Have you ever really thought about your emotional availability? Here are a few questions that I offer for you to think about. My purpose in this post is to invite you to “take yourself on” and really work these questions.
Get a notebook and a pen. Write out the question, and just start writing an answer. Don’t stop to edit. You are writing only for yourself.
James Pennebaker is a pioneer in writing therapies. His theory is that actively inhibiting thoughts and feelings about traumatic events requires effort, serves as a cumulative stressor on the body.
Writing for yourself is an elegant way of boosting your immune system. When you write it you own it. And you can externalize the demons instead of bottling them up inside.
Give yourself a fixed block of time to wrestle with each question. Pennebaker tells us:
Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or sentence structure. The only rule is that once you begin writing, you continue until the time is up…open yourself up by writing it down…
Write and keep writing. Really explore each question. Then when you are done, read your entire output.
This could be the start of a very deep and healthy process for you. And it might help you to assess your emotional ability.
What does Availability mean to you?
How do you feel about intimate partners as a category of human beings? Are you ambivalent? Do you enjoy crass or sarcastic humor about marriage and commitment? Do you “make jokes” about issues that your partner takes seriously? Does your humor wound?
Do you avoid being alone with your partner? if so, how is that comfortable for you?
Do you think that needing and missing someone are only signs of weakness?
Does being vulnerable seem like an invitation to get crushed by disappointment?
When you’re feeling the excitement of a new relationship… is a part of you always waiting for the other shoe to drop?
Have you been deceived or manipulated in the past…and now expect it from your partner eventually?
Do you watch television, computer or smartphone as a strategy to avoid conversation with your partner?
When is the last time you talked with your partner about a deep feeling you once had…or have right now?
Do you have a secret shame that you are convinced that if revealed, would make you unlovable?
Do you defend yourself and deflect any topics of conversation that might reveal something too “personal”?
Are you living with a partner, but not committed? Are you keeping your romantic options open in a secretive way?
Do you fear that if you do commit, your partner will want things from you? What do you most want to withhold?
Are you afraid that if you commit to your partner, you will lose your freedom and be a slave to their demands and expectations? Where did you learn that from?
Is the only reason you want to go to a couples retreat is to put on a show for your kids, or friends and family?
Are you in couples therapy just to “park” your partner there… so you can let the therapist pick up the pieces?
Are you still seeing your affair partner.. and lying to them too?
What does living with an intimate partner mean to you? Is it just sexual or economic convenience?
Would you “better deal” your partner in a heartbeat if a more attractive offer came along?
What did you learn about being in a relationship with your parents? How is your current relationship similar?
Maybe some of these questions made you wince. Good. The answers are for your eyes only. You can handle it.
Can you be available…for yourself?
The best ability is availability. Bill Parcells
But if availability is a problem emerging in your intimate relationship, it’s better if you ask yourself now than if your partner asks you later. I know you have the ability. But do you have availability?
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He is the Blog Editor. He currently works online seeing couples from Massachusetts at Couples Therapy Inc. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.