I’m 42, still single, and have been emotionally unavailable in my relationships throughout my adult life. It’s time for me to apologise.

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As a 42-year-old entrepreneur with homes in Dubai and Bangkok, I’ve always relished my jet-setting, single lifestyle. It’s been a whirlwind of business meetings, late-night brainstorming sessions, and the exhilarating high of closing a deal.

Relationships?

Those were always in the rearview mirror, taking a back seat to my business ventures. I’ve always been upfront about this with potential partners—clear about my emotional unavailability and my focus on my work.

However, as another year draws to a close and the pace of life slows down for a moment, I’ve had time to reflect. I’ve realized that a confession is in order—I’m 42, still single, and have been emotionally unavailable in my relationships throughout my adult life. It’s time for me to apologize.

For years, I’ve prided myself on being upfront about my emotional unavailability. I believed that by setting expectations early on, I was saving potential partners from heartbreak down the line. But upon reflection, I’ve realized that this honesty might have been a defense mechanism—a way to avoid committing to a relationship and protect myself from getting hurt.

It’s not that everything is black or white when it comes to relationships—far from it. But perhaps it’s time for me to allow myself to get hurt, to delve into relationships more deeply and open myself up to potential heartache. After all, growth often comes from pain. I may be an old hand at business, but in the realm of relationships, it’s clear that I still have much to learn.

How I masked commitment fear with honesty

My entrepreneurial journey kick-started in my early 30s. This was around the same time I began noticing a pattern in my romantic relationships—I was emotionally unavailable. I reveled in my singularity and prized my independence. My career was my top priority, and I made sure anyone who entered my life knew it.

Over time, I began using my honesty as a suit of armor. By letting potential partners know about my emotional unavailability early on, I thought I was saving them and myself from future heartaches. “I’m focused on my career,” became my standard explanation, a phrase that allowed me to keep relationships at arm’s length.

Looking back, it’s clear that this so-called honesty was actually a way for me to avoid the vulnerability and commitment that come with deep, emotional connections. It was a way for me to stay in control, to maintain the upper hand.

In the next section, we’ll delve into a common belief that shapes how many of us approach relationships—a belief that has greatly influenced my own perspective until now. We’ll explore why it’s not as straightforward as it seems and why it might be time for a shift in thinking.

Challenging the belief: clarity from the start

The common belief, one that I used to subscribe to, is that we need to set clear intentions for a relationship from the beginning. That things are black or white. You’re either in it for the long haul or you’re not. This kind of thinking led me to believe that by stating my emotional unavailability upfront, I was doing the right thing.

But life and relationships are rarely so binary. They are full of shades of gray, unexpected turns and evolving feelings. My perspective challenged this belief because I realized that my ‘honesty’ was simply a defense mechanism against commitment and vulnerability.

In retrospect, my insistence on clarity from the start was not necessarily a sign of respect for others, but rather a way to maintain control and avoid deep emotional engagement.

As I continue my journey of self-reflection and growth, I’ll explore how I confronted this realization and what steps I took to address my emotional unavailability in the next section.

Embracing vulnerability: my journey towards change

Overcoming emotional unavailability wasn’t easy. But once I acknowledged my fear of commitment and vulnerability, it was time for change. I started by giving myself permission to feel, to be vulnerable. I realized that it’s okay to let go, to not be in control all the time.

I put more effort into my relationships, allowing them to evolve naturally rather than trying to dictate their course from the onset. It was uncomfortable at first—like walking through a strange, unfamiliar territory. But it was also liberating. No longer was I hiding behind a mask of “honesty” and “clarity”.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to be upfront about your intentions or feelings in a relationship. But it’s important to question why you’re doing so. Is it to protect the other person, or is it to protect yourself?

If you’re reading this and find yourself in a similar situation, know that it’s okay to acknowledge your fears. Embrace vulnerability—it might just be the first step towards a more fulfilling relationship.

Stepping back: the bigger picture in personal growth

As I’ve grappled with my emotional availability and navigated the complexities of relationships, I’ve come to a few key realizations.

Firstly, taking responsibility for my emotional state, regardless of whether it was my ‘fault’, has been crucial. This shift in mindset has allowed me to reclaim my personal power and navigate other life challenges more effectively.

Secondly, questioning societal expectations and norms has been liberating. I’ve realized that much of what we consider “normal” or “acceptable” is influenced by societal conditioning. By recognizing this, I’ve started to live life on my own terms, with a clearer sense of purpose and direction.

Lastly, acknowledging dissatisfaction and facing the reality of my situation has been paramount. It’s easy to fall into the trap of blind positivity, but true growth comes from confronting the realities of our lives head on.

Here are some key points to remember:

  • Take responsibility for your emotional state.
  • Question societal expectations and norms.
  • Acknowledge dissatisfaction and face reality.

Embarking on this journey of self-exploration and growth wasn’t easy, but it has reshaped my reality in ways I could never have imagined. If you’re facing similar struggles, remember that it’s okay to take a step back, to question societal myths and expectations, and to reshape your reality in ways that align with your true nature.

Above is a video I shared a few years ago where I apologised for being emotionally unavailable. It was a pivotal moment in my journey towards self-improvement and emotional openness. If you’re navigating similar issues, I hope it can provide some insight and guidance.

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Justin Brown

As co-founder of Ideapod, a digital publishing platform reaching millions, and creator of The Vessel, a new platform for self-knowledge, I bring a unique perspective to the world of culture, politics and psychology. With a M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and M.A. (First Class Honours) from the Australian National University, I've dedicated my career to understanding and sharing new ideas and perspectives for a new generation.

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