Being open and being vulnerable are two different things.
Most often, we hear the term emotionally unavailable associated with men, even having a shortened version of the term—EUM—as a way to describe the men who always remain just out of reach. The men who give us just enough to keep us hooked, but never what we truly need.
However the truth is that emotionally unavailable women also hide out in these types of drama-filled situations because they are unable to truly be vulnerable and intimate with a partner who is available.
Women aren’t normally painted as being emotionally unavailable. Usually it’s the heart on the sleeve, sensitive, loving, and caring image that we all identify with—the woman who is just waiting for a man who will let her love him. This is a nice idea, but it doesn’t really have us owning our baggage and triggers, now does it?
One of the biggest secrets we have as women is that we’re scared of letting someone in again, or even for the first time. We’re scared of being hurt, rejected, and abandoned. I’m not talking about sharing the ins and outs of our story, or how many people we’ve slept with; what I’m speaking of is opening ourselves up to let someone in far enough that we’ll need them.
Now, I’ve really scared you off, haven’t I?
Because the one thing a strong, independent woman is never supposed to do is need a man, right? After all, we’ve come so far from the days of apron wearing, child-raising lives that any truly evolved, self-sufficient woman doesn’t actually need anyone, right?
The fact is that as humans in this life, none of us are meant to do it alone. We are not born and then dropped off in the woods to raise ourselves; our entire development is based on needing others, yet somehow in this society, to need someone has become synonymous with being less than. We’re made to believe that if we need someone, it means we’re unhealthily attached and should initiate more Buddhism-based enlightenment practices within our relationships.
Yet, to truly need someone actually requires an enormous amount of strength.
As women, we are still processing what it means to exist within a society where we must find balance between who we are, what we’re capable of, and what kind of love we need. Most often, I see the dynamic of the emotionally unavailable woman play out in those who are successful in their careers and could even be seen as alpha females.
It’s the woman who has it all together, but just can’t seem to actually manifest that romantic partnership that she so desires.
It’s the woman that we’ve all seen, been friends with, or hell, have even been ourselves: beautiful, smart, successful, independent, but can’t find a healthy relationship to save her life. But instead of turning the mirror around and looking at her own emotional availability, it becomes easier to blame the man. After all, it’s usually always his fault, right?
The truth is that gender roles are very different now than they were decades ago. There is more of a balance and partnership aspect to both sexes and what they crave, and so because of that what we’ve come to expect from our relationships has also evolved as well. We’re not looking for someone to just go to dinner with on Friday nights, but instead to delve into the bottoms of our soul and explore the hidden truths they find there.
What is really happening is that we are seeking more mental and spiritual stimulation from our partners, which can cause them to shut down and appear emotionally unavailable. Recently I was speaking with a woman about her relationship and after she said the words, “But I’m open…” I actually cut her off to explain how being open and being emotionally vulnerable are not the same.
To be emotionally available means that we are willing to let the relationship be what it is rather than what we hope or expect it to be; it means that we’re not just telling someone what happened in our childhood or our day, but also how we felt about it. If we’re feeling triggered or afraid, it means we own it and bring it up to our partner; it means if we feel a certain way about something, instead of quietly obsessing or overthinking it, we talk about it.
When we are truly emotionally available, we are able to openly express our needs to our partner in a conscious and mature fashion. We don’t block them, or shut down conversations when we’re upset. We work together and push through for the betterment of both individuals.
It’s raw, terrifying, and when we are truly in this place of emotional availability, there is nowhere to hide because the other person has taken the time and made the commitment to see us for who we really are.
I know it’s scary. But I also know that none of us will end up in the healthy relationships that we seek if we don’t first let our walls down and take the chance to learn how to be available and vulnerable with someone else. Learning to trust that someone will always be there for us takes time, learning that we are safe with someone takes opening up, and learning if someone is actually emotionally available requires us to be as well.
A failed love story doesn’t just fall on one person—every relationship takes the dedication of both people working together to discover the true purpose of the connection. Not all love affairs are supposed to last forever, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t treat each one as if it’s a possibility. We have to be ready to give our all before we can ask someone to trust us with everything they are.
What it all comes down to is if we want a relationship we’ve never had before, then we need to act in ways that we never have—including taking the risk and letting someone in.
Author: Kate Rose
Image: Allef Vinicius/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Travis May