Time and time again, clients come to me because they keep dating emotionally unavailable people. And, time and time again, I find that part of the reason is that they are emotionally unavailable, too.
So let’s talk about the signs you might be emotionally unavailable when dating.
If you have a hunch you may be emotionally unavailable when you date, ask yourself if you do any of the following:
You’re always one foot out the door. Your reasoning for this is that you want to be prepared “in case they leave.” Maybe you’ve been hurt in the past, and you’re simply dealing with data and facts. While you may think you’re protecting yourself, you’re actually stopping someone from experiencing all of you.
You “test” them to see if they’ll leave. You play games or ask them trick questions to see how they react. You pick fights to watch how long they’ll stick around. You function under the mentality that, like the first sign, you have to do what you can to know if they’ll hurt you now rather than getting hurt down the road.
You don’t talk about when you have a stressful day. You avoid talking about emotions or heavy topics. You’re worried the other person might disappoint you, or the idea of talking about feelings seems way too intimate. But, if you stop to think about it, emotional expression is something you very much want from a partner.
You want things to happen only your way. There’s no wiggle room for someone else’s opinions or ideas. You have your mind set on how your life will look and feel. And while it’s great to know what you want, this rigidity can be a huge roadblock for someone new who wants to enter your life.
You withdraw when things get difficult. When you’re overwhelmed, you shut down and want to be alone. You’ve dealt with your emotions on your own for so long; it’s the only way you know how to deal with things. Or, arguably worse, someone walked away when things became difficult, so you believe that dealing with things on your own is a way to ensure that won’t happen again.
You avoid making plans too far into the future. You think getting your hopes up is pointless if things don’t work out.
Does any of that sound like you? If so, you might be emotionally unavailable, and, in turn, it’s part of the reason you’re not finding emotionally available people to date.
But don’t worry!
Being emotionally unavailable isn’t a death sentence. There are ways to become more comfortable with intimacy and expressing your emotions.
How to increase your emotional availability:
Begin noticing your emotions throughout the day.
If you don't notice or can't put words to your emotions for yourself, how can you expect to do so for someone else? A great place to begin is to start noticing and labeling your emotions throughout the day.
There are two ways I suggest people create this habit. The first is to set an alarm that goes off several times a day. When it goes off, you stop to notice what you were thinking and feeling.
The second is to pick something you do, throughout your day, like going to the bathroom or opening your fridge. Whenever you do the action, take note of your thoughts and feelings.
Talk about yourself more.
You may think that asking a lot of questions about your dates shows how much you're into them (and that's definitely something you should still do), but it may be a way to avoid revealing things about yourself as well.
While it's great to learn about who your dates are, they also want to know who you are. Though it may feel uncomfortable, try lingering on stories about yourself a little longer than you're used to.
State your expectations rather than playing games.
Would you be surprised if I told you that you're being emotionally unavailable and causing your own pain by playing games? People aren't mind-readers; they can't possibly know what you want if you don't straight-up tell them.
I know it feels safer to be passive-aggressive or wait to respond to their texts, but all you're doing is missing out on opportunities to connect with the other person and have your expectations met.
Practice showing emotions with your friends.
If dating feels too vulnerable of a place to start to show more emotional availability, then start with your friends! Let them know this is something you struggle with, and don't be afraid to ask them for feedback!
Reach out to them when you've had a stressful day or are struggling. Share with them your wins, accomplishments, and joyful moments, too, no matter how small! Be open about what needs you'd like them to meet and any shortcomings that could strengthen the relationship.
Practice honest communication.
If someone crosses your boundary, say something. Felt offended by a joke they made? Let them know. Enjoying getting to know them because you're feeling a connection? Tell them!
I know it's easier said than done when you're not used to communicating your feelings openly. So here are a few scripts for situations you may find yourself in:
"I feel ____ when you ___."
"When you did ___ it hurt my feelings."
"If you do ___ again, I won't stick around."
"I've been enjoying getting to know you and I feel like we have a great connection."
Check out my free dating anxiety journal prompts to help you understand yourself more and the changes you want. to make in dating.
If you want to move towards feeling confident and secure when looking for love, grab your copy of my 30-day dating guide "From Anxious to Secure."