“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.”
~ Mandy Hale
Something just seems missing in your relationship but you can’t put your finger on it.
You spend time connecting the dots between you last text, last interaction and your partner who is “missing in action.” You feel there must be something you can do to fix this. You think it will just take time and require more effort on your part to make him open up.
In the meantime, you are getting more desperate, your self-esteem is suffering and you’re spending more energy wondering and worrying what’s wrong in your relationship and neglecting other things. Sound familiar?
Often this is a sign of a relationship that doesn’t have an essential component to survive called emotional intimacy. Often this is a sign that you are with a person that is emotionally unavailable.
Emotional intimacy is the closeness and connection partners feel by sharing their emotions and feelings without criticism or judgment, along with showing care, validation and understanding for one another.
An emotionally available partner will provide safety both emotionally and physically for the other person to show who they really are, and likewise, allow themselves to be vulnerable too by the sharing of deeper emotions.
Being involved with someone who is emotionally unavailable can be confusing. The clients I have worked with will say that they feel helpless, alone, and unhappy and wonder if they are doing something (or not doing something for that matter) to cause their partner to not open up and connect with them. They blame themselves for the frequent arguments, mistrust and lack of intimacy.
If you are in a relationship with a partner who is emotional unavailable there are ways to empower yourself and feel more secure.
1. Recognize the signs
An emotionally unavailable partner is someone who has difficulty sharing their emotions or feelings.
- They may have “wounds” from their childhood or past relationships, or have an addiction that cause them to “wall up” and remain guarded.
- They may justify their behaviors and not take responsibility for their inability to open up.
- They may give reasons why they cannot make time to spend together or talk, and say that it will happen soon but you don’t ever see anything come from it.
- They may become angry at you for expressing your feelings or project their emotions onto you.
- They may say you’re being too “needy.”
You may have attraction or sexual chemistry, but very little else.
As the other partner, you may rationalize why you stay in the relationship.
You say to yourself, “Sometimes he’s nice,” and “he does care.” You justify the relationship and tell your friends, “We do talk, and “he tells me I’m important in his life.” You feel sorry for him and feel the need to take care of him and tell others, “He must be going through something,” and “he’s not ready for a commitment.” All these are examples of how you may be convincing yourself that the relationship is healthy when it’s not.
2. Stop blaming yourself
One thing woman do in this situation is blame themselves. They feel if they were more loving, caring, thoughtful or patient that their partner will open up.
First of all, it’s not your fault.
Don’t assume responsibility for another person’s behavior. If you are open to the relationship, have healthy boundaries, and are coming from a place of caring and positive intent, you are relatively healthy.
You don’t have to fix him or the relationship.
When you stop blaming yourself you will gain clarity to know what to do next.
3. Stop fantasizing the relationship
Often women who are in relationships with partners who are emotionally unavailable struggle with codependency or even love addiction.
Love addiction is when the love addict is focused primarily on the other person to meet all their needs, and obsesses and fantasizes about the other person.
How this plays into emotionally unavailability is the focus of the love addict is their partner who isn’t emotionally available and it reinforces to the love addict to keep trying harder for love and approval.
Codependency is what underlies love addiction.
When in a codependent relationship, you may tend to neglect your emotional, physical, and financial needs and hope your partner will fulfill them. You may struggle with boundaries and neglect other parts of your life; your job, family, friendships for the sole purpose of receiving love and acceptance from another.
If you feel you are struggling with love addiction or codependency, seek professional help. There are 12-step support groups and numerous books on the topic that can get you on the road to recovery.
4. Identify your needs
Begin to identify what makes you happy and what your individual needs are. This might be a difficult exercise especially if your focus of attention has been on fixing the relationship or changing for someone else.
If you have been consumed and frustrated that your partner isn’t emotionally available you may have abandoned yourself too.
Make a list of your emotional, physical and spiritual needs. Make a commitment to yourself about when and how you will meet your needs.
5. Reconnect with yourself
If you’ve been in a relationship or in a relationship where your needs are not being met, you may have lost your identity.
Try to reconnect with yourself.
This will involve connecting with your needs and feelings about the relationship (past or present), what you feel sad and angry about, what is unmet in the relationship, what you would like in a healthy relationship, and especially, how you can get back to you.
It is impossible for any one person to meet all your needs, but being in a relationship where your needs are not being met can be painful and lonely.
Don’t keep suffering. Stop and take control of your life. Make yourself a priority. Remember, no one can truly abandon you if you don’t abandon yourself.
Kavita A. Hatten, MS, LPC, NCC- www.phoenixcounseling.net
Emotionally unavailable men are unavailable for reasons that might or might not even be known to them.
When a person is closed off emotionally from building a lasting bond with another human being, that means he is subconsciously trying to protect himself from getting hurt.
Getting too close to someone opens him up to the possibility of getting hurt. He is afraid of being put in such a vulnerable position, so therefore, he will choose to be unavailable to others.
If he takes a long time to answer your text messages, phone calls, or appears evasive when you bring up certain topics, say for example the “where is this relationship going” conversation.
Do you feel he is meeting your needs or is everything about him and on his terms? If he is being avoidant, then you should ask yourself is he really ready for a long-term committed relationship?
A better question to ask yourself is if he is worth your time?
If you are interested in being involved romantically with an emotionally unavailable man, consider the following:
Being in a relationship with a man who is emotionally unavailable can be very painful and unsatisfying since he will most likely not be asking you about how your day went or how you are feeling or any other questions that pertain to him showing any genuine interest in you.
The relationship will be unsatisfying since an emotionally unavailable man would be incapable of meeting any of your emotional needs in a relationship since he is ….emotionally unavailable.
Ask him to have a conversation with you about the future of your relationship and if he doesn’t want to discuss this topic with you, then that’s a red flag.
A man who is emotionally available won’t mind discussing the direction your relationship is taking, even if he is not ready to take the next step such as moving in together or getting engaged. He should at least be willing to hear you out and give his honest opinion on the matter as well as take your opinion into consideration.
But if you are committed to trying to make this work, then remember that it takes two people to make any relationship work out.
You can explain to him that his boundaries are too rigid. Some people have boundaries that are too porous while others have boundaries that are too rigid. So if his boundaries are way too rigid since he is not letting anyone get too close to him, then let him know how that makes you feel.
Make it about you by using “I” statements such as I feel, I want, I need. This will hopefully make him more apt to listen and hear what you have to say.
There are different types of boundaries.
For example, physical boundaries where he may not be affectionate with you.
There are also time boundaries,
- For example does he make time to see you?
- Does he call every evening or does he text you once in a while?
- Does he constantly change plans with you after settling on specific plans?
- Also, take notice of how you feel in the relationship.
- Are you happy when you are together?
- How do you feel when you are apart?
If you don’t feel safe or secure in the relationship, you may be with someone who is emotionally unavailable.
A man who shows you through his actions, rather than his words, that he cares about you is a man who is emotionally available and is very interested in being in a relationship with you.
Emotionally unavailable men have an avoidant attachment style.
There are three main attachment styles, which are avoidant, anxious and secure. Attachment styles have been defined by attachment theory, which was developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, which was later expanded on by Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver to include adult romantic attachment.
So whether you just recently met or have been dating for a while, it is crucial to consider whether or not he is someone worthy of you investing or continuing to invest your energy into.
Jackie Krol, LCSW – www.psychotherapistjackie.com
Men and women have certain biologically determined differences.
How those differences manifest has a lot to do with environmental factors so we can’t generalize anything to all men and all women. We have all heard that “Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus”.
Some of those differences really seem to resonate with people so they probably are descriptive of a lot of how the different genders operate relationally. Again, though, you really can’t generalize; so many other factors – family of origin, culture, religion, race, socioeconomic status, etc. – all come in to play.
In the end, each of us has to determine what we need in order to connect with someone sufficiently to make a successful relationship.
Culturally, our expectations for relationships are different than they were 50 plus years ago. In the ‘50’s and even ‘60’s role definitions were much more narrowly defined. Men were expected to earn the money, while women were expected to raise the children. Women were also expected to create the primary social connections. Probably most women didn’t expect the partner to be their “best friend”.
Now I hear this expectation all of the time. When men fall short of that role, they are often described as emotionally unavailable. They probably are less available than a lot of women, but that doesn’t make them somehow defective.
Each of us has to determine what qualities we need in a mate.
There are the needs that are non-negotiable, the needs that could be negotiable, and then there are preferences. Nobody gets everything they want in a partner, but you have to be clear about what you can and can’t live with.
When I think about emotional unavailability, I think of someone so out of touch, he can’t empathize.
A person like that can be very lonely to live with. Then there are men who can empathize and who care about your emotions but don’t share a lot of their own. They listen, but they don’t talk. These men can be very good partners, but they aren’t likely to serve the same function as a good girlfriend and a glass of wine.
I don’t think you can get a person to become the ideal emotional partner.
Most of us have already learned how to deal with our emotions by the time we are ready to get into a serious relationship. You can try. You can ask your partner how he’s feeling, but don’t be surprised if it’s a short conversation. A lot of times asking a man what he thinks rather than feels will generate more substance.
We are unlikely to get all of our needs met with our partner.
That’s why it’s important to have a variety of sources to get emotional nourishment.
We need to nourish friends and family. We need to develop our own passions to explore on our own. We need to take care of ourselves.
If we do these things we will put less burden on our primary relationship to provide all of our emotional connection.
You have to decide if his positive qualities compensate for some degree of his “emotional unavailability.”
Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
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