This week, a man I work with made an admission. He told me that he is that “unavailable” guy that so many self-help books and articles are written about. That wasn’t so unique in itself, but what he said next was. He asked me, “How does a guy become more available?” He went on to explain that he knows that he has intimacy issues but he said that there was not a lot written about how men can get over these hurdles. He astutely noted that most of what is written is geared toward women, advising them to avoid types like him. This article is for him and the many men out there who share some of the same emotional challenges. So, how does a guy like this go about changing?
Be honest with yourself about how satisfying or harmonious your romantic relationships have been.
If you’re an emotionally unavailable guy, it means that your partners often feel frustrated and may even nag you, asking you to be more present or engage more emotionally. The main reason unavailable men should try to change is not even for the other person: it’s for themselves, too. Repeatedly hearing criticism about your personality is upsetting and probably annoying, and your unavailability becomes an ongoing source of conflict in your relationships. No one truly wants conflict or tension, so one reason to become more emotionally available is to reduce the drama in your personal life and have more peace. If you haven’t had that before, you might not even know how much more you’d like relationships if you didn’t always have to defend yourself or explain why you aren’t the partner your love interest wants.
Start disclosing your insecurities when they come up.
If you are emotionally unavailable, it means that you aren’t great at communicating and that you don’t like to “open up” or be vulnerable. The ability to be vulnerable and admit weaknesses or flaws is actually the sign of a truly strong person. What’s more, women appreciate a man who is real. When you feel nervous about something, say it; when you feel uncomfortable or feel like you are having a freak out or need more space — even when you know that’s a sign of your unavailability – say it. By sharing these feelings, you give the person you’re dating a chance to know you a little better. When you don’t feel like talking but she asks you to, say something like this: “I don’t know why I’m like this. I’m sorry about the way it affects you and I’m working on it.”
Figure out how you got the way you are.
Are you emotionally unavailable because no parent ever taught you real emotional intimacy? Are you unavailable because you don’t trust women? Are you unavailable because you’re afraid of getting hurt? Deep down, we all have our issues, and you have a theory about why you are the way you are if you are really honest with yourself. What’s your reason? Understanding where the problem originated will help you solve the problem.
Come up with two or three simple behaviors you will start doing to become more present and engaged.
Don’t set a huge, blurry goal like, “I am going to be a better person” or “I am going to try harder.” Goals like these are never met because they are, well, too blurry. Make it clear and specific. Examples of simple goals you can set: I will start returning phone calls sooner, and when I am not interested in hanging out, I will say that directly (but nicely); I will tell a woman the exact behaviors I am now trying to implement to be a better guy and partner; I will call a woman on the phone more often instead of constantly texting; I will write a woman a card or note and tell her what I like most about her. Simple goals are ones that can be achieved.
The final message…
Don’t just change to keep a partner happy; change because you and whoever you are with both deserve better. Change because conflicts and disappointing your partners ultimately disappoints you, too. In the end, change because it’s the right thing to do.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.