Question: May be you can help me. My boyfriend complains that I am emotionally detached and wall him off at times and not let him in. He says that when we’re in public I come across as very unfriendly and unapproachable. I’ve been told by other people that I’m cold and aloof and not caring enough. Obviously there must be some truth there.
But when I try to express my emotions he says I’m too emotional. He says I excessively and constantly dwell on things and won’t let go. I grew up in an environment where people weren’t very emotionally expressive except when angry and can stay angry for a few months and even years. I guess learned to be like that too.
Can an emotionally unavailable and emotionally cold person change? I’m trying to find a way to be more emotionally available and express how I feel calmly and not be emotionally cold. It is something that I would like for myself.
Yangki’s Answer: Yes, an emotionally aloof person can change if he/she wants to, and does what it takes to change.
I’m not going into the “psychology” of why you are the way you are. You may need to see a therapist for that. But I can give you some effective practices which you can put to work right away.
1. Know and become intimate with your emotional self
You might want to try spending time in quiet meditation or reflection focusing on giving yourself warm love and connecting with the range of emotions inside of you. This may require you to adjust and change your belief system regarding feelings and emotions. If you find this hard to do alone, find a mentor or trusted friend to share your insights with.
2. Spend plenty of time with each other
Spending time “with each other” is more than spending time together — going out on dates, doing hobby activities, watching TV or cuddling etc. Turn off all the “doing” and share openly about how you FEEL about things that are most important to you.
3. Share your deepest dreams and deepest fears
This includes things you’ve never told anyone. Allow him the opportunity to decide now whether he can or can’t love you for who you truly are. If your relationship is to survive long term, you need to trust that your boyfriend will not use the information you share against you in some way.
This takes wisdom to know what information to divulge/aspects of yourself to give to who, when and how.
4. Allow yourself to be emotionally vulnerable
Most people confuse vulnerability with weakness. In actuality, being vulnerable does not involve the actual experience of harm. True, there is a chance that you’ll be criticized, rejected, taken advantage of or even hurt but you can not be truly loved if you can not open yourself to be loved.
Increased intimacy in both senses of sharing intimate information and of admitting deep emotions goes hand in hand with increased vulnerability. Once you accept that even love can be lost or given up if it creates more pain than happiness, you are more able to share your core desires and deepest parts of yourself without expecting anything in return.
5. Last but not least, don’t rush anything
Emotional health and maturity isn’t easy to achieve. It takes time and it takes some energy. As you practice your new behavior and strengthen your ability to become an emotionally available and emotionally expressive person, the emotional connection will become stronger, and deeper, and will be more likely last.