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How to Know If You Have an Emotionally Unavailable Partner

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How to Know If You Have an Emotionally Unavailable Partner

If you’ve ever experienced getting to a certain point with your partner where it feels like an actual barrier is in place (their walls are up) and they won’t “let you in” – you know what it’s like to be in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable partner.

And being emotionally unavailable, while assumed to be a more common trait in men, is also present with many women.

In this article, we will explore the various signs (some obvious, some a little less obvious) of an emotionally unavailable partner, and the difference in emotional unavailability signs with men and women. We will also explain the reasons behind the behaviour, and what you can do to deal with them.

Signs of an Emotionally Unavailable Partner

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, these are the main signs:

1. Evasiveness

You feel like you are in a relationship with a professional dodgeball player (you try to get close, for example asking a personal question, and they expertly dodge and weave their way out of it). There may also be secrecy about their past, excuses to avoid intimacy or other red flags that leave you feeling shut out and confused.

Part of the evasiveness can extend out to avoiding discussing, or committing to a future together and deflecting any conversation that focuses on feelings.

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2. Control Freak / Self-Absorbed

The whole relationship revolves around them (hello, narcissists). They won’t compromise or budge to let you influence them or have any say in the relationship. While the focus is on them, they are also the ones who control what is discussed and what decisions are made – which means they can adeptly manoeuvre the conversation to other topics when things start to get too close for comfort.

3. Anger / Arrogance

The slightest thing you or others do or say sets your partner off. Anger is the ultimate blocker of intimate connection. Arrogance is not far behind it. Both qualities are usually indicators of unexpressed emotions like grief, fear, low self-esteem and sadness. By being angry or overly cocky, they get to keep others a safe distance away from what is really going on inside.

One of the main traits that falls under the arrogance category is laughing at or putting down anyone who shares their feelings or is too open (including their significant other).

4. Perfectionism

You notice they are always pointing out character flaws – whether it’s the waiter, the person in front of them at the bank, someone at work – no matter where they are, they will always find a fault in others. Eventually, this will be directed at you (if it hasn’t been already).

The perfectionist prefers to rely on themselves and will often brag about how they are the only ones that can do things a certain way. They feel as though they can’t trust others to do a task correctly, so they rarely delegate.

The most prominent trait of a perfectionist is having very demanding standards for themselves and others, this includes you as a partner. Failure is not an option.

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5. Hot and Heavy

The relationship will progress to the bedroom very quickly. It will feel like they only want one thing, and that they prefer the thrill of the chase than a committed relationship.

People who have emotional unavailability tendencies believe sex is the only way to have intimacy, and the longer they can keep the relationship as “just a physical connection,” the better. Anything past that is too unfamiliar and uncomfortable for them.

6. Already in a Relationship

If you are seeing someone who is married or in a committed relationship, who has been promising you they will leave the other person for you (but you keep hearing excuses like “now just isn’t the right time”), you are with an emotionally unavailable person.

Someone who has more than one partner is usually keeping their options open – a sign of emotional unavailability and issues with being vulnerable or letting someone get too close to them.

The above traits are very common for men, and while women can exhibit some of the same traits, generally the following are more common:

  • Holding themselves back from physical intimacy
  • Criticizing partners for not doing enough, while also being uncomfortable asking for or accepting help
  • Keeping their authentic self hidden (also known as wearing a “mask”)
  • Blaming and judging others and avoiding responsibility

Why Are They Emotionally Unavailable?

The first thing to mention here is that majority of the time, this has nothing to do with you. People who are out of touch with their emotions don’t even know where to begin when it comes to picking up on someone else’s feelings, because they have never tapped into or explored their own emotions.

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A lot of the time, people who struggle to connect emotionally have had no model of what emotional intimacy looks like in their life, and have no idea how to open up and connect.

People displaying the signs we have covered have often suffered a great trauma or loss and are covering up insecurities, and doing whatever they can to avoid vulnerability. Other times, they have been brought up in an overprotective, dismissive or unpredictable home environment.

In most cases, when someone is overly controlling in their external world, it is because they feel very out of control internally. When someone becomes absorbed in their own needs, feelings, wants and agenda (this includes workaholics), they can avoid true connection by keeping people at arm’s length and keeping their personal interests between them and another person.

How to Handle an Emotionally Unavailable Partner

So, now that you have identified you are in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable partner, what are your options going forwards?

1. Meet Your Partner Where They Are

Pressuring your partner to be more emotionally intimate with you is counterproductive, the better way to handle it is to seek to understand your partner from a place of patience, love and compassion. Having high expectations on your partner to give what they don’t yet have will only drive a greater wedge between you.

2. Practice Patience

Ensuring you have a support network (and your own life) outside of your relationship is essential when handling an emotionally unavailable partner. Your partner will more than likely need some space to process what they are experiencing.

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3. Don’t Take It Personally

In the early stages of rediscovering their feelings and emotions, your partner may not feel ready to open up and share with you. Although this might be frustrating, this process simply cannot work if you taking it personally or make it about you.

4. Create a Safe Space

The focus needs to be about holding a safe space for your partner to explore new (and sometimes scary) parts of themselves. Encouraging your partner’s openness and vulnerability with kindness, respect and love is vital.

5. Be the Model They Never Had

Show them and tell them what it means to be emotionally intimate (as mentioned earlier, in a respectful, kind, loving way).

6. Take Time to Self-Reflect

What we give out we get back. It’s the law of attraction. Seek to understand yourself. If you find that you keep attracting emotionally unavailable partners, it is usually a sign that on some level, you are emotionally unavailable yourself.

Final Thoughts

While we have covered a lot of different signs of emotional unavailability and ways to deal with them, it is important to look at each relationship as unique, and to explore different ways of connecting with your partner. Just as every person is individual, every relationship has it’s unique dynamics.

More About Relationships Problems

Featured photo credit: marcos mayer via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Amy Milnes

A relationship coach empowering people to create and maintain loving and lasting relationships.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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