How many times should you ask someone to show up emotionally before you accept that they just can’t do it? Or aren’t willing to try anyway?
When you think about it, it’s not an easy ask.
To show up emotionally, you need…
- To have some emotional literacy. That can be difficult all by itself because it includes identifying different emotions (more than just the basics) but also understanding what each one feels like. That means you’ve spent some time feeling them. If you’ve never acknowledged your emotions and allowed yourself to feel things like anxiety, depression, or grief, you’re gonna have a hard time empathizing with someone who’s feeling it.
- To be brave enough to stay when someone else is feeling something you find uncomfortable and be able to put your own feelings on the back burner so you can really be there for them. What this looks like is shutting up for a minute and validating their experience. Not easy when you’re squirming to get out of there or when you haven’t learned to step out of your own experience for a while.
- To be brave enough to share your emotions with someone else, in the moment, when you’re feeling bad. Look at the layers of that! Figure out what you’re feeling, be willing to stay in the feeling, and then share that vulnerability with another person without a guarantee that they’ll hold it sacredly.
We like to moan and complain about people who are emotionally unavailable but pause for a minute and think about what a complex skill this is to develop.
Back to the original question…when do you just give up? When do you accept that emotional intimacy isn’t gonna be a part of this relationship?
Unfortunately, that’s up to you. There is no formula. You have to decide how big a deal it is to you. For some people, it’s not hugely important and that’s totally fine. For others, it’s like oxygen – we crave it in our primary relationships. Not all partners are willing to learn how to do it though, so what do you do then, if you’re not willing to walk away?
- Find it somewhere else. Surround yourself with friends and family members you can share a deep emotional bond with.
- Drop the story. It’s not that your partner doesn’t care about you or doesn’t think you’re worth growing for. It all comes down to some deep fear. It may be presenting itself as aloofness or stubbornness or whatever, but they’re really just too scared.
- Accept your reality. Most relationships have limitations in certain areas of intimacy. Maybe you hit the wall for emotional intimacy. Instead of resisting your reality and living with the constant disappointment that goes with that, focus on the wonderful parts of your relationship and nurture it where it can grow.
If you’re the one struggling with how to show up emotionally, start at the beginning with The Feel Wheel. Learn to name what you’re feeling. The next step is staying with it once you’ve identified it. Grab a free PDF here.