MARRIAGE AND UNEMOTIONAL PARTNERS
Working on Emotional Availability
Emotional availability refers to the ability of a person to share feelings with another person. In order for this to happen, a person needs to be in touch with her own emotions and able to define them. This person would have a good working knowledge of her own feelings and be able to identify when she feels angry, afraid, hurt, sad, happy, or content. Furthermore, the person needs to be able to read these feelings in other people. When these factors are missing, it is impossible for two people to experience an emotionally available relationship. Since people connect through their feelings, one who is out of touch with the emotional realm leads a lonely and isolated life, unable to engage in the processes of nurturance and trust that can be found within a healthier relationship. Fortunately, this condition is correctable.
We learn about emotions starting in childhood, and we continually refine our relationship with our emotions throughout our lives. We learn subtler versions of our basic childhood emotions during adulthood. We learn how to define them, how to categorize them, and how to express them appropriately throughout our development.
An Exercise: If you (or your partner) feel that you need some work in developing
your familiarity with your emotions, you might try the following –
Throughout the day, keep a record of anytime you feel a certain emotion. Keep your list of emotions simple (e.g., “glad,” “sad,” “mad” or “bad – afraid or guilty”). Anytime you feel one of these emotions, identify the time of day, the emotion you’re feeling, and the circumstances surrounding the emotion (i.e., what was going on when you felt the emotion). Later, with your partner, a trusted friend, or your therapist, go through your list and share what you’ve written down. First identify what was going on when you felt a certain emotion. Try to understand why the event led to this emotion. Next, describe how the emotion feels within your body. Finally, after you have completed your list, talk about how it feels to share your emotional feelings with another person.
Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT