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How to know if you have an emotionally unavailable partner

How to know if you have an emotionally unavailable partner

When you give your all in a relationship, you naturally expect your partner to do the same. Relationships require effort and commitment in order to work, but an emotionally unavailable partner will see a relationship quite differently. Emotionally unavailable people either have relationships with multiple people at a time to avoid serious commitment, or tend to steer clear of relationships altogether, usually due to childhood trauma or fear of emotional intimacy.

Also, emotionally unavailable people normally share an unhealthy upbringing, raised in a controlling or abusive environment. A lifelong study of people in England, Scotland and Wales found that people who perceived their parents as overly controlling or encouraged dependence had lower levels of happiness and overall mental well-being later on in life. So, if you have an emotionally unavailable partner, this behavior likely stems from problems they faced during childhood that have stuck with them ever since.

However, even if you have an emotionally unavailable partner, the signs might not always jump out at you. Read on to discover some common red flags.

Here are 10 signs you have an emotionally unavailable partner:

1. They send you mixed messages.

An emotionally unavailable partner will tell you they want a relationship one second, only to change their mind shortly after. They can’t ever seem to make up their mind, and you can’t wrap your head around their cryptic messages and confusing behavior. An emotionally available person will tell you their intentions up front, and stick to them. If you notice that the person you have an interest in comes on very strongly, only to back away and keep leading you on, you probably have an emotionally unavailable partner.

2. They are already in a relationship with someone else.

This one should definitely raise some red flags – people already in a relationship obviously are emotionally unavailable, but they may not even tell you about their relationship. You will probably have to find out on your own, as this type of person clearly doesn’t care to disclose important information like this from the get-go. In today’s world, many people have open relationships, and as long as everyone involved feels comfortable, then that’s fine.

What we’re talking about here is someone who hides their relationships from others so they don’t have to commit to just one person. An emotionally unavailable partner will keep many aspects of their life from you, as they don’t want to become too emotionally attached or invested in you.

3. An emotionally unavailable partner will only consider their own feelings.

People who aren’t in touch with their emotions will appear very selfish and narcissistic. They don’t ever ask about your own feelings or bother with making sure you feel secure and happy in the relationship. Every action and decision they make in life only serves to fuel their own egotistical desires, and they will always put themselves before you. If this sounds like your relationship, you likely have an emotionally unavailable partner.

4. They only seem interested in the physical side of your relationship.

An emotionally unavailable partner will only seem interested in the sexual part of your relationship, and nothing more. A person out of touch with their emotions can’t offer much else, and they won’t even try. They have decided that shallow, base-level relationships will satisfy them, and they have committed to living a life without true emotional intimacy. An emotionally unavailable partner will avoid deep conversations with you, but won’t reveal their true intentions in the relationship. They will leave that to you to figure out.

5. An emotionally unavailable partner won’t commit fully to you.

They won’t ever offer their full selves to you, because they don’t know how. They have only known distant, superficial relationships, and keep everyone they know at arm’s length. An emotionally unavailable partner will give you every excuse in the world as to why they can’t commit to you.

6. They prefer talking through text and emails, rather than on the phone or in person.

An emotionally unavailable partner will avoid talking in an intimate setting the majority of the time. They give you excuses as to why they can’t meet up with you in person or talk on the phone, and prefer texting and emailing instead. If you have a partner like this, it definitely points to emotional insecurity and fear of intimacy, because face-to-face interactions require much more vulnerability than they feel comfortable with.

7. You never feel you like you can read them.

An emotionally unavailable partner will seem difficult to understand, and dealing with them will often feel like solving a jigsaw puzzle. You try to put all the pieces together, but they just don’t seem to fit. Once you feel like you have a handle on them, they will throw you a curve ball and expect you to catch it. They probably aren’t aware of their mixed signals and difficult demeanor, which makes it all the more frustrating to deal with an emotionally unavailable partner.

8. An emotionally unavailable partner will seem cold and distant.

Being in a relationship with them probably feels like having a relationship with just yourself. You might feel alone most of the time because they will show no signs of compassion or care when you need them the most. An emotionally unavailable partner doesn’t have the capacity to give themselves fully to another, because they have been taught from an early age unhealthy practices. They will distance themselves from you as an act of personal protection from getting hurt.

9. They give you the green light, only to retreat and take back what they said.

They might say they want a committed relationship one day, only to contract what they said the next day. They don’t seem to know what they truly want, or can’t fully give themselves to the relationship because of their fear of emotional intimacy. An emotionally unavailable partner will take you on a rollercoaster ride, but you will feel like getting off at the next available exit instead of sticking around for more of their games.

10. They don’t want to introduce you to friends or family.

An emotionally unavailable partner will avoid encounters where you would have to meet their loved ones, as they don’t want it to seem too serious between you two. They would prefer to lead you on and may even give you hope for meeting their family and friends in the future, but beware, it will probably never happen. They wouldn’t want to get in too deep, in fear of not being able to make it out with their emotions intact.

You want to connect, but your partner feels far away. What can you do?

How to know if you have an emotionally unavailable partner

How to know if you have an emotionally unavailable partner

You’ve had a hard day, but you hesitate to tell your partner about it. You try to start a conversation but they don’t seem to have anything to say or to be listening. When you tell them how you’re feeling, they’re dismissive. These are all qualities that people use to describe an emotionally unavailable partner.

It’s a truly lonely predicament, Lynn Fainsilber Katz, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist, research professor at the University of Washington, and certified Gottman Couples Therapist tells Woman’s Day. “It’s really a very painful experience in a relationship,” she explains. “Partners end up feeling quite isolated from each other and lonely, and often look elsewhere for emotional support.”

But here’s the catch-22: trying to draw your partner out often pushes them farther away, exactly the opposite of what your goal is.

So what can you do if you feel like you’re not as close as you once were? Woman’s Day spoke with two psychologists to find out what to do when your partner is emotionally unavailable.

You love hanging out with him. You’ve got great chemistry. And he always makes you laugh.

Except when he doesn’t.

It’s not like he’s doing anything terrible. Maybe he doesn’t always respond to your messages right away—or at all. Maybe he prefers to watch Netflix instead of talk about his past (or the future).

And sometimes (okay, most of the time), it feels like you’re the one doing all the work. The more you try to forge an emotional connection, the more your partner seems to pull away.

If this sounds like your current relationship, you might be dating someone who’s emotionally unavailable.

It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot, but what does emotionally unavailable mean? Why do some of us struggle to express emotion? Is there any way emotionally unavailable people can change?

The answers you seek lie just ahead.

What Does It Mean to Be Emotionally Unavailable?

The term “emotional availability” got its start from a 1960s research study analyzing the parent-child attachment relationship. Decades later, researchers expanded this theory to include the way adults regulate emotion and forge connections with others.

Simply put, emotionally available people are able to trust others, communicate openly, and commit to a stable relationship.

Emotionally unavailable people are not.

Healthy relationships are based on mutual concern and a warm, intimate connection with your partner. Someone who is emotionally unavailable is either unwilling or unable to forge that connection.

Research suggests that people who were raised by emotionally distant parents may carry that trait of avoidant attachment throughout their lives. Others may experience depression, fear getting hurt, or temporarily close themselves off after a bad break-up.

And while the emotionally unavailable man is the stereotype, there are plenty of emotionally available women out there too.

How Can You Tell If Someone Is Emotionally Unavailable?

There’s a difference between someone who wants to “take it slow” and someone who is unavailable emotionally. Here are some red flags to watch out for.

  • They rarely (if ever) return your calls or answer your texts.
  • They regularly cancel dates or turn up late.
  • They’ve never been in a serious relationship.
  • They never ask about your family, hobbies, or work.
  • Your conversation never goes deeper than surface-level.
  • You always do what they want to (when they want to do it).
  • You feel like you’re the only one doing any “work” in the relationship.
  • They get defensive or even angry if you ask direct questions.
  • They’re critical and judgmental of you and others.
  • They invalidate your feelings or say you’re “too intense.”
  • They play mind games and don’t respect your time.

People who are emotionally unavailable put up a wall, knowingly or not, that prevents intimacy with another person. They may be experts at dating casually, as long as they can call the shots and keep their partner at arm’s length.

The result? The person on the other end (that’s you) feels unloved, unappreciated, even rejected.

As mentioned earlier, emotional detachment could be chronic or temporary. Its roots could run deep, going back to the person’s early childhood. Difficulty with emotional responses is also common after someone is widowed or divorced.

Of course, you also need to consider the possibility that “emotionally unavailable” actually translates into “he’s just not that into you.”

Am I Emotionally Unavailable?

Here’s an interesting twist to our discussion: What if you’re the emotionally unavailable partner in the relationship?

Again, here are some red flags to help with your self-assessment.

  • You have a hard time trusting people.
  • You often cancel plans at the last minute.
  • You’re uncomfortable talking about yourself or your feelings.
  • You like to “keep your options open.”
  • You worry you’ll lose yourself in a serious relationship.
  • You value your independence and feel you don’t need anyone else.
  • You’re critical of people and blame others for your problems or mistakes.

Keep in mind that answering “yes” to some of these statements doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It’s unlikely you’ll make a dramatic change overnight, but you can take steps to improve the way you show emotion.

Identify your root issue, whether it was a nasty breakup or a poor relationship with your parents. Practice opening up, even if it’s just writing in a journal or creating music or art. In time, try to express more emotion to a trusted family member or close friend.

While you’re working on becoming more emotionally available, share the journey with your partner. Take it slow, focus on small changes, and stay connected via text if you need some physical distance.

How to Deal With Someone Who Is Emotionally Unavailable

And now we come to the million-dollar question: Can you change someone who’s emotionally unavailable?

The short answer is no. You can’t. Which means you have two options.

Option number one: You can choose to focus on the positive aspects of the relationship. You could lower your expectations, be patient, and try to find a way to get through to them. If they’re open to the idea, couples counseling could give you the tools you need to improve your emotional connection.

Option number two: Accept the fact that you might want more from your partner than they’re able (or willing to give). Accept the fact that you can’t “fix” them—or anyone else. Finally, accept the fact that you deserve to be in a healthy, committed relationship with someone who is emotionally available.

Coaching to Improve Emotional Availablity

Are you dating someone who is emotionally unavailable? Or, after some soul-searching, have you determined that perhaps you’re the one who’s emotionally distant?

Either way, hope is not lost. Healthy relationships and healthy emotional responses are possible if you’re willing to dig deep—and don’t mind hearing some hard truths.

I’ve built my career around advising people just like you on healthy relationships, overcoming setbacks, and finding happiness. Could a one-on-one coaching session be the boost you need to get your life back on track?

I offer free 10-minute consultations, so you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Click here to get one step closer to the relationship (and the life) you’ve always wanted.

4 signs of the inability to connect with others.

One of the necessary ingredients in a healthy emotional relationship with another person is the ability to be present for that person. Being emotionally available means having the capacity to empathize with a person going through something difficult or challenging and providing support, encouragement, and genuine caring about their experience from a selfless and unselfish perspective.

The flip side of this is an emotionally unavailable person. This is a person that does not respond on that emotional level, often resulting in feelings of confusion, loneliness, abandonment, and even isolation even when the partner is physically present. In some cases, this emotional unavailability extends to children of the relationship, and the spouse may feel like he or she is a single parent even though the other partner is at least physically present.

Often people who are emotionally unavailable are people that seem cold and distant, or perhaps aloof and simply “above it all.” They tend to be highly focused on winning or achieving their specific goals, but they never consider how their need to win may be creating feelings of loss, lack of self-esteem, and frustration.

Learning to spot people who are emotionally unavailable is essential to avoid being drawn into a relationship with someone who does not have the capability to provide emotional support and empathy to their partner. At the same time, these people are often highly critical of themselves, and they may be perfectionists and people who have significant emotional trauma and relationship issues in their lives. In some cases, adults who are emotionally unavailable may have had traumatic childhoods or grown up in families where they were emotionally abused or where the display of emotions was seen as negative or as a challenge to family dynamics.

Signs of Emotional Unavailability in Adults

The following are classic signs of the inability to connect with people on an emotional level:

  • Extremely analytical – people that focus on the facts or the analysis of an issue but never talk about feelings or express how they feel are often emotionally unavailable.
  • Avoid affection and emotional situations – people who are not comfortable showing their emotions strive to avoid any type of emotional situation. They may not want to be present for goodbyes, and they may create conflict to “blow up” a potentially emotional discussion, or they may simply not respond to an attempt to show appreciation, recognition, or love.
  • Limit friends and interactions – emotionally unavailable people tend to relate well to work colleagues in work settings, but they tend to avoid social situations where there is more likelihood of emotions and interpersonal relationships being the focus of the conversation.
  • They dismiss or discourage your emotional states or make fun of your emotional responses – this is common, and making a joke or telling a partner not to feel emotional about a topic is a common mechanism for the emotionally unavailable to try to control the discussion.

Emotionally unavailable people can change, but they have to recognize the problem and learn to be comfortable with their own emotions before they can be present for their partner.

Number 4: Is your partner empathetic?

How to know if you have an emotionally unavailable partner

If you are here, then that means you are unsure about your partner’s emotional quotient. This might be because you are feeling neglected or unheard in your relationship. “ Emotional unavailability ” describes a person who’s evasive, avoids meeting up, or simply doesn’t like to talk about their feelings. That person might also have difficulties with trusting people, bursts of anger, forming, and honoring commitments.

Such people tend to create barriers between themselves and other people to avoid or prolong any kind of emotional intimacy. These individuals don’t necessarily run away from relationships. They might seek out a normal relationship but the problem arises when they are not ready to commit to it full time. According to EA assessment, developed by Biringen et al. (1998) and Biringen (2008), scales of determining emotional availability in an adult are sensitivity, structuring, non-intrusiveness, and non-hostility. That’s why it’s necessary to recognize if your partner is struggling with emotional unavailability?

I am no Zulie Rane or Kris Gage but I am going to try and break it down to 6 basic questions you can ask yourself to figure it all out.

1. Is Your Partner Saying That He/She Is Not Ready To Commit?

Has your partner told you that marriage or serious dating scares them? Have they literally spelled out that they are not good at relationships? If the answer is yes, then it might be because their past relationships didn’t go as they wished, or they got hurt, or a thousand other reasons that they as an individual need to look into. Take them for their word. Do not victimize them or think you can fix them. Don’t take it as a challenge. More often than not people already know what their behavioral issues are, what they struggle with. They are telling you their truth. LISTEN. Listen to understand, don’t listen to react. This is not about you, or your need to fix someone.

2. Does Your Partner Often Dictate How You Should Feel?

Do you often come across a conversation where you express your feelings about a certain event and your partner immediately disregards it? As emotionally unavailable people don’t possess the same emotional quotient as others, they see things differently. They won’t feel with as much enthusiasm as you might. But this can become very frustrating for you as you will always feel that your opinion is undermined. You might even think that you are overreacting or overindulging. But the fact of the matter remains that no one should be told how to feel, as every individual reacts to life experiences in their way.

“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.”― Charlotte Bronte

3. Do They Share Their Problems Or Are They Ready To Hear Yours?

This one is a tricky one, sometimes introverts or shy people also prefer not to share their problems. But the crux of the matter is that “is your partner ready to hear yours?” If the answer to both these questions is a negative one then that’s a red flag. Most emotionally unavailable people have a hard time listening to others’ problems, they are so involved in their own lives that actually listening to others, doesn’t seem very productive or appealing to them. So they deviate any conversation which is headed towards any kind of vulnerability. Often making you feel lonely in a relationship.

4. Is Your Partner Empathetic?

In any circumstance, observation is your biggest and most crucial weapon. Notice how your partner treats the people who are inferior to them. Are they rude to that random waiter who served dinner the other day? Are they kind to a stranger on the street? Is empathy a word you would attach to his/her character description? People who are in touch with their emotions tend to be kinder in nature as they can imagine what it would feel like to be in someone else’s shoes. They are more considerate.

5. Is Your Partner Not Good At Showing Or Receiving Appreciation?

Emotionally unavailable people are often uncomfortable with “appreciation” — an emotion, as that entails an acknowledgment of someone else’s active participation in their well-being. It’s not just restricted to receiving appreciation they also lack the ability to show that they are thankful. They will do anything to devalue any gesture done by you just so they don’t have put it in words, how much that said gesture meant to them. Verbal communication can be very difficult for them. And as most people like to be validated in a relationship this might taint your perspective about your partner.

When you make the obvious mysterious, then mysterious becomes unavailable. — Walter Draby Bannard

6. Is Evasiveness Their Go-To Move?

Delayed texts, constant change of topics when future of the relationship is mentioned, evasiveness regarding spending time together are all telltale signs that your partner is not being completely transparent to you. Everyone is entitled to their privacy in a relationship, but lack of communication or physical distancing because of above mentioned causes might become downfall for any tangible relationship. If your partner constantly keeps mystery around their life or their past, then that might make you feel like an outsider, which in turn results in unhappiness.

It is completely possible that you traced some of the qualities of emotionally unavailable people within yourself while reading the above list of questions. But this doesn’t mean that you or all your relationships are doomed. The takeaway in any relationship solution is — “Communication is the key.” So if all the questions mentioned above pulled up red flags in your head then it doesn’t mean that you abandon the ship and run for your life. Words and intentional efforts might heal your issues, just make sure that it’s not at the expense of your or your partner’s mental health.

Is your romantic partner wrapped up in their own world?

We all need love and affection, and so it’s emotionally difficult when your romantic partner becomes distant, cold, and withdrawn. But whether this emotionally unavailable behavior is the norm for your partner, has grown over time, or is a recent development, there are steps you can take to get your loved one to open up.

Emotional distance is usually caused by fear—the fear of ridicule, shame, or weakness. Being emotionally open is to be vulnerable to the judgments of those around you, after all, and if someone has been burned, it’s easier to simply close up than to risk that kind of pain again. Distancing can also be caused by stress, depression, or an overabundance of criticism.

This isn’t normally something that can be simply waited out—someone who is emotionally unavailable will often become comfortable with the armor they’ve placed around their heart, not willing to remove it until encouraged to do so.

Fortunately, you can do just that. Instead of suffering in a distant relationship, take action. If you can moderate your reactions, cultivate a safe environment, and be patient for a time, your partner will likely open up.

To help you do that, let’s take a look at 7 solutions for an emotionally unavailable partner.

Don’t Take it Personally

Don’t Take it Personally

For most of us, our first reaction to an emotionally available partner is to lash out. But if you want your loved one to open up, you’ll need to avoid acting out in response to their distant behavior.

Remember—your partner is likely acting this way because of some hidden fear or insecurity. It’s not about you, but rather about your partner’s own pain.

But it’s all too easy to lay the blame on yourself and become guilt-ridden or worse, angry and critical. You must resist both of these impulses if you want your partner to open up to you. Anger, particularly, can create a cycle of criticism and withdrawal that will break even the strongest relationship.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t hold your partner accountable, though—you deserved to be loved, and should always communicate what you want out of your relationship. But what this does mean is that you should communicate in kind and respectful way.

And as we’re about to see in the next slide, you should endeavor to communicate from a place of deep understanding.

Seek to Understand Your Partner

Seek to Understand Your Partner

As with any relationship issue, communication is vital. Emotional distance is a problem that warrants a particularly thorough understanding of your partner, and so getting to know him or her better is a huge step toward helping them come out of their emotional hiding place.

We’ve learned that a partner who is emotionally unavailable is usually so for a reason, such as some past trauma, or in the case of many men, because of cultural conditioning. If you’re suffering in a cold relationship, it’s time to figure out what’s going on with your partner.

This takes discussion, so sit your partner down and talk about what’s going on. Don’t probe—just gently encourage your loved one to talk about any feelings, frustrations, or fears they might have. You may have to read between the lines a bit, but the reason behind your partner’s emotional distance will usually be quickly revealed.

The key to getting your partner to reveal this information lies in creating a safe environment from them, as we’re about to see.

Create a Safe Environment

Create a Safe Environment

If you want your partner to feel comfortable enough to make themselves emotionally vulnerable, creating a safe environment for them to do so is one of the most important steps you can take.

So what makes up a safe environment? To begin, make sure that you encourage and praise your partner’s openness and emotion. When they do finally share with you, no matter how small, treat what they share with kindness, respect, and love. Treat their emotions reverently—someone has probably stomped on them in the past.

Delve deeply here. Find out if your partner considers their emotionally closed nature a problem or a choice—if it’s a choice, that’s an entirely different issue.

But if it’s a problem that your partner would like to solve, you can provide reassurance that you’d like to work with them to help them through it. Once your partner realizes that they can share their innermost thoughts and feelings without consequence or shame, they’ll open up like never before.

Intimate relationships require balancing closeness and distance, interdependence and autonomy. Healthier relationships flow between these poles with both partners seeking either side of the spectrum at various times.

However, when one partner consistently takes a position of distancing and autonomy, intimacy can suffer or become non-existent.

Here are 16 characteristics to look for that can help you recognize avoidant or unavailable partners:

1) Commitment shy

Avoidant partners may avoid making long-term plans or talking about the future of your relationship. They may be vague or non-committal when asked what they want. When you propose a trip or activity that could bring you closer, they may say something such as, That might be nice, but avoid moving ahead. They may have a history of being the one who ends relationships and of preemptively leaving partners for fear of being left.

2) Not fully invested in the present

Avoidant partners may idealize a previous relationship. They may hold on to fantasies about a past lover in a way that makes a past relationship feel somehow unfinished, unresolved, or still alive in the present, making them less emotionally available to you.

3) Buzz kills

They may sabotage a relationship when things are going well by becoming childish, angry, sullen or picky. The closer you start to feel to them or the more you desire a deeper commitment, the more they may pull back, expressing a wish to see other people or becoming less communicative.

4) Buzz words

Avoidant partners tend to talk more about independence rather than closeness, freedom rather than intimacy, and self-reliance rather than interdependence. They fear clingy people or being seen as clingy themselves.

5) Philosophy

Avoidant or unavailable partners tend to believe they can only depend on themselves. In a crisis, they often put up walls and want to handle things on their own. Their motto: Im all Ive got.

6) Suspiciousness

Avoidant partners may find it difficult to trust others. They may view you in negative ways or see your actions in the worst possible light, suspecting that you are out to take advantage of them or restrict their freedom.

7) Mixed messages

Avoidant partners maintain distance by sending mixed signals, sometimes drawing you in with bids for closeness, other times pushing you away. They may say one thing but do another, such as telling you they want to spend more time together but then cramming their schedule with other commitments.

8) Secretive

Avoidant partners often prefer to make decisions on their own even decisions that affect you. They may decide things about finances, career, travel or other plans and tell you only after it is too late to change. They tend to prefer solo rather than collaborative planning and decision-making.

9) Limited affection

They may be stingy with physical affection or show physical affection only during sex. Their libido may diminish the closer you get or the deeper the relationship grows. They may say I love you sparingly or without much feeling.

10) Lots of conditions

They may have rigid rules, find it difficult to be flexible, or let you know that certain things such as their job, freedom, or family of originare higher priorities than you and your relationship. They may set in stone some condition at the start of a relationship, for example, saying something like, I am not the marrying type, or I will never give up my freedom for anything or anyone, or I could never imagine living with someone.

11) Distancing

They may stonewall when you want to address relationship issues. They may detach or threaten to leave if your feelings (or theirs) become too intense.

12) Picky

Avoidant partners may be quick to find fault with you. They may have a checklist of near-impossible standards in a partner, ensuring that no one can measure up. They may focus on what is not working or what could become a problem rather than embracing the positives in your relationship, thus dampening feelings and slowing a relationships growth.

13) Limited communication

They may want to limit conversations or daily contact, often bristling at suggestions that they text or call when they are out for the evening, traveling, running late or at the end of the day. They may become overwhelmed when you want to talk about the relationship.

14) Not feeling-friendly

Avoidant partners may fail to acknowledge your feelings or rarely express their own emotions. They may not know how to handle emotional conversations or issues. If you have an emotional response, they may tell you it makes no sense or try to reason you out of your feelings. They may call you too sensitive.

15) Standoffish

It may seem like there is always something more important than you or the relationship. They may fantasize about or dwell on how much more freedom they had when they were single. They may say it is much easier to be alone, as they can make their own decisions and answer to no one.

16) Abandoning

When you most need them, avoidant partners may find ways not to be there. They may say you are the cause of any relationship issues. They may find it difficult to see their own part in problems.

People have an avoidant style or are unavailable for many reasons. Often, an avoidant stance stems from repeated experiences early in life where they felt dismissed, pressured, taken advantage of, or not valued by one or more key caregivers.

At their core, avoidant partners tend to believe that no one will ever meet their needs. They expect that others do not want them to thrive or will not allow them to be themselves. They also may fear that they cannot measure up to what others want. In response, they wall themselves off for protection.

While we can have empathy for early-life wounds that led someone to an avoidant style, if you are in a relationship with an avoidant or unavailable partner, these distancing techniques may leave you with many of the following difficult emotions, such as feeling:

  • Not valued
  • Emotionally deprived
  • Unimportant
  • Unable to truly connect
  • Held at arms length
  • Confused
  • Not good enough
  • Tentative
  • As though you are doing something wrong
  • Lonely
  • Abandoned

Such feelings, if experienced too often or too intensely, may ultimately make a relationship non-sustainable.

Read Part Two of this blog to learn ways you can work with an avoidant partner to increase cooperation, communication and closeness.

Standoffish guy by Kurhan Dartboard by Gustavo Frazao Head in sand by Elnur Heartbreak by Drobot Dean

How to know if you have an emotionally unavailable partner

By Sofia: In this time where almost everything is within reach and you can get a hold of a lot of things with just a few taps, clicks, or calls, it would seem like availability is no longer an issue. However, what do you do when in one of the most important aspects of your life, your relationship with your partner/spouse, you are faced with the problem of emotional unavailability? Better yet, how do you make sure that you are not emotionally unavailable too?

What does an emotionally unavailable partner look like?

• Does not exert any effort to make the relationship work

Some people, even though committed to a relationship, do not actually commit to make the relationship work. Do you find yourself calling all the shots, especially when it comes to your relationship? Do you have a partner who tells you to decide if you should break up or not? Is your partner not as invested as you are when it comes to the emotional level of your relationship as opposed to the physical one? That can be a sign of an emotionally unavailable partner.

How to know if you have an emotionally unavailable partner

• Does not want to open up about their feelings.

Are you the only one opening up about issues that may affect the relationship in an effort to fix things? In this scenario, you may often be told that you are the one creating issues or drama in the relationship and that there is nothing to worry about. A partner like this may act as if everything is okay but then one day you find yourself crying alone because they want out and you wonder what went wrong in the first place.

• Does not make any long term goals for your relationship

This partner may only be invested in the present and creates a future that does not necessarily have you in it. He/she avoids making small or big plans and creates something to look forward to. Last minute calls, a lack of consistency and preparation are key signs.

Why is my partner emotionally unavailable?

Emotional unavailability stems from different reasons. They may have been in a bad relationship in the past where they felt like they were too available causing them to act the opposite way to avoid being hurt again. They may have experienced something traumatic growing up resulting in them putting up walls to protect themselves. They may also just lack the kind of emotional intimacy they needed growing up and think that it is the way they should be too. Whatever the reason is, it is something that needs to be addressed if you want your relationship to last and to be happy.

What do I do if my partner does not know he/she is emotionally unavailable?

It would be best to sit down with your partner and point out the elephant in the room. You have to communicate in love and trust to show your partner that you are there to help and not accuse them.

What should an emotionally unavailable person do?

It is important to identify and acknowledge that you are emotionally unavailable. Without doing so, you can not work on the steps necessary to help you with your issues. You also need to understand the reason why you are that way. If it was because of a past relationship then you have to start building trust and understanding that not all relationships work the same way and even if the same thing happens again, then at least you are not the reason why it did not work. Now, if it is because of a larger reason like a traumatic experience, then the best option would be to speak to a therapist who would better guide you in addressing these issues.

A relationship requires a lot of work, be it easy or hard. At the end of the day, no matter what kind of work you put into your relationship, it wouldn’t matter if you know that you are doing it for the right person and you believe in your future together. However, if you know that all your efforts go to waste, then talk it out and see if you are both on the same page when it comes to your future. After all, it takes two to tango and if your partner doesn’t want to dance to the music of love with you, then it may be time to go. Remember that you can only give love when you have love.

How to know if you have an emotionally unavailable partner

Intimacy and connection are important for maintaining a long-lasting relationship. Without it, your relationship may feel cold and distant. If those are the words you’d use to describe your relationship, experts say, you may be with an emotionally absent partner.

“Being with an emotionally unavailable or absent partner can be exquisitely painful, almost like physical pain,” Marilee Feldman, licensed clinical professional counselor and founder of Life Counseling Institute, tells Bustle. “On the surface, everything about your relationship can seem great. Your partner may be a really nice person. But they just don’t know how to speak the language of emotion or allow it in themselves or others.”

That’s a pretty big problem, especially when you’re in a relationship. In a healthy and truly connected relationship, you should feel emotionally safe. You should be able to turn to your partner for love and support whenever you need it, and you’ll also feel like you can tell them anything without fear of being judged. But when you’re with someone who’s emotionally absent, you won’t always get that.

“Often people who are emotionally unavailable admit they’re ‘not good in relationships,’ aren’t ready for a commitment and/or don’t stay in relationships long-term,” Dr. Catherine Jackson, licensed clinical psychologist and board certified neurotherapist, tells Bustle. “Really listen and hear what the person says before you get too emotionally invested. They will never admit to this directly, but they give huge signs. All you have to do is read between the lines.”

So here are some signs you’re with an emotionally absent partner, according to experts.

They Don’t Allow Themselves To Be Vulnerable Around You

If your partner never allows themselves to display any vulnerability or need, they may be emotionally absent. According to Christine Scott-Hudson, licensed psychotherapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio, this type of behavior may stem from past hurt and disappointment. “Perfectionism and isolation may have been their coping skills in order to defend against having any needs that others may not meet,” Scott-Hudson says. “Perfectionism can mask needs for closeness and intimacy and help guard against any vulnerability.” For them, vulnerability is seen as a weakness. Unfortunately, you need vulnerability in order to have intimacy and form an emotional attachment. A partner who can’t be vulnerable around you is also a partner who can’t show you their true self.

They Use Humor Or Storytelling To Deflect

“When something requires a heartfelt response, they’ll often use humor or story-telling to deflect the seriousness of what’s happening,” psychotherapist Michelle Farris, tells Bustle. They don’t react this way because they’re insensitive or bad people. According to Farris, they do this because they usually aren’t connected to themselves emotionally. “As a result, it’s difficult for them to acknowledge their own pain,” she says. “In a relationship, they don’t recognize other people’s pain and that makes them appear less supportive.” It’s easier to laugh off a serious topic than deal with the heaviness of it. However, it can make you feel like what you have to say doesn’t really matter.