How to tell if someone is emotionally available

Having a partner you can talk to about anything feels wonderful. You may find yourself thinking, “This must be real love.”

How do you know it’s true love? One day you may need comfort. Another day, you may need to rant. You may need help getting a meal ready, or taking care of family members. You may just want help figuring yourself out – to help you think through an experience. And your partner is there for you.

Something special happens with someone who cares more about knowing how you feel, than telling you whether you’re right or wrong. When your partner supports you and understands your inner world, you feel stronger and more confident in your own life.

Love can bloom when two people are emotionally accessible, responsive, and engaged in facing life with each other. We are wired to seek this kind of safe relationship. We call it secure attachment.

This kind of love isn’t a pipe dream.

3 Signs Your Relationship is Real Love

You can recognize these three traits of a loving adult relationship with the abbreviation A.R.E., as in, “Are you there for me?” This phrase is a cue to help people recognize these three pillars of secure love: being Accessible, Responsive and Engaged. This idea comes from Dr. Sue Johnson, couples therapist and expert on intimacy and relationships.

1) Being Accessible

You and your partner take time to be present to each other. You put aside distractions. Your phone is away while you and your partner have planned to be together. You spend time with each other without multitasking. You make your attention to each other a priority — your relationship comes first.

2) Being Emotionally Responsive

You recognize that your partner has his or own inner world. You tune in and respond to each other’s experiences. If you’re not sure what is happening between you, you try to know more.

When your partner seems to be in distress, you offer openness, and a willingness to listen and soothe. Example: “You seemed upset after coming home today. What happened?”

You don’t make yourself responsible for changing how your partner feels. It’s not your job to judge your partner’s point of view, but to see what’s going on for your partner.

You can be responsive without words, too. When you are out together, enjoying the moment, you may offer a gentle touch or meet each other’s eyes and smile. Checking in to see what your partner is feeling is being emotionally responsive.

3) Being Emotionally Engaged

When you turn toward your partner to learn about each other’s experiences, you are emotionally engaged. Rather than keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself, you share them. You don’t typically need to badger each other to open up. You keep yourself updated on what is meaningful to your partner.

Some conversations carry on your business of daily life, such what to buy at the store, or how to manage chores. But others go way beyond this, to personal longings, fears, hopes and dreams.

Being emotionally engaged means being vulnerable sometimes. When you speak of your insecurities from the heart, you open the door for deeper emotional engagement: “Hey, I thought you wanted to watch this with me, and you’re on your computer. It’s lonely over here. I’m feeling like I don’t matter to you.”

Engaging yourself emotionally means digging under the anger of the moment. When you drop your defenses to see what is hurting in your relationship, you invite deeper connection with each other.

How Being Emotionally Present Boosts Your Positive Impact on Each Other

When partners are Accessible, Responsive and Engaged, they learn how to listen, recognize emotional needs and meet them. These abilities can have a tremendous positive impact in your relationship.

In her studies, Sue Johnson found that the presence of a secure partner had a calming effect on the nervous system when the other partner felt the threat of danger. They measured the body’s stress response to danger for different couples. They found that for secure couples, stress markers went down when the partners held hands. When you ARE there for each other, your relationship helps bolster you and steady you in facing the dangers in the world.

The confidence you gain from a deep emotional connection can have a healthy ripple effect through your whole life. There is nothing quite as reassuring as being able to trust a partner you can confide in, who knows your heart’s deepest longings for companionship and understanding.

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