Advertising
Advertising

How to Know If You Have an Emotionally Unavailable Partner

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

Amy Milnes

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

How to Know If You Have an Emotionally Unavailable Partner 7 Secrets of a Happy Marriage Revealed by a Relationship Expert When to Talk About Marriage If You Want to Take it to the Next Level 15 Signs You Are In a Relationship With a Narcissist (And What to Do)

Trending in Relationships

1 11 Red Flags in a Relationship Not To Ignore 2 6 Real Reasons Why You’re Feeling Alone in a Relationship 3 50 Unique and Really Fun Date Ideas for Couples 4 5 Real Relationship Goals You Should Actually Strive Toward 5 9 Ways to Build and Keep Healthy Personal Boundaries

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

Advertising

The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

Advertising

The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

Advertising

Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

Advertising

The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

Read Next