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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.

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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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