5 ways to be more emotionally available (and why better sex is bound to follow)

By Maya Khamala

We’ve all seen it before (in most good romcoms): the stereotype is a woman struggling with an emotionally distant (or altogether absent) man. In spite of her expressiveness, her A+ communication skills, and her burning love, he is not equipped/ready/accessible to her.

Although the phenomenon that is emotional unavailability may present itself more commonly in men, people of all genders can be emotionally vacant in romantic or sexual relationships. Chances are, if you’ve ever been in a relationship, you’ve either been someone or else had to deal with someone too focused on work to give a real shit, not ready to commit for reasons X, Y and Z, not into discussing feelings, or bad in bed because they simply can’t seem to connect. Personally, I had a boyfriend once break up with me because he felt I was a distraction from his math studies. 

Don’t get your panties in a bunch: I ain’t saying that “not wanting something serious” or “needing to focus on math” are not perfectly valid preferences—at times.

The fact is, though, that many of us actually use such justifications as excuses for not getting truly intimate with another person—because we’re scared of being vulnerable. Fair enough. It’s scary. And so many of us have so many reasons for coping with stress and fear the way we do (childhood experiences and past trauma among them). But the problem is, whether we realize it or not, being emotionally unavailable means pushing others away, for better or worse. Results of such behavior include but are not limited to: unfortunate breakups, unhealthy relationships, and unsatisfying sex.

Don’t be an emotionally unavailable lover 

When you are emotionally unavailable, understanding what another person is feeling isn’t really an option. You might feel more interested in sex than in sexual intimacy, which, if you don’t have a partner on the same page, can make them feel like an object (but not in a good way). Sex might feel kinda disembodied for you, even if you’re aroused, or it may feel like “going through the motions.” You may already have had a partner who tries in vain to increase your sexual connection.

If you tend to move fast sexually, only to cut and run once intimacy gets all in your face, and if you feel crappy about it, and better yet, if you’ve been accused of being emotionally unavailable (gasp), consider the following 5 heartfelt tips for becoming a more emotionally available lover and partner:

1. Cultivate interdependence—not codependence

This is a big one—the overarching one, if you will. You’ve probably heard both terms, but haven’t necessarily compared their meanings, so allow me. 

While it may look something like closeness to the innocent passerby, a codependent dynamic does not give partners the space to be themselves, to evolve and to self-actualize outside of the all-encompassing couple. Usually, one or both partners rely heavily on the other and on the relationship for a sense of identity and worthiness. What could ever go wrong, right? 

Interdependence, on the other hand, is the super handy ability to depend on your partner while also being an autonomous human being. It means taking equal responsibility for the relationship. It means being able to talk about your feelings and hear your partner do the same, with the ultimate goal of meeting each other's physical and emotional needs. Both partners get the space they need to thrive without constantly freaking out about what may happen in the relationship.

2. Examine your beliefs

It's possible that, whether you’ve admitted it to yourself or not, you don’t feel worthy of a close, loving, vulnerable relationship. You may never have had any role models to this effect. It ain’t a rare state of affairs, after all. Maybe you’re nurturing a secret fear of abandonment, made all the worse by the prospect of someone actually knowing the real you and still choosing to leave. 

Is there a way you can explore (either with your partner, or with a therapist perhaps) why you are deserving of intimacy, affection, and even love? It’s not cheesy, and anyway, cheese is good. Do it.

3. Don’t keep secrets

The emotionally unavailable among us often hoard secrets, like squirrels storing nuts for the winter. Although you may have convinced yourself you’re just a free-wheelin’ type (not saying you aren’t, but hear me out), it’s possible that your side-guy or chick is actually an elaborate backup plan for when your current relationship falls apart. The fact is, a secret can help you keep a distance. But without transparency, you can’t be vulnerable, and without vulnerability, you can’t exactly invest in a relationship in any genuine kind of way. Plus, chances are your partner will distrust you.

4. Make time

If you actually really care for the person you’re seeing, try prioritizing them. This concept may seem foreign if you’re accustomed to being calm and cooly distant, but if you care, it’s cool to show it—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. So resist inclinations to avoid phone calls, ignore texts, and reply only when you’re bored. If you only focus on your own needs, you end up putting the other person in a situation where they have to live by your terms, and your terms only—which, in turn, creates all kinds of issues (i.e. neediness on their part, if they’re so inclined). 

5. Own your feelings

Actually expressing your feelings can go a long way toward strengthening a relationship. And so can listening to another do the same. The more deeply you're able to see each other, the more together and supported you will feel. Resist old patterns like pushing someone’s buttons so they back up and give you distance. Don’t threaten to break up with someone if things aren’t going your way; it’s manipulative. And, don’t be a bully or use your anger to kick your partner where it hurts (so to speak). Besides, even if you do get your way, a relationship that doesn’t challenge you to evolve will arguably not satisfy you for long—if at all.

Becoming an emotionally available lover and romantic partner ain’t easy—nobody says it is. It means caring for another without losing yourself. It means pleasuring another because you want them to feel good. And it means receiving love (and good lovin’) without averting your gaze or cock-blocking your heart ‘cause it feels uncomfortable. Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose to build the emotional skills required, and that includes not being so hard on yourself.

Here’s to intimate, emotionally connected sex. It’ll blow your mind, babe. 

Stay in the loop, bbOur top stories delivered to your inbox weekly