How To Find Open-Hearted Humans (And Become One Yourself)
Finding emotionally available, secure, and loving people to date is the holy grail of the dating world. Find one of these mystical creatures, and you’re guaranteed smooth sailing until the end of days.
Just kidding. But you’ll have a better chance at a loving relationship with a kind, caring, and respectful person, and you might avoid some unnecessary heartbreak.
In the last All About Emotional Availability Course I hosted, I asked my students what it meant to be emotionally available, and this is what they came up with:
Emotionally available people:
- are kind and empathetic
- use calm, honest, and respectful communication
- listen, ask questions, and are curious
- don’t judge you or act inauthentically
- have a softness and a warmth to them
- show up when it’s important
While this is a tall order, I don’t expect you or the person you date to always act in these emotionally available ways.
Identifying people who are on the path towards living an open-hearted life will make yours that much more loving and hopefully save you a bit of heartbreak in the process.
Falling in love is risky.
It’s risky to open yourself up to a new person in the hopes that they’ll treat you with love, care, and respect.
And if you’ve been heartbroken time and time again by people who didn’t hold your heart with tenderness, it can be exhausting to keep turning towards love hoping the next person will do better.
Why it’s challenging to assess emotional availability
In the first few months of getting to know someone, it’s hard to make sense of what’s happening and to trust that you’re connecting with a loving and open-hearted person.
When people are dating around or in the early stages of a relationship, most are on their best behavior because they’re trying to attract a worthy partner.
People sometimes show up open-hearted, vulnerable, and seemingly emotionally available because they know that’s what people are looking for these days.
Also, some folks open up slowly, over time, so while they might appear closed-off at the beginning, they might need some time to warm up.
Not to mention that relationships are dynamic and change based on the life experiences, wounds, coping mechanisms, needs, and communication styles of those in the relationships.
No wonder it’s so tricky to assess emotional availability.
While the ways listed below aren’t a fool-proof way of assessing emotional availability, they’ll give you some helpful clues about where the person you’re dating is in their journey to becoming an open-hearted human.
Ten Ways To Assess Emotional Availability In Early-Stage Dating
1. Ask them: “How did that make you feel?”
If your date mentions an impactful experience like getting fired from a job they loved or a close family member dying, ask them how it made them feel and notice if they’re able to use feeling words.
Replying with, “I was heartbroken. I loved my grandfather so much, and I’ve felt something missing since he died,” indicates an ability to identify and express their emotions, the hallmark of emotional availability.
On the other hand, saying something like, “Fuck ’em. They don’t know what they’re missing; I was the best employee at the company,” indicates a sensitive defense mechanism that could be a result of them being closed off.
2. Do they deflect or change the subject when you ask a serious question?
Notice how they react when you ask a serious question.
If they deflect or change the subject anytime something sensitive comes up, they might be afraid of emotional intimacy.
“When I asked you if you’d ever like to have kids one day, you changed the subject. It’s the second time you’ve avoided having that discussion, and I’d love to know how you feel about it and what prompted you to change the subject?”
3. Do they make jokes when you’re trying to be serious?
Does your partner make jokes whenever they’re uncomfortable, out of their comfort zone, or pressed for information?
Some folks are terrified of opening up, and they’ll make jokes to lighten the mood and take the spotlight off of them.
Being playful is fantastic, but can they meet you when it’s time to get serious?
4. Do their actions match their words?
Are they reliable? Can you count on them to follow through with what they say, or do they often make excuses?
Of course, everyone can change their minds now and then, but for the most part, can you count on your person?
When their actions match their words, it makes connecting in an emotional way safer and more comfortable.
5. Can they say no with love?
Can they set healthy boundaries when it comes to protecting their needs and desires? Are they able to say no in a loving way to something they don’t want to do?
Being emotionally available means considering your needs while balancing others’ needs and having the courage to say no with love.
6. Can they hold space for your emotions without trying to fix or minimize your experience?
Can they witness your emotional discomfort without running away, checking out, or trying to make your pain go away?
Can they hold your heart with the tenderness it deserves and requires?
When you’re having a hard time emotionally, can they sit, listen, and be there for you without trying to fix anything?
They don’t offer solutions to your problems; they validate your experience and ask how they can help.
7. Do they reciprocate when you share something intimate?
Do they disclose parts of themselves without needing to be prompted?
Emotionally available people see your intimate disclosure as an opportunity to disclose something about themselves as well. They know that your opening up means it’s safe for them to do the same.
Are you both opening up to each other, slowly over time? Does it feel reciprocal and balanced?
8. Do they listen and adjust to your desires?
Can they attune to your desires?
If you let your person know that you’d love it if they checked in the day after you both have sex together, do they try to accommodate your wishes?
If you tell them you’d prefer they listen and validate your feelings rather than jump into problem-solving, do they make a reasonable effort?
9. Can they own their shit and make it right?
Are they able to take responsibility when they mess up, own their mistakes, and apologize properly?
“Hey, sweetie pie. I’m sorry about last night. I regret raising my voice and slamming the door after our argument. I know how scary that can be for you. I wasn’t the best boyfriend I could have been, and if there’s anything I can do to make it right, please let me know.”
Or do they suck at apologizing?
“I’m sorry you feel that way. I didn’t mean to slam the door like that. Anyways, it’s not that big a deal.”
You can guess which I’d rather have in my life.
More importantly: Are you emotionally available?
Can you answer yes to these questions about yourself? If not, you might have a little work to do.
Sometimes, people who aren’t emotionally available choose other emotionally unavailable people to date or have relationships because it’s a defense mechanism.
You can’t go too deep or expose your vulnerabilities to someone who isn’t available.
But in the long run, a closed heart will hurt more than one that’s loved and lost.
Fear of getting hurt is only one of the few reasons you could be emotionally unavailable.
Some folks don’t know how because their role models didn’t teach them, while others are healing from relationships and need to spend time opening up to themselves rather than others.
Whatever the reason, it’s worth paying attention to your level of openness before focusing too much on how open the person you’re dating is.
No one wants to find the pot calling the kettle black.
What about when people close up?
Shit happens. Everyone closes up sometimes. Life gets overwhelming, or we don’t know how to proceed with an open heart, so our best instinct might be to close up and protect ourselves.
Remember, we’re not all perfect, and we often fuck up. At any given time, we’re doing the best we can, and sometimes our best is not that great.
Just because someone closes off or shuts down, it doesn’t mean they aren’t emotionally available; it means they’re human.
We’re not looking, or expecting people to be wide open, all the time. That’s unsustainable; we all need to go back into the cocoon now and then.
What happens after is what’s important.
Is there a willingness and desire to reconnect with you and fill you in on their experience?
Do they eventually come back out of the cocoon and continue to build something sustainable and healthy with you?
Or are they likely to stay closed off and refuse to build long-term, sustainable emotional intimacy with you?
While not everyone deserves your open heart, it’s essential to give people space, time, and opportunity to open their heart to you as well.
Wide open-hearted, right off the bat, doesn’t exist; stop looking for it.
Healthy relationships are built brick by brick. It’s why we try not to rush into relationships; because we don’t know what we’re rushing into or how solid the foundation is.
Use the tools above to assess whether the person you’re dating is worth investing in, instead of using your blind faith in love that everything will be ok.
By the way, everything will eventually be ok; life has a way of sorting itself out like that.
But you can avoid a significant amount of pain by being picky and discerning about who you open your heart to.