If someone you know or care about (or want to care about) tells you they’re emotionally unavailable, it catches you off guard. Or at least it did for me the first time I heard it. I didn’t understand what it meant, I didn’t know how to deal with it or what to say, I didn’t know how I could be there for them, and I didn’t know what crossing the line with them was or what it meant.
In no way, shape, or form is the advice I’m about to give recommended by doctors or any health professional. This is coming from a 20-something year old woman who has dealt with heartbreak and frustrations and healing because someone in my life told me this and I had to learn how to interact with them and maintain a friendship all while trying to understand where they’re at in life.
Listen To Them
Ask them questions about what they’re going through. I strongly suggest seeking advice from a mentor or someone with more life experience to understand what emotional unavailability is.
From what I’ve learned, it means that the person isn’t able to relate or provide emotional support for you. They are currently going through something that prevents them from relating to you or sharing things with you, and come off as distant even if they don’t want to be. It takes healing and work on their end to get out of it, and may take years or weeks.
As a side note, if you are romantically trying to get involved with someone who tells you they’re emotionally unavailable and need to work on themselves, do not wait for them. I suggest staying their friend and supporting them, but don’t avoid dating or seeing other people because one day, this person may get better and then you two can try. It’s not worth the emotional pain and stress. Waiting on anyone for any reason isn’t healthy and I don’t suggest it, but especially when someone tells you they need time to work on themself – don’t wait.
Back to my point, just listen to what they have to say. Don’t press for too much information (depending on how well you know them) and don’t give unsolicited advice. Be there to take some of the burden of the struggle they’re going through and be a good friend during this challenging time of confusion and stress.
Make Them Laugh
Don’t change the way you interact with them because you know they’re emotionally unavailable and they’re out of it. Laughter is one of the best medicines in my opinion, and laughter is still so important to someone who is emotionally out of it in other areas of their life. It makes them feel like one part of their life is still the same and normal, and like nothing’s changed (in a good way) in that one part of their life. As with any friend you have that is dealing with mental or emotional problems, don’t let that get in the way of your friendship with them. They’re more aware something is up with them right now than you are and feel bad about it. They don’t want to burden you even more and you changing the way you treat them will be blatantly obvious, which will probably strain your relationship.
Talk To Them
Let them know you see them and appreciate them in your life. Whether it be a quick snap every day, or you texting them every Tuesday when you have time to talk to them. Let them know you’re thinking about them and that you care. There isn’t too much you can actually do, because most of the work has to be done on their end, but you can definitely let them know their presence in your life is appreciated and you love that you know them. Being emotionally unavailable and admitting it to people is difficult because you never know what they’re going to do. Are they going to run away? Ghost you? Get mad? Who knows. But the fact they told you they are emotionally unavailable is a trusting step that shows their vulnerability and want to get out of it.
Invite Them Out
Your friend or loved one still loves to get out of the house even if one part of their life feels like it’s going up in flames. I think you inviting them out to do normal things will add a sense of normalcy to their own life, and that’s something you can easily provide by shooting them a quick text asking if they have plans this weekend and want to hang out or go somewhere. Make sure to check in the day before and also the day of, because something I noticed is that they will come up with an excuse if you wait til an hour or two before the actual event. I think that has stuff to do with anxiety and dealing with that, but just a heads up if they do agree, to check in many hours or days before so they don’t flake.
This will also add a sense of normalcy to their life, which is great for you and them. They should hopefully understand how much you care about them, because you two will casually be hanging out. It won’t be a meeting to talk about what’s wrong, but I definitely suggest making time to talk about where they’re at and get updates from them here and there, because holding them accountable is important.