8 Signs Someone Is Truly Emotionally AvailableAll the green flags!
Between your friend venting about all the emotionally unavailable people they’ve met on dating apps recently and the Johnie-Izzy-Chris drama on Love Is Blind season 5, the availability of one’s emotions is very much in the ether right now. But if there’s one thing all of these conversations have in common, it’s this: we don’t all agree on what it means to be emotionally unavailable. So here we are.
Being emotionally unavailable basically means someone doesn’t want to be upfront about their emotions or respond to yours, says psychology professor and researcher Joanne Davila, PhD, director of Stony Brook University’s Relationship Development Center. They might stare blankly at you when convos get deep or ask, “Why do we need to talk about this?” when you bring up heavy stuff, she explains. Emotionally available people want to go there with you even if it’s uncomfortable, she notes.
Before you boo anyone for avoiding emotion-fueled talks, know that there’s a lot of room between emotionally open for business and totally shut down. Also, being less emotionally available doesn’t make someone a bad person. Feelings can be hard and cringe to talk about! And some of us actually learned to avoid the mushy stuff because of how we were raised, or past traumas hold us back from getting vulnerable, says Dr. Davila.
That said, emotional availability is definitely part of any healthy relationship. Whether it’s with friends, partners, or family, being open about emotional topics or emotions in general enables you to connect, says licensed therapist and founder of Clover Therapy Caitlyn Pearson, LMFT. When you talk about your feelings, you create a stronger bond you can lean on for support, she says. The important part is understanding what level of openness you and the other person need to make the relationship work, Dr. Davila says.
It’s totally understandable if you want to be surrounded by people who you can talk to about presentation anxiety or who are willing to angry-cry in front of you. If they’re not giving you that, you can let them know and ask if they’re willing to work on communication in therapy together or separately, Pearson says.
Giving someone a chance before writing them off as an emotionally unavailable blob gives them a chance to try to open up more. But there’s also no shame in moving on if they’re not ready, Pearson notes. “Sometimes what you’re able to give isn’t enough for another person and vice versa.”
The bottom line is that connecting with people and maintaining that connection is hard. “It takes energy, time, and putting your ego and fears aside,” says Pearson. So give people who have trouble with this (which is honestly SO many of us, she notes) some grace and know that change is 100% possible—people can work on being more emotionally available, she says. And also, walking away can be the best choice, Pearson adds. Do you.
Now, here are some signs that someone in your life is actually emotionally available, according to mental health professionals. The person you’re dating, casually seeing, or living with doesn’t have to tick all these boxes all the time, but this is a good place to start.
1. They genuinely show interest in you.
Emotionally available people are engaged and connected, Dr. Davila says. They care about what’s going on in your life and how you’re feeling about it, she adds. For example, anyone could ask how your day was and be satisfied with “fine.” An emotionally available person will be interested in your answer and ask follow-up questions, she explains. They want to know more than just the surface-level stuff.
2. They’re OK talking about where you stand.
Getting close with someone else can be scary for anyone. But for an emotionally unavailable person who may have been hurt by people in the past, that fear can make them hesitant to invest in a future with you, says Pearson. Oftentimes, they don’t want to rely on and trust you only to be screwed in the end, she notes. That can make them avoid the “what are we?” convo. After all, talking through that involves getting really ~vulnerable~.
That means emotional availability can look like being willing to chat about your relationship despite the risks, Pearson explains. Even if they think hanging out isn’t going anywhere, they’re able to talk through that instead of ghosting you, she says.
3. They show up.
Because being on time, following through with plans, and communicating frequently are all part of getting closer, an emotionally unavailable person might not do any of that, Pearson notes. Or, if they do, they’re not reliable about it. Those who are willing to be there for you or your plans are expressing that this relationship is a priority.
People who are emotionally open also come through when good things happen to you. They want to show you that they care, says Dr. Davila. They might call to congratulate you on a raise or send a text after you win Fantasy Football. They stick to their word AND show up to cheer you on.
4. They invite you into their space.
A person letting you see their messy apartment or introducing you to their core group of friends is a sign that you’re bonding. It’s a big step, but it’s probably not an issue for someone who wants you to get to know them on a deeper level. On the other hand, someone who’s emotionally unavailable might see your place and hang with your buds but hide those parts of their life from you, Pearson says. They might be nervous that you’ll get attached only to leave them or that you won’t like what you see, she explains.
5. They’re there for you when shit goes down.
Someone giving you a hug or offering advice when you’ve had a bad day—or even just asking what you need to get through a stressful week—shows that they want to be emotionally there for you. This person’s validating that they hear what you’re saying and that they want to be present with you when you’re feeling your feels, Dr. Davila says. Even if they’re uncomfortable, they’ll still sit with you, listen to you vent, and offer their thoughts or help, she says.
6. They get vulnerable.
It’s good if someone listens to you when you’re struggling, but part of a great relationship between emotionally available people is reciprocation—making an effort to consistently share how they’re feeling too, says Pearson. No one needs to dive into trauma on a third date to prove that, she notes. What it’s really about is being able to ask for help, says Dr. Davila.
Somebody also doesn’t need to get emotional with you 24/7 (there’s gotta be some boundaries!), but discussing their death anxiety or nerves while waiting for blood test results conveys that they aren’t self-sufficient all the time and having you close by matters, Dr. Davila says. “It demonstrates an openness to take the risk of showing yourself, your emotions, and your needs to someone,” she adds.
7. They’re affectionate.
Physical touch is a way we show we care. "I think being physically intimate with someone can be taking a little bit of risk. It’s being a little bit vulnerable. It's showing the other person: I want to connect with you," Dr. Davila explains. Of course, people might not like to do this in public for a lot of reasons, but being game for it in private is a good sign they’re emotionally available, she says.
8. They hear you out.
When you’re having issues with a relationship—like you want them to text you more—someone who’s emotionally available will listen. They understand that you’re trying to express your own needs, and, even if they disagree, they don’t put a wall up, says Pearson. They’re not going to run away from conversations like that, she notes. This also shows that they care about the relationship (and you) enough to address difficult issues and emotions, Dr. Davila says. As they should!
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