Availability is crucial in a healthy relationship. Physical, mental and emotional availability must all be present.
To be available in a relationship means to ‘be here’, to be present. Physical availability is being able to spend time together. Living nearby makes it easier, but of course it is possible to communicate by telephone or the internet. ‘Long distance relationships’ are possible but can be frustrating. A person’s physical availability is also affected by other relationships. Does he have a lot of friends that he spends time with? Is she dating other people? Is he still married, but ‘getting divorced’? Does she have children that require attention? Are there many family obligations that occupy a person’s time? These are factors that limit a person’s ability to actually be with you.
A person who is mentally available for a relationship can listen to you without being filled with his own thoughts. We have met people who are not listening to us when we are talking, but are thinking about what they will say next, or about how to defend or justify themselves. Being mentally available, paying attention, requires conscious effort. You must block out distractions and focus your mental energy on the other person. When someone pays attention to us, we feel valued and important. This is why getting attention feels so good. Wanting to pay attention also comes from being interested, because we pay attention to what we are interested in.
In order to be present mentally a person must be willing to express what he is thinking. Does he tell you what he is thinking or is he vague, evasive, or silent? Will he discuss the relationship when it is appropriate and necessary? Is she willing to talk to resolve conflict, disharmony, or hurt feelings?
Another aspect of mental availability is what a person believes about relationships. Does she have constructive or destructive beliefs about relationships? For example, does he think relationships are an important part of his life and are valuable; or does he devalue his relationships, making them unimportant? Does she believe that there is great satisfaction to be experienced in a relationship; or does she believe that she can never get what she really wants out of relationships? Knowing what a person believes can be discovered by observing how that person treats and manages his relationships. Does he invest time? Is he thoughtful and careful about his relationships; or does he ignore them, taking his relationships for granted?
To have feeling for another person and to respond to that person with emotion, are important components of a romantic relationship. To be emotionally available is to be willing to invest one’s feelings and emotions into the relationship. A person needs to be willing and able to feel a wide range of emotions. People who are cold and aloof are unwilling and/or unable to feel. They keep their distance because they are afraid of their feelings. This fear makes them emotionally unavailable.
Along with having feelings, is the willingness and ability to express them. A person who can’t say how he feels about something may be unable to connect to his feelings. She may suppress her feelings by continually pushing them to the side, ignoring them, and pretending that they are not real. He may repress them, bury them deeply so that they no longer seem to exist. A person may deny her feelings to herself or to others, claiming not to feel a certain way, when in truth, she does. These behaviors indicate emotional unavailability.
When we make a commitment to a relationship we promise to make ourselves consistently available to the other person. We promise to provide physical, mental and emotional availability. Commitment says: “I am here for you and with you.”
Continue to the Next Section – Capable