How to Connect with Loved Ones
This article discusses how the stress of Covid-19, social isolation, and lockdown can make us emotionally unavailable. If you are feeling emotionally detached, or you feel your partner is becoming emotionally distant, then read on.
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What Makes Someone Emotionally Unavailable?
- Do you often find yourself feeling drained by your relationship?
- Do you regularly feel lonely even though you have a partner?
- Do you experience rejection or fear being rejected?
Intimacy in relationships thrives on emotional connection and feeling connected is key to the maintenance of healthy relationships. A relationship is not something that can be experienced alone.
It is the presence and emotional availability to yourself and to another human being that forms true bonds. Opening your heart and tuning in to the senses demands courage and vulnerability. Such mind, heart and body integration brings about a deeper experience of conscious living.
When the people we love are physically and/or emotionally unavailable or disconnected, relationships feel distant and cold. Without two hearts, minds and bodies interacting there can be no grounds for that critical spark we call “falling in love”. And, if there was a spark to start with, it will soon extinguish without the fuel of emotional intimacy.
This is where our minds can help us heal by first understanding what is happening.
The Physical Pain of Emotional Distance
An unmet need for closeness physically hurts. Not convinced? Talk to someone whose partner has passed away.
Emotional closeness, however, is a paradox of strength and vulnerability. To experience true human connection, we must fearlessly lower the protective shields and courageously permit ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable.
It is at this juncture that two nervous systems meet and the magic of connection takes place.
Am I Emotionally Unavailable?
If you have ever been puzzled by how your good intentions keep getting mixed results in your key relationship, the chances are that emotional distancing was or is at play. Emotional detachment may be causing mixed signals that will be confusing to the other person. In essence, their mind and heart will not know what to do.
If you are not used to articulating how you feel, it does not mean you do not have or experience feelings. It simply means that those sensations and emotions are happening inside you and you cannot easily access them. In other words, you may be distancing from them and becoming emotionally unavailable.
When you are unable to connect and process what you feel and experience, the only tool you can rely on for safety is the mind. This will leave you rational but emotional numb. Worse still you may brand others as “too dramatic” or “overly-sensitive”, when in reality you are simply comparing them to your own disconnection from heart and mind. Here is the good news: emotional availability is a skill that one can learn and strengthen. If you desire to connect with others in a deeper and more meaningful way keep reading.
Stress and Change can Trigger Emotional Disconnection
In times of change we can experience anxiety and fear of the unknown. Over-thinking can disconnect the mind from the body and our emotional centre.
Change can stimulate feelings loss and grief. The experience of change is emotionally demanding. One way of coping is to deny such feelings altogether, to distance yourself from the feelings. Another way of doing this is by numbing to them. In doing this, the mind must disconnect from the body and the heart.
You may recognise this process in a common phrase such as: “Pull yourself together!”
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, people had much on their minds and little time to clarify and process feelings. For those who struggle with emotional intimacy and find communicating their feeling hard work, the current crisis will likely push towards withdrawal and isolation.
We fall back on default coping mechanisms during a crisis, regardless of whether they are effective. We do this because stressful situations are exactly when emotional hijacking can occur. If something is scary or too overwhelming, we will try to avoid it or deny it.
In a crisis, the nervous system is hyper-aroused and needs to return to safety. Emotional presence with others helps restore balance and homeostasis. This is a large part of why therapy works.
How Past Experiences of Stress and Change can make Someone Emotionally Unavailable
However, what happens if your relational experience with others has never given you such safety? Or worst still, what if you remember feeling ridiculed and called weak for telling others that you were scared? What if you found yourself in a crisis and there was no one there for you?
For example, as a child perhaps your carers were overwhelmed too and did not have the resources to support you. Such an experience may cause you to hold a belief that there is no point in reaching out to others emotionally. You may follow the logic that if there was no one there when you were a child, why should this change now that you are an adult.
In all these situations your past experiences will push you to isolate. Such isolation, however, will also become your future prison. It will rob you of connection, intimacy and strength that comes from no longer feeling alone.
Change and stressful situations will either push people towards:
- Connecting with others more though keep in mind that not all connection produces emotional intimacy.
- Withdrawing and isolating further.
Are you Emotionally Unavailable and Isolating Further?
Think about your own response to this pandemic or another time when you have encountered a stressful change in your life. Do you:
- Numb or switch off with a Netflix series?
- Plunge into work to avoid feeling?
- Intensify your exercise routine to escape by grit alone?
- Watch more news to see what others are doing and how they are coping?
- Listen to music or have an extra drink before bedtime because doing this soothes you?
Notice how all the above activities require no emotional connection to a specific person – not even yourself. Instead, they connect you with isolation and are signs that you might be emotionally unavailable.
The Quality of Human Connections
Not all connections bring emotional closeness. Keep in mind that being part of a WhatsApp group, attending Zoom calls, or firing off 10x more texts per day will not necessarily bring emotional intimacy.
To feel trust that it is safe to truly show yourself to others calls for loving presence, unconditional positive regard, and emotional maturity. Emotional connection requires us to develop skills of relating beyond the small talk of “How are you?”, or “Is everything ok?”
We need to feel comfortable with silence, emotional discomfort, and not knowing what to say. We need to trust ourselves to feel safe even when we are unable to control what will and won’t happen, or how someone will react.
What Emotional Closeness Offers
The whole point of emotional closeness is to find the balm of empathy, safety, and unconditional acceptance with another person. To discover that by sharing what is happening for you and how you feel, your emotions will not overwhelm you or the other person.
Emotional connection builds trust in fellow human beings and in oneself. It restores key safety mechanisms because we feel seen, heard, and accepted. From this place of safety, we are unafraid to show up as ourselves. Emotional closeness invites connection. It gives others permission to come to your aid. Emotional closeness connects minds and hearts.
Your Path to Finding Emotional Connection
Our reality is shaped by what we choose to believe, and so, we must find the courage to reconnect mind and heart. We can do this within by showing up and becoming curious about what we feel and noticing how emotions affect us. We can then share this with others. The pace each of us adopts in this work will be unique to each person. What matters most is to keep showing up. Efforts here pay off double because we are doing invaluable self-work and relational work at the same time.
Emotional Closeness is Possible and We can Help You
At Make Time Count we are devoted to helping people reconnect with their wholeness. Our key belief is that when we heal within, we become more grounded and able to show up more resourcefully with and for others.
If you’re ready to get started right away, then we have two fantastic worksheets to help you on the path to emotional closeness today. Sign up to our newsletter and get your free worksheets delivered by email.
Tackling a situation where people have become emotionally unavailable may require the presence of a third party as a guide towards healing. A skilled professional helps both sides reflect on where they might be emotionally unavailable. They can offer skills and strategies to develop emotional intimacy.
Magdalena’s book Body Talk shows you how to develop an empowering relationship with your whole self by learning to listen to your body’s wisdom.
Your Next Steps to Heart & Mind Synergy
You may enjoy deepening your self-awareness, relational and problem-solving skills with our fantastically powerful and deeply practical life improvement online programme.
- Sign up to our newsletter and receive 2 free worksheets to help you forge new connections and heal where you find that someone is emotionally unavailable.
- Check out Body Talk book to deepen your mind-body connection and explore feelings through this powerful approach.
- Explore our Heart and Mind connection retreats where you can do deeper level personal work.
- Book a 1:1 session to explore how you can strengthen and heal your relationships.