10 Tips to Spot Emotional Unavailability

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How to Spot Emotional Unavailability and Emotionally Unavailable PartnersIf you’ve ever been in a relationship with someone emotionally unavailable, you know the pain of being unable to get close to the one you love. They’re evasive, make excuses or are just inept in talking about feelings or the relationship. Some use anger, criticism, or activities to create distance. You end up feeling alone, depressed, unimportant, or rejected. More women complain about emotional unavailability than men, yet are unaware that they’re emotionally unavailable, too.

Getting hooked on someone unavailable (think Mr. Big and Carrie Bradshaw) disguises your problem, keeping you in denial of your own unavailability.

There are several types of unavailability – both temporary and chronic. Some people have always been unavailable due to mental illness and/or a troubled childhood. Others temporarily make something a higher priority than a relationship, such as a family obligation, education,  project, or health concern. People recently divorced or widowed may temporarily not be ready to get involved with someone new. In the middle, are those who are too afraid to risk falling in love because they’ve been hurt by one or more relationships, which may include being hurt by a parent when they were a child. Often these different reasons for unavailability overlap, and it’s difficult to ascertain whether the problem is chronic or will pass.

If you’re looking for a close, committed relationship, a person living in another state, or who is married or still in love with someone else is not going to be there for you. Similarly, addicts, including workaholics, are unavailable because their addiction is the priority and it controls them. Still, some people give the appearance of availability and speak openly about their feelings and their past. You don’t realize until you’re already in a relationship that they’re unable to really connect emotionally or make a commitment.

Here’s a list of more subtle red flags that may signal unavailability, especially when several add up. They apply to both genders. Following them are questions to ask yourself to find out whether you’re ready for a committed relationship.

1. Flirting with flattery. People who are too flattering. Like snake charmers, these wooers may also be adept listeners and communicators. Often good at short-term intimacy, some allure with self-disclosure and vulnerability, but they prefer the chase to the catch.

2. Control.  Someone who won’t be inconvenienced to modify his or her routine. Typically, commitment phobics are inflexible and loathe compromises. Relationships revolve around them.

3. Listen.  Your date may hint or even admit that he or she isn’t good at relationship or doesn’t believe in or isn’t ready for marriage. Listen to these negative facts and believe them. Ignore vulnerability, bragging, and compliments.

4. The Past.  Find out if the person has had a long-term relationship and why it ended. You may learn that prior relationships ended at the stage when intimacy normally develops.

5. Perfection Seekers.  These people look for and find a fatal flaw in the opposite sex and then move on.  The problem is that they’re scared of intimacy. When they can’t find imperfection, their anxiety rises. Given time, they will find an excuse to end the relationship.  Don’t be tempted to believe you’re better than their past partners.

6. Anger.  Notice rudeness to waiters and others, revealing pent-up rage. This type of person is demanding and probably emotionally abusive.

7. Arrogance.  Avoid someone who brags and acts cocky, signaling low self-esteem. It takes confidence to be intimate and committed.

8. Lateness.  Chronic lateness is inconsiderate, and can also indicate the person is avoiding relationship, but don’t assume that punctuality means he or she’s a catch.

9. Invasiveness or Evasiveness.  Secrecy, evasiveness, or inappropriate questions too soon about money or sex, for example, indicate a hidden agenda and unwillingness to allow a relationship to unfold. Conversely, someone may conceal his or her past due to shame, which may create an obstacle to getting close.

10. Seduction.  Beware of sexual cues given too early. Seducers avoid authenticity because they don’t believe they’re enough to keep a partner. Once the relationship gets real, they’ll sabotage it. Seduction is a power-play and about conquest.

Most people reveal their emotional availability early on. Pay attention to the facts, especially if there’s mutual attraction. Even if the person seems to be Mr. or Mrs. Right, yet is emotionally unavailable, you’re left with nothing but pain. If you overlook, deny, or rationalize to avoid short-term disappointment, you run the risk of enduring long-term misery.

Be honest with yourself about your own availability.

1. Are you angry at the opposite sex? Do you like jokes at their expense? If so, you may need to heal from past wounds before you’re comfortable getting close to someone.

2. Do you make excuses to avoid getting together?

3. Do you think you’re so independent you don’t need anyone?

4. Do you fear falling in love because you may get hurt?

5. Are you always waiting for the other shoe to drop? Although people complain about their problems, many have even more difficulty accepting the good.

6. Are you distrustful? Maybe you’ve been betrayed or lied to in the past and now look for it in everyone.

7. Do you avoid intimacy by filling quiet times with distractions?

8.  Are you uncomfortable talking about yourself and your feelings? Do you have secrets you’re ashamed of that make you feel undesirable or unlovable?

9. Do you usually like to keep your options open in case someone better comes along?

10. Do you fear a relationship may place too many expectations on you, that you’d give up your independence or lose your autonomy?

If you answered yes to some of these questions, counseling can help you heal in order to to risk getting close. If you’re involved with someone emotionally unavailable, pressuring him or her to be more intimate is counterproductive. (See “The Dance of Intimacy.“) You may be involved with a narcissist, because typically narcissists avoid emotional vulnerability. (Learn more in Dealing with a Narcissist.) However, marriage or couples counseling can change the relationship dynamics and help you to have a more fulfilling intimate relationship.

Copyright, Darlene Lancer 2012

 

10 Tips to Spot Emotional Unavailability by Darlene Lancer, MFT, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Santa Monica, CA, and author of Codependency for Dummies

 

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Heather
Heather
5 years ago

Hi, I have just met a guy on a dating site (it has been just on 5-weeks), we have still not met, but do chat on Whatsapp and phone each other now and again. My fear and insecurities rear their ugly heads as he is slightly evasive, though not emotionally so, he sends me beautiful messages and songs but I am not sure where I stand with him and when I ask he keeps telling me that he wants me in his life. He is a single dad of a 21-year old daughter (he raised her), sucessful business owner and… Read more »

Mithan
Mithan
6 years ago

I just dated a woman for 2 years. I twas long distance but we spent many months together, and while she really liked me, she was so scared she may have to move away from her mother, that she never could commit fully to me and was always read to pull back in a seconds notice. I fell in love with the woman and her family, and kept sticking with her, until I eventually reached the point where we had a fight, she said “I want to push you away” and I literally blew up and walked away. Its 8… Read more »

swati
swati
6 years ago

i am so relieved to read your article. it is accurately describing my nature. i
i hurt a very good guy and realised it is my own fault that i am using lame excuses and tactics to avoid getting serious about men. i dont believe that
i am made for relationships. and i have each criteria of emmotional unavailableness you mentioned. my best friends call me so since 7 years.

Jo
Jo
6 years ago

Wow i just loved this. It describes my situation perfectly. I love studying people and love to make sense of their behaviours due to their past. so it’s strange that i got myself into a situation like this in the first place. i was perhaps a bit blinded by love. i was very hard on myself after we broke up and he found some silly reason to dump me. i really beat myself up. i put myself down because i felt if only i connected on a deeper level or made him connect on a deeper level or made him… Read more »

Tracey
Tracey
6 years ago

Hi Darlene, I’ve been in counselling for along time and has really helped me in relationships.. Althought I’m still learning to keep distance from those emotionally unavailable. I dated someone who said right on his on-line dating account casual/no commitment, but he did also say he was open to exploring if the right person came along.. The first date was great, we talked for 3 hours and he said it was the first time he hadn’t looked at his watch in that long.. he followed up almost daily with texts message to see how I was.. but has time went… Read more »

Angela
Angela
6 years ago

I was in a relationship last April with a man who I met on a dating site. He was completely charming, I met his son on our first date, and he met my daughters. He quickly organised to come and stay with me, texting me constantly and making future plans with me. I was concerned he was rushing things a bit but at the same time enjoyed his enthusiasm. He had a lot of the traits that you “red flagged”. I had come from an abusive marriage and had spent 5 years working on myself so I felt I was… Read more »

Chris
Chris
6 years ago

hello Darlene Just came accross your blog, and I have to say that I can see myself in what you wrote. My experience is actually different. I realized that I am only dating unavailble women. I’ ve had a string of long distance relationships that went straight to the wall. I dated a couple of married women. I dated women that freshly broke up. I dated women that wouldn’t care to spend the day with me. Lately, I thought I had found the one. A single woman who seemed well-balanced, and ready for a relationship. I realized that she was… Read more »

Tina
Tina
6 years ago

Hi Darlene, Thank you for such a great straight forward post. I am in a long distance relationship, I am in New York and he is in Sweden. When I first met him, I just got out of dating someone who left me hurt and before him I was in a 10 year relationship which left me damaged. We, the Swede and I, have been “dating” for the past year and I have visited him twice and we had 2 amazing vacations together. In the beginning I thought it was okay to have someone from afar so I can focus… Read more »

Jess
Jess
6 years ago

We’ve been together for 2.5 years and have 9 month old son, he is chronic workaholic, always comes home late at night when we are long asleep. He never disclosed anything about his past in a proper manner. He is constantly busy or he will make himself occupied if there is nothing to do at work. If we decide to go anywhere it always will be his friend’s place or we take friends with us, we NEVER go anywhere without them. When he is around me he looks frustrated, uncomfortable and actually awkward, conversations take work and no matter how… Read more »

Rachel
Rachel
6 years ago

I just found out from reading this that I’m emotionally unavailable. And I guess it started with past two relationships. My boyfriend now loves me and I can tell he loves me and he’s probably the perfect guy but… Like it says here I feel like I can do everything on my own and I don’t want to be attached to someone else and that’s kinda what a relationship means. It’s horrible. Guys just leave you. I feel like people just leave you all the time so there’s no reason to even go there anymore. It’s very sad and I’m… Read more »

Lyn
Lyn
7 years ago

My 36 year relationship broke up two years ago because of my husband’s infidelity. It was excruciatingly painful to me but I’m doing better and actually have been dating someone for a year now. This person has helped me a lot because he’s been through divorce, and in many ways he’s helped me move forward. Anyway, he would like to get married or live together some day, but the thought of ever doing that makes me feel a bit panicked, like I could get trapped. After what I went through in my marriage I promised myself I’d never let someone… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
7 years ago
Reply to  Lyn

After being in a codependent relationship, once in recovery often people become “counterdependent” because of the fears you mention. Autonomy is an inside job, regardless of whether you’re married or not. Keep working on this in your therapy and the exercises suggested in my books. I discuss this phenomenon at length in my coming book Conquering Shame and Codependency.

Justin
Justin
8 years ago

After reading a couple of your posts (because I realized I have characteristics that are causing problems in my relationship) I think I may be emotionally unavailable and my girlfriend may be codependent. Is this something we both need help with or can I work to resolve my unavailability which she says is causing her anxiety/insecurity/unhappiness with the relationship?

Brian
Brian
1 year ago

This article describes my last relationship with this 27 year old girl very well. I’m a man and I’m 29. When we met I was very drawn to her due to her overly confident persona, intelligence, crude sense of humor, and our similar and specific interests. She was definitely a charmer. I could tell right away that something was off. It always seemed like her mind was somewhere else, and she shrugged off any conversations about emotions or intimacy. Well, it all made sense when she told me she lost her parents when she was young. It was supposed to… Read more »

Elena
Elena
1 year ago

Hi, I am 45 female and I have been actively dating for over a year after my divorce, and for the first time I met this type of men. I was so confused with ‘blowing hot-cold’ and sudden distance after getting closer that I questioned myself, ‘what have I done’ and similar, I found this article in the search for answers. The last man I was interested for about 4-5 months kept me at arms length and I felt like I am competing with a ghost from the past; he had one very long relationship and although it has been… Read more »

Rose
Rose
1 year ago

I recognize myself in number 9 and 10. What can I do to become emotionally available? I am 35 years old and have been attracting only men that are narcissists or emotionally unavailable.

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
Reply to  Rose

See “The Dance of Intimacy” and “How to Change Your Attachment Style.” Change may be hard without therapy. It would be helpful to attend CoDA also and read >Conquering Shame and Codependency.

Destiny
Destiny
2 years ago

I am definitely emotionally unavailable and many of these apply to me sadly. Especially the part about feeling like a relationship is too much of a responsibility and that it will interfere with my sense of freedom and autonomy. I have told many guys I have dated that I am not ready for the responsibility of a relationship right now. I have been told a few times that I need to see a counselor. Maybe I will take heed to the advice.

Steve
Steve
2 years ago

We met 13 yrs ago & dated for a few mnths. She was getting out of a bad 13 yr marriage.She went into a 7 yr unloving relationship before we came back tgther 3 yrs ago.The first time we got back tgther it was incredible for 6 mnths until it got too real & I “smothered” her. I spent 6 months workng hard on me & this past Nov she came back…For 10 months this time then it got too real again.She broke it off July 4th.I asked when will she stop running?? she projected back on me that I… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve

It’s up to her to be herself. That’s what she’s afraid of. Read my posts on breakups. I suggest you listen to my seminar on Breakup Recovery.

X
X
2 years ago

This is me. I am emotionally unavailable, I hide behind my work. So I am a workaholic. This is to hide a lot of hurt. From parents, from partners, from friends. I realise I have also fallen in love with emotionally unavailable people, and expected from them what they could not give. And if someone came ready to give, I ran away.

Emeric
Emeric
3 years ago

Hello Darlene, just read your nice article which reminds me my last romantic experience. 4 Years ago, she (27) lost her companion tragically and I guess she never really stopped mourning him. I’ve struggled for 4 months, trying to understand the distance this girl was putting between us. Some moments were amazing and intense, and she said she felt really connected, and relieved, but the rest seemed… off. I tried to understand her and let her space. But we broke up last week, because she needed some time alone. I feel like this couldn’t have been different, no matter what… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
3 years ago
Reply to  Emeric

It’s true that there was nothing you can do. We can’t force or manipulate someone to love or stay with us. See my blogs on breakups and listen to the Breakup Recovery Seminar.

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
3 years ago
Reply to  Emeric

It’s true that there was nothing you can do. We can’t force or manipulate someone to love or stay with us. See my blogs on breakups and listen to the >Breakup Recovery Seminar.

Brian
Brian
3 years ago

What I gather from this, as a person that has equal parts emotional unavailability and availability, is that it’s foolhardy to make an attempt at working with someone we believe to fit these stereotypes or paradigms; however, that counseling can be implored to help make it better. This is confusing double-talk because we can inherently find reasons not to work through our problems. So, when should a person feel inclined to not communicate there observations. I think it’s worth it to mention that openness and communication should be engaged first before the psych assessments. People will always see what they… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Thank you for pointing our an apparent contradiction. I agree openness and communication should be the first choice, but often it requires a therapeutic setting for optimal results, because partners keep getting triggered by the same issues that are causing pain in the relationship. Although certain people, such as addicts and those with mental illness, are more resistant to change, the relationship can improve in major ways when the other partner stops doing things that worsen conflict. Very often when one person changes, so does the other, even if not in therapy. For instance, an addict may take responsibility for… Read more »

Stacie
Stacie
4 years ago

I always start off very attached to a relationship (both romantic and platonic) but after a year or two tend to get very dismissive of them and move on to new people. I’ve had long relationships before (5 years) but I look back and realize I wasn’t happy in them. I can’t decide if I’m too independent or too dependent, and I thrive on compliments but then feel like I don’t deserve them. I feel like I’m the emotionally unavailable one and I don’t know how to open up. I feel so close with my boyfriend now, but I can… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
4 years ago
Reply to  Stacie

It’s very courageous of you to admit this about yourself. If you don’t feel like you deserve compliments you seem to require, then it sounds clearly like you have issues of shame and self-esteem. This will affect your ability to have satisfying relationships as explained in my blogs and Conquering Shame and Codependency.. It’s important that you get therapy to heal trauma from your past. The critic in you is finding fault with him before he does with you! All explained in my book with steps how to heal.

Fallon
Fallon
4 years ago

Darlene: I have been w/ my husband for 10 years, cohabitating for 9, and married for 6. We were so strong as a couple, but about 4 years ago he became emotionally & physically unavailable. He never gave me compliments, was often too distracted to listen to me, and we rarely had sex. I ended up having an affair. With therapy and lots of hard work, though, we saved our marriage, and were very connected for a long time. Now, however, his old behaviors are back. I have some health issues and he is so helpful and supportive about those,… Read more »

dana
dana
4 years ago

I’m with a guy who’s this automatically but he doesn’t date around once we took off the labels he started too hang out more..and act more like a bf which was odd too me till i read all of this. He said he was Emotionally un attached from the start. and he breaks up with most girls…which i find rare i’m still around.. But he does talk of past marriage, and past gfs, a lot….idk if i should stop or continue? i know at any time it can just stop i just wana know what you think

Heather
Heather
5 years ago

Hi, I have just met a guy on a dating site (it has been just on 5-weeks), we have still not met, but do chat on Whatsapp and phone each other now and again. My fear and insecurities rear their ugly heads as he is slightly evasive, though not emotionally so, he sends me beautiful messages and songs but I am not sure where I stand with him and when I ask he keeps telling me that he wants me in his life. He is a single dad of a 21-year old daughter (he raised her), sucessful business owner and… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
5 years ago
Reply to  Heather

If a man is available and wants a relationship with you, he will meet you. You’re feeling insecure because of his evasive, unavailable behavior. Take care of yourself. I would read Codependency for Dummies.

Lisa
Lisa
5 years ago

My husband is a combat veteran, Vietnam, and we are having difficulty – we are only 1.5 years married, but it’s been one heck of a ride. He’s emotionally unavailable…in a big way. Things have changed dramatically since we got married, and we need to get to the root of the issue! He doesn’t tell me he loves me, he doesn’t even want to have sex. He spends most of his time watching TV when he is with me, or talking to our pets. It’s as if I don’t even exist. Prior to our marriage we did things, we went… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
5 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Your marriage won’t improve if you don’t take immediate action. insist on getting marriage counseling. If he refuses, go yourself.

Patrick
Patrick
5 years ago

I want her to be happy but she loves me. I’m committed to her but don’t feel the same love I once had for my ex.. I hate it. I wish I could love her the same.. she is a great girl and I hate myslef for feeling the way I do… she deserves so much better than me but neither she or I believe in divorce…

Darlene Lancer, MFT
5 years ago
Reply to  Patrick

It would be useful to get counseling to overcome your regret and guilt and be able to appreciate the love you have rather than the love you lost. See also my e-workbook, Freedom from Guilt and Shame – Finding Self-Forgiveness

Patrick
Patrick
5 years ago

I dated a girl for 4 years and truly fell in love. The relationship ended because I realized she was talking to another man. She claims she wasn’t cheating but she did admit she was interested in him and is now married to him. I already had a ring picked out and I was going to ask her to marry me on her birthday, needless to say that never happened. For 4 more years I stayed away from relationships until I met my wife… only this is I’m still emotionally unavailable. I still hurt very much from that relationship and… Read more »

Natis
Natis
5 years ago
Reply to  Patrick

Sorry , I knw the feeling I stoped dating with my Ex 5 years ago but I still date him by ma heart .Never say a thing to him but yoiii I A
am deadly in love with him

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
5 years ago
Reply to  Natis

Attending Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) or CoDA can help you. It sounds like therapy would also be helpful. No contact or checking on social media is the best way, while getting support to deal with your feelings. Read Conquering Shame and Codependency

wanda
wanda
5 years ago

I’ve been in a relationship someone emotionally unavailable 1.5 years now. After a past abusive relationship I was content to have a long distance relationship with this woman and having our time together only on the weekends. She said I love you almost immediately, and via text message at that. She told me that in 4 of her last 5 relationships she just “fell in love with someone else” when all was fine in the relationships and of course, said falling in love ended the relationships. If we have a problem I’m aware that she may find someone new and… Read more »

Mel
Mel
5 years ago

Hi, I have enjoyed seeing all of the different insights on this subject. I grew up having everything I needed, and some of what I wanted. My parents were great providers,but terrible at providing love. we are a very emotionally distant family. Most suffer with depression. My father and I are not great friends, due to the fact that he cant control me anymore. He doesnt like anything that makes his feelings change or pull heart strings, he avoids it at all cost. I am in a long reltationship of almost 6 years,I have been in several longterm relationships,and have… Read more »

S
S
6 years ago

Add me to the list. I too, fell for an emotionally unavailable guy and eventually realized it after I could feel the pain in my chest of the heartache I knew was coming. What I didn’t realize is that I was just as emotionally unavailable. Ahh, the beauty of hindsight. We were really into each other but too scared to fall too deeply so we kept each other at a safe distance. When one started to pull away a little, the other would pull away a little more until we both grew so distance that we stopped communicating completely. There… Read more »

Liz
Liz
6 years ago

I’ve recently realized that I am emotionally unavailable and have an avoidant attachment style. Can you recommend any reading to help me grow beyond these characteristics?

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Liz

I can recommend my blog, “The Dance of Intimacy” and book Conquering Shame and Codependency; however, practicing intimacy is required and therapy is ideal for that.

Mithan
Mithan
6 years ago

I just dated a woman for 2 years. I twas long distance but we spent many months together, and while she really liked me, she was so scared she may have to move away from her mother, that she never could commit fully to me and was always read to pull back in a seconds notice. I fell in love with the woman and her family, and kept sticking with her, until I eventually reached the point where we had a fight, she said “I want to push you away” and I literally blew up and walked away. Its 8… Read more »

swati
swati
6 years ago

i am so relieved to read your article. it is accurately describing my nature. i
i hurt a very good guy and realised it is my own fault that i am using lame excuses and tactics to avoid getting serious about men. i dont believe that
i am made for relationships. and i have each criteria of emmotional unavailableness you mentioned. my best friends call me so since 7 years.

martyr
martyr
6 years ago

I found out that my husband has been cheating on me (online) for more than a month, just last week when i got no internet at home. i am in the Philippines and he’s in uk. i know we’re so apart but is it not enough reason to cheat? he was flirting and doing stuff with girls online. he deleted all the things i could see and he didn’t intend to tell me about it but i still found it out. when i asked him to confess, he said he’s not cheating. then he admitted some things but not everything… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
2 years ago
Reply to  martyr

Trust in a relationship is essential and very fragile. You need a honest conversation and mutual agreement about boundaries and expectations. Often the cover-up is worse than the crime. See my blog posts on “Secrets and Lies: The Damage of Deception” and “Rebuilding Trust.”

Karen
Karen
6 years ago

I am left reeling after a brief but intense relationship with a 53-yr-old man who has never married. He tried to tell me on the first date that he doesn’t commit, but even at the age of 51, I thought, especially given the way he seemed to be so incredibly into me, and the intensity of the attraction, I might be the one that “got him over it.” He blindsided me after a romantic weekend, telling me he likes things to feel perfect, and it just wasn’t with me. When I asked him why he behaved so affectionately even though… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

I was married for 22 years to an emotionally unavailable man, but I didn’t realize that’s what it was. After he had an affair, I really struggled with not being the “perfect woman” and what it was that I was doing wrong. I am now in the process of divorce, a point that took me 2 1/2 years to get the courage to reach. It took losing my father to realize I was losing the one man that had always been there for me my entire life, even when I didn’t necessarily need him. Yet, I was married for 20… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

My heartfelt sympathy. Please see my blogs on self-love, divorce and infidelity. It’s never too late to grow in self-acceptance and compassion.

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

I guess I should clarify that there have been many signs and behaviors over the last 22 years that I ignored and made excuses for. We were also legally separated twice, several years before the affair. Both times, I was pregnant with our two youngest children. He blamed me for the problems we were having, but couldn’t quite define what I was doing wrong. Even when our daughters had 3 major surgeries between them, in a hospital over 100 miles away, where we were 24/7 for 7-11 days, he couldn’t be bothered to be there. Those were the big events.… Read more »

Jo
Jo
6 years ago

Wow i just loved this. It describes my situation perfectly. I love studying people and love to make sense of their behaviours due to their past. so it’s strange that i got myself into a situation like this in the first place. i was perhaps a bit blinded by love. i was very hard on myself after we broke up and he found some silly reason to dump me. i really beat myself up. i put myself down because i felt if only i connected on a deeper level or made him connect on a deeper level or made him… Read more »

Tracey
Tracey
6 years ago

Hi Darlene, I’ve been in counselling for along time and has really helped me in relationships.. Althought I’m still learning to keep distance from those emotionally unavailable. I dated someone who said right on his on-line dating account casual/no commitment, but he did also say he was open to exploring if the right person came along.. The first date was great, we talked for 3 hours and he said it was the first time he hadn’t looked at his watch in that long.. he followed up almost daily with texts message to see how I was.. but has time went… Read more »

Diane
Diane
5 years ago
Reply to  Tracey

I just broke up with a man after 2.5 months and my situation sounds identical to yours.Was divorced 4 years, said on 1st date he had 2 failed relationships this past year after a few months only with each woman. Said too on the 1st date he can’t remember the last time he enjoyed a woman’s company and the long walk we took. Didn’t want me to leave to go home. He texted me daily…checking in like I was his girlfriend already, but never got on the phone, never made plans again, Saw him a 2nd time,after 6 weeks,but he… Read more »

Wayne
Wayne
6 years ago

My mistake was thinking that I was better then the men in her past. I believed her stories of how bad they were or how they did her wrong. I know now that they were not so bad. But I still miss her after 8 months apart. And wonder how something that seemed so good went so bad so fast…probably because it never really was that good to begin with. And wonder why I was so foolish to believe.

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Wayne

Wayne, don’t be too hard on yourself. People don’t show their true colors in the early stages of romance, but I think you must have learned something about projection, yours and hers. Chapter 6 of Conquering Codependency and Shame goes into detail about how shame creates such problems in relationships to make people unavailable or pursue those who are.

Nadine
Nadine
6 years ago

Just discovering your posts Darlene, thank you, insightful, still, I am so confused. I have been in along-distance relationship with a man for half a year. He is kind, committed to me pretty quick, although we had our share of him pulling away after visiting each other and me becoming insecure. (Like you write above:”It’s natural that when one person withdraws emotionally, it makes the other person insecure.”) It’s been okay because I was able to share my feelings with him, which I have avoided in past relationships, but found then resentment builds up, so this time I wanted to… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Nadine

Thank you Nadine for your clear description of your feelings with someone not open. I’ve felt it myself, and it can feel lonely. To what extent your past is being triggered or whether he can become more open I cannot say. Best bet is to do couples counseling with someone who is psychodynamic in orientation. Fabulous that you’re having the courage to be open and honest, and this is the best way to make it safe for him, if it’s possible. You can both take the quiz on my blog on attachment. Shame underlies intimacy issues, as discussed in my… Read more »

Angela
Angela
6 years ago

I was in a relationship last April with a man who I met on a dating site. He was completely charming, I met his son on our first date, and he met my daughters. He quickly organised to come and stay with me, texting me constantly and making future plans with me. I was concerned he was rushing things a bit but at the same time enjoyed his enthusiasm. He had a lot of the traits that you “red flagged”. I had come from an abusive marriage and had spent 5 years working on myself so I felt I was… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Angela

I would first of all reframe your self-blame to to healthy self-protection. Your fear sound warranted. Rejection actually has biological effects. Talk to your therapist about your history of rejection and disentangle your self-esteem and shame from the actions of other people. Q.T.I.P = Quit Taking It Personally! My book on shame would be helpful, too, particularly with a history of abuse. Often there are wounds that remain unconscious-likely pre-dating your marriage.

Chris
Chris
6 years ago

hello Darlene Just came accross your blog, and I have to say that I can see myself in what you wrote. My experience is actually different. I realized that I am only dating unavailble women. I’ ve had a string of long distance relationships that went straight to the wall. I dated a couple of married women. I dated women that freshly broke up. I dated women that wouldn’t care to spend the day with me. Lately, I thought I had found the one. A single woman who seemed well-balanced, and ready for a relationship. I realized that she was… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Chris

It’s likely driven by unconscious feelings having to do with your childhood relationships with your parents. Also, check more honestly into what are your comfort level and boundaries around intimacy and extended time together. It will probably take a significant time in therapy to reverse this trend and a willingness to be with someone healthy you aren’t wild about. Let the relationship evolve over several months of spending time together. True love doesn’t always have fireworks, but warm coals that keep glowing.

Work in progress
Work in progress
6 years ago

Hi, I am a codependent (recently discovered) married to a man who, I feel, cannot connect emotionally which I find after reading your post that I myself am also unable to connect emotionally bc I keep pushing him away. Is it such a thing that maybe I am pushing him away bc I have been so discouraged that we haven’t connected in our marriage of 3 years and maybe I am not unable to connect emotionally? I never thought I had a problem with it before bc I am an emotional person. Or does that even make a difference when… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
2 years ago

These are questions you can sort out in therapy and by working on your codependency. I suggest CoDA meetings and reading and implementing the steps in Dealing with a Narcissist.

Tina
Tina
6 years ago

Hi Darlene, Thank you for such a great straight forward post. I am in a long distance relationship, I am in New York and he is in Sweden. When I first met him, I just got out of dating someone who left me hurt and before him I was in a 10 year relationship which left me damaged. We, the Swede and I, have been “dating” for the past year and I have visited him twice and we had 2 amazing vacations together. In the beginning I thought it was okay to have someone from afar so I can focus… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Tina

FYI, how wonderful a person is has little to do with their relationship skills and ability to commit. See my recent blog on attachment styles.

Noelle
Noelle
6 years ago

Hi Darlene, recently I re-connected with an old flame. He has been one of my best friends pretty much my whole life, and we have dated on and off in the past. This time, seemed very different, He was closed off, emotionally cold towards me. We have been physically intimate a few times but it seems as though he keeps me at an arms length. He is an actor and has started to film a feature length movie. That monopolizes alot of his time, and I certainly understand that, but it seems to be an excuse to keep himself busy… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Noelle

It sounds like you have answered your own question.

paula
paula
6 years ago

Hi Darlene, after reading your posting I think I dare to admit myself as someone who’s emotionally unavailable. I didn’t know this until I read your posting but I already found myself very weird everytime I started to engage in a relationship. There’s a strong feeling of wanting to run away, to avoid my partner, not to share everything openly, I’m being distrustful, panic attack, suspicion. I hate to feel. I love my brain better than my heart, because I find it hard to control my emotions, which is mostly sadness and fear. I had an almost lifetime sexual and… Read more »

Stacey
Stacey
6 years ago

I realise I’m not emotionally available as much as the guy I’m interested in at the time I meet him I never understood why he didnt want to take the next step and I felt totally ready but forgot about him. Now when we see each other its awkward we just ignore each other all time like we both dont exist yet me know each other. I still have hope that were become friends if not in a relationship because now I know Im not ready too.

Rachel
Rachel
6 years ago

I just found out from reading this that I’m emotionally unavailable. And I guess it started with past two relationships. My boyfriend now loves me and I can tell he loves me and he’s probably the perfect guy but… Like it says here I feel like I can do everything on my own and I don’t want to be attached to someone else and that’s kinda what a relationship means. It’s horrible. Guys just leave you. I feel like people just leave you all the time so there’s no reason to even go there anymore. It’s very sad and I’m… Read more »

Julie
Julie
4 years ago

Thanks Darlene ! It is nice to be able to put a finger on exactly what has been bothering me in my most recent relationship here. I did not see his emotional unavailability because it was very subtle, but there. We became a committed couple but somehow instead of seeing a deepening of relationship in terms of our conversations, spending time together, I sense an emotional distance but do not know how to approach this conversation without seeming demanding or making him feel defensive. He’s not a bad guy but I want him to spend time with me because he… Read more »

Julie
4 years ago
Reply to  Julie

Just to add to above. I also have a lot of struggles with ‘am I not enough for him’ and not sure if things will always be this way. I told him once but he seems to be in denial and wants to go ahead with us marrying. Yet it feels awful that he doesn’t show a lot of affection or a healthy need to want to spend regular time with me as a couple. Am not sure if I am asking for too much here. Thanks for listening!

Darlene Lancer, LMFT
4 years ago
Reply to  Julie

Marriage is a big step. Trust your feelings and needs, which you apparently discount as asking too much. Get some therapy and you can insist on premarital counseling if you’re unsure about getting married or leaving. Thinks won’t get better after the marriage, and may deteriorate. Get counseling for yourself to value yourself and assert your needs. My books and CoDA meetings can help, too. My ebook, Dealing with a Narcissist, may be helpful in structuring confrontations with your partner.

Julie
Julie
4 years ago

Yes, I will need to learn what my needs are and how to articulate the same. I do trust him but he needs to open up more. Also, I used to be emotionally unavailable myself and recently going through a job-related transition that is making me insecure. So allowing myself to be vulnerable and share my deep-seated job fears with another person is a big step for me. I try not to rely on him too much and yet feel the need to develop an emotional bonding. I suppose both of us need to work on each other and how… Read more »

Chrissy
4 years ago
Reply to  Julie

I´m emotionally unavailable too.But the test put me high at also anxious attachment. I do have traumas from childhood etc but can not afford therapy. I’ve never had a real relationship (am late 40’s) Met a man and we formed a wonderful friendship, he made me feel safe and wanted even though he said he does not want attachment due to previous bad experiences. Strong attraction. He opens up to me, is caring etc. It was long distance but we spent time together. I felt him distance somewhat after some months I start to get fearful. Then we get close… Read more »

paula
paula
6 years ago

Hi Darlene, after reading your posting I think I dare to admit myself as someone who’s emotionally unavailable. I didn’t know this until I read your posting but I already found myself very weird everytime I started to engage in a relationship. There’s a strong feeling of wanting to run away, to avoid my partner, not to share everything openly, I’m being distrustful, panic attack, suspicion. I hate to feel. I love my brain better than my heart, because I find it hard to control my emotions, which is mostly sadness and fear. I had an almost lifetime sexual and… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  paula

Thank you for your honesty. You are not alone. Most people are afraid of intimacy due to trauma of different kinds. Healing that and your shame can change that. I recommend therapy if you’re not already in it, and doing the steps in my book, Conquering Shame and Codependency.

Mary Dagleish
Mary Dagleish
6 years ago

Thank you for your post Darlene. I have been in a relationship with a man for nine months, and he is the most emotionally stable person I’ve ever met, to the point where he has never revealed to me any emotional vulnerability whatsoever. He says he has only ever felt hurt once by a woman upon breakup, but when I ask about it he avoids answering. I feel like there is nothing holding us together because I can’t relate to him emotionally and I’m not even sure he cares about the people he dates on any real level. He also… Read more »

Darlene Lancer, MFT
6 years ago
Reply to  Mary Dagleish

Not having met the man, it would be hard to guess, but he sounds as if he needs a lot of control to protect himself and is rigid in his behavior and his feelings – and I surmise boundaries. I presume he affords you a sense of safety you’re attracted to. Don’t expect him to change.

Jeanette
6 years ago
Reply to  Mary Dagleish

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