What Is Emotional Availability?

I’ve made the mistakes of reaching for those who aren’t available. I used to think that it was far more about whether or not someone was single in dating or whether or not a friend was able to hang out.

After spending a lot of time on unavailable people and investing my time in situations with emotionally unavailable people, I found myself numbed to what it actually looked like. I made several lists over the span of six months spent single and getting to know new friends in ways I wouldn’t have before, to best understand what it really means. Life doesn’t come with that manual to let us know what that availability means, but we know it’s important because when it’s not there it hurts a great deal.

At first it felt silly to have to say it out loud and have it lain out so plainly. I said to myself, “I’m a grown woman- why don’t I know this yet???” It felt like something I should’ve known by now, but after talking to more and more people I realized how little it’s talked about but how often its impact is felt and they kept asking about what emotional availability means. There were more articles talking about how to recognize emotionally unavailable people or how to protect yourself from them but what about avoiding it altogether? What about stopping the cycle of attracting those people in its tracks by looking for traits of those who were available?

Those handfuls of discussions brought me to sharing this list now. Maybe it will help you, too?

Emotionally available people are/do/be/have:

When you behave in ways that aren’t like your usual self, others ask about why you’re not feeling your best and want to understand why.

They don’t have to make great declarations of love or appreciation, though they can, they just understand that they don’t need to do that in order for you to know that they care, because those constantly grand declarations can become a way to create a false sense that they’re showing you something deeper about themselves.

Someone who is interested in learning about you and who asks more than superficial questions about how your day was. The most emotionally available people have always asked questions about why and how I am the person I am today.

Someone who welcomes conversations about emotions and how you’re feeling; When emotions come up, they stay rooted in place because they want to know that part of you.

They want to tell you about their day and they want you to know what’s going on inside of their heart and mind.

There’s no need for drama to feel like the friendship or relationship is in a good place.

They aren’t afraid to talk about the future in romance or in friendship.

Their emotional availability doesn’t have an expiration date and isn’t bound by a limited time offer- it’s present and ongoing.

They listen to what you’re saying and also what you’re not saying.

They respect your boundaries and will tell you about their own boundaries; Trying to get you to say yes to something when you’ve said no is not a game to them.

They want their actions to match their words and as a result, they do.

Spend more time talking about loving themselves and investing in situations and people who support them. It takes a lot of work to sustain low self-worth and those with the ability to be present for others first have to cease being wrapped up with basic emotional survival for themselves.

They don’t always have to be right.

They have fears like the rest of us but aren’t bound by them and their lives aren’t guided by avoiding them. They don’t always have to live in their comfort zone to communicate with you.

When you talk to them you’re spending more time enjoying the experience with them and you spend less time figuring their emotions out- That’s their job and they ‘get it’.

They feel comfortable setting down technology and disconnecting from their social media self to connect with you.

Their availability doesn’t hinge on whether or not their openness will serve them best and see that they “win” any part of a situation.

They fully understand that relationships and friendships aren’t always easy and their actions reflect that they’re dedicated to doing the hard work when it’s required.

They can communicate and be in places where their beliefs aren’t the most popular; They don’t have to be right in order to engage with others.

They are truthful about their experiences but they’re also forthcoming and another kind of truthful altogether, about how they’re feeling.

They want to know about the most important stories I tell and what details or parts of those stories of my present or past that I care the most about.

Don’t use other people or social gatherings as a way of telling you about things that are important to them and won’t make something you said in private, a public matter at a party; You and your feelings will never be the punchline of a joke.

They admit to being scared and show that vulnerable side of themselves.

They recognize that it’s not their job to fix you or make you emotionally available. Those who get wrapped up in what’s wrong about you cannot celebrate what’s right and be authentically intimate with you.

They want you to be all of these things to them and challenge you when you aren’t or if you’re not meeting them halfway with how available you are.

It took a while but I learned that the people who show up emotionally are not rare but the recognition of it can feel like it.

More often than not, the times I’ve attracted the most emotionally unavailable people, it’s because some part of me wasn’t available either. I was lost in defending my self-worth from an invisible enemy that at times, didn’t even exist. I was too busy and caught up in worrying about what the world thought of me to notice whether or not my emotional needs were being met. It’s what hindsight may not allow me to forget but the very thing that grace keeps at the forefront so that I can be compassionately available for others.

Emotional availability is more important than ever before because we live in a world that can be so disconnected and seldom allows us to truly see the wonderful people right in front of us. There are times where we need a guidebook and a road map that leads us back home so that we can show up fully and completely.

When reading through this list a third time, I realized how beautiful it was to know that at the end of the day, I could choose the types of people in my circle and that life was not inflicting me with pain; Despite the series of events that took place, I was not doomed or cursed to keep repeating these negative experiences.

Being present for others isn’t just about what we can do for them but also how fully we experience joy from what we’re doing in our lives. Life is so much richer when I put down the technology and commit to showing up honestly for others, even when I’m scared and even when I don’t know if they’ll meet me halfway. When they do it’s the spark that creates the flame of intimacy with others. It’s at the core of connecting with others powerfully in ways that we yearn for from behind our computer screens.

It’s the one thing that brings us together and reminds us of how beautiful life can be; You are safe to bloom and request that others open to you as well.

Cheryl Costello The Loving Instant

On The Wings of Miracles,

~Cheryl Costello~


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