He may be smart and handsome and successful. She may be the best lover you’ve ever had. Maybe he’s your best friend. He cares about your career and goals. She doesn’t roll her eyes when you tell that same joke yet again. He understands why an extra five pounds slays your self-confidence. She just gets you.
There’s so much right about your relationship. But despite all (or some) of his wonderful qualities, why, oh why, isn’t the relationship everything you want? Why are you fundamentally unhappy with her despite moments of bliss? (And, no, you’re not crazy.)
That brings us to the notion of availability. Or lack of, for that matter. Availability in a relationship can take many forms. When you think about having a partner who’s available, you think of someone who’s there for you. When push comes to shove, you’re this person’s priority. So no matter how great this person might be in some regards, it’s often the quality of availability that makes or breaks a meaningful and fulfilling union.
Here are the ways availability is a part of every healthy relationship:
First and foremost, she/he needs to be free to be in a relationship. Someone who belongs to someone else romantically is not available to you. If you’ve partnered with someone whose true priorities are elsewhere, that’s a problem. For you. Because this amazing, one-in-a-million lover will be MIA when the going gets tough. A relationship based on secrecy and stolen moments is not sustainable. Exciting in the moment? Perhaps. But if you’re looking for a stable partnership — and one you can be proud of — move on to someone who’s relationally available.
If your partner can’t access his feelings — or seems indifferent to yours — you’re signing up for relational disaster. You need to talk about your feelings. And you’re also pretty interested in hearing about his. Being partnered with a man of mystery isn’t sexy or exciting, it’s crazy-making. Don’t delude yourself that eventually he’ll open up and you’ll have front row seats to his emotional life. If he’s been conditioned to hold it all in, he’ll continue to do so, making you the sole player in an endless guessing game.
Your partner also needs to be geographically available or otherwise able to commit to regular face-to-face time. Texting doesn’t count. Do some long-distance relationships work? Yes, of course. But they can take an enormous toll on the folks in them. If she lives far enough away or has a daunting travel schedule that’s an ongoing issue, you need to determine if a part-time relationship is what you want. Are you feeling you don’t deserve more from her? It may be time to figure out why you’re willing to take yourself off the market for someone who isn’t around.
If this one’s a keeper, he or she is sexually available to you in any number of ways. If sexual incompatibility is something you’re willing to overlook, you may be ignoring a wildly waving red flag. Does signing up for a lifetime of faking orgasms sound like a good idea to you? Or pledging yourself to a partner who is grossed out by giving you oral sex? Your desire for a satisfying, intimate sex life with your partner doesn’t diminish over time. I’m paraphrasing here, but when sex is good it’s 10 percent of a relationship, but when it’s bad it’s 90 percent. Think about it.
True, no partner is going to get it right every time. But if your mate is systematically unavailable, you’re doing yourself (and your future) a frightening disservice. Ostensibly, you want to be partnered so you can have a partner. And unavailable folks do not good partners make.
If it seems you’re only attracting unavailable partners, do some soul-searching. Are you also unavailable and migrating toward those who share that same quality? If attracting these types seems to be a pattern for you, perhaps it’s time to do some work on yourself with the help of a good therapist.
Remember: You can’t make room for a wonderfully available someone if the seat next to you is taken by an unavailable partner who’s wasting your precious time.