A relationship pothole people walk into time and again is this idea that you can declare that someone is ’emotionally available’ in the early stages of dating. It’s as if you can almost look at someone, hear them say something or observe one or a few actions and be like, Boom, they’re emotionally available.

This person appears to openly talk about their past or their feelings on a date, and we decide that it means something. Keep in mind that we might think that they’re ‘open’ because our ex was a closed book. We might not even care about the content–All my exes are psychos, but I know you’re different because you’re special, aren’t you?”–and just be excited that they’re talking.

It could be that they reference their desire for a relationship in their dating profile or in messages or conversations. Next thing, it’s Ding ding ding ding ding, this one’s a keeper! They’re emotionally available! I should probably sleep with them now.

Date super keen, possibly very intense, possibly a tad or very inappropriate when we reflect back on it in the cold light of day? We mistakenly assume it’s shorthand for ‘I’m crazy about you. Let’s stay together forever!’

Maybe we jump into a relationship very quickly. When our date/partner mentions the future, introduces us to friends and family a hot minute after meeting us, texts/calls more than previous partners have, we declare them ’emotionally available’. And we let our guard down and start to make dangerous assumptions about who they are and what will happen next.

You can’t tell if someone is emotionally available straight away or very quickly. It takes time and experience.

If they (or you) don’t want to put in that time or you want to speed through it like a microwave relationship, you have your answer. One or both of you are emotionally unavailable.

While you can most certainly pick up clear indicators of someone being emotionally unavailable from the get-go, it can take some time for someone’s emotional availability (or lack of it) to unfold. And I know, it’s a pain in the bottom. We’d all rather know upfront. In fact, we’d love a crystal ball that lets us know how things will turn out.

‘This person is a heavyweight bullshitter. They will talk out of their bottom for a few months and give the appearance of wanting a relationship. You’ll be introduced to everyone they know in a whirlwind of romance, and they’ll say how crazy they are about you. It will feel like a dream come true, and you will dare to relax a bit. And then they’ll tell you that you’re moving too fast and that this is all a bit much. The audacity of them! You’ll try to talk to them about it, but they stonewall you. It feels like you’re going crazy. Two weeks after they started blanking your calls, you see them on Instagram posturing with a new flame.’

Of course, there is no crystal ball. But you can make pretty good assessments if you stick to being who you are and being present.

Without boundaries, you don’t have intimacy. This means you can’t have healthy boundaries and not be emotionally available. Hence, if you stick to being boundaried, you will soon know how emotionally available and committed someone is.

By having healthy boundaries, including willingness to recognise code amber and red behaviour and to listen to yourself, you won’t green-light red-light problems. You also won’t expect to make long commitments on short knowledge and experience. If you don’t have the expectation that you should be able to tell or know someone’s emotional availability straight away, you can’t get caught out by this blind spot.

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