re following a similar pattern to your parents. For instance, if they didn’t have time for you, do you treat your partner similarly? Do you consider yourself worthy of love?

Might keeping an emotional distance be a form of protection since you fear rejection?

Mindful behavior

You’re emotionally unavailable without having to try, which means your behavior’s unconscious. You can change automatic behavior with mindfulness, by paying attention to what you do and say.

When you’re mindful, you stay in the present. You also fill your mind with what you intend to focus on, which in this case is to be more available to others.

When you notice you create emotional distance, inch closer to intimacy. Dip your toe in the water and be a little more available than usual.

Share a memory from childhood with your partner and spend more time with him or her. Also, ask yourself what you want from the relationship.

No doubt, you crave closeness. Think about how you can act to get what you want.

Ask yourself how you feel in the moment too. Learn to spot your emotions as they rise rather than push them away. You’ll discover allowing them to exist is easier than repressing them, only to find them resurfacing in a big way later.

If you’ve been emotionally unavailable until now, don’t feel ashamed. Your behavior was an adaptive response that helped you cope.

Now you’re aware of the situation you can take steps to change. Inch forward rather than rush from your comfort zone.

Step by step, make yourself more available to your partner. Give more time and open up to them.

Also, become familiar with your emotions by identifying them in real time. You’ll soon be able to get closer to people and create a better relationship with yourself too.

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Are You Emotionally Unavailable?

John D. Moore, PhD

Described as folksy and down to earth, Dr. John Moore infuses current events and pop culture into his posts as a way of communicating wider points on issues related to wellness and goal attainment. His work has been featured in nationally syndicated media, including Cosmo, Men's Fitness and CBS Market Watch. He is a consultant to a number of Fortune 500 companies and institutions of Higher Learning. Dr. Moore is author of Confusing Love with Obsessionand Editor in Chief at: Guy Counseling.

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APA Reference
Moore, J. (2019). Are You Emotionally Unavailable?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Jan 2019
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