MARRIAGE AND BEING EMOTIONALLY AVAILABLE
In addition to becoming familiar with your emotions, there are three other elements that are related to developing the capacity to be emotionally available –
Good Self-Esteem – The messages we have heard from other people throughout our lives – but especially during childhood when we are most vulnerable to the impact of these messages – have a profound influence on how we see ourselves. If people tell us that we have negative qualities, we eventually internalize this message and begin to see ourselves in a negative light. On the other hand, if we are treated with high regard from others as we grow up, we can develop positive self-esteem. People with good self-esteem value themselves, are confident in expressing themselves, and can engage in healthy reciprocal relationships with other people. Positive self-esteem allows a person to treat other people with high regard and to value the accomplishments and achievements of other people without feeling threatened. People with positive self-esteem like themselves, and, in turn, can like other people as well. They can make themselves emotionally available to another person.
Healthy Boundaries – Good boundaries show that you respect the individuality, personal space and privacy of other people – as well as your own. This ability, again, is developed most strongly in childhood, but is refined throughout our lives. People with poor boundaries intrude into the lives of others so that other people don’t feel safe around them. They gossip, reveal secrets, meddle into the private affairs of others, and, in general, fail to show respect for the dignity of other people – as well as themselves. People who grew up in households with poor boundaries have never been able to develop a sense of their own individuality or a sense of separation from their family members, so in adulthood they have difficulty honoring another person’s space. A person with porous boundaries may be emotionally unavailable because, in a sense, they are too available – so available, in fact, that they lack a clear sense of who they are. In order to be emotionally available to another person, you need a good sense of your own self that you protect. When you have good boundaries, you are able to protect the healthiest parts of both yourself and your partner.
The Ability to Trust – One of the core attributes we develop from the families we grow up in is a sense of safety. When we feel safe, we are able to trust in the world. But when we feel abandoned, rejected, or controlled, trust can become an issue for us in later relationships. And when our ability to trust is damaged, we may feel safer by walling ourselves off from our partner – and thus become emotionally unavailable. Trust is a deep issue that requires exploration and understanding, as well as some courage when we are finally ready to attempt to trust other people. The development of trust can be facilitated by working with a professional therapist in a setting that feels safe, and it may be a necessary step in making yourself emotionally available to your partner. When a person makes a commitment to us in a relationship, we owe that person respect – and that means making ourselves emotionally available to those who love us.
Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT