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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.

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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.

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Featured photo credit: marcos mayer via unsplash.com

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Amy Milnes

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

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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