"The prospect of getting close to someone is like standing at the edge of a dark abyss: Your body is feeling cautious, and you question whether it is worth it to take the leap."So, where does this fear come from?Growing up, we learn from our families whether or not our emotional needs will be met from the people around us, Ortman says.

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She felt proud to be on his arm, to be the one he wanted to spend his time with. She didn't want to overwhelm Jason with the strength of her feelings.

She didn't want to push him away and into the arms of someone else.

She assumed he wanted to take it slow, to really get to know her before he expressed his feelings.

When she looked into his eyes, wanting to communicate the depth of her feelings without blurting them out, Jason always looked away uncomfortably.

When she first met him, Laura thought she had hit the relationship jackpot. His attention, flattery, and confidence won Laura over after the first few dates.

Jason was handsome, successful, charming, funny, and intelligent. Laura fell hard and fast, but she knew she had to pace herself.

For starters, it can be helpful to notice your tendencies to shut down or avoid emotional openness, and evaluate whether or not they're helping or hurting your relationships.

"Sometimes we need to thank our defenses for how they have previously served us, but then ask them to take seat," he says.

Or if you had a negative experience with an ex who didn't honour your emotions, that can lead to emotional unavailability, he says.

There are a few clear signs that someone is emotionally unavailable, according to Ortman.

Or someone's words and actions just won't line up: "You say that you care, but then act in unloving ways," he says.