I once dated a women who had a lot of positives: sweet, pretty, intelligent, and fun to be around. However, she wasn’t really into expressing her feelings. In fact, we had a running joke about “the wall,” which is what she called her inability to express herself emotionally.
However, after awhile the joke wasn’t very funny. She was emotionally closed and prone to shutting down whenever she needed to express her feelings. It ultimately took a toll on the relationship and played a big role in our break up.
Sadly, having an emotionally unavailable partner is very common. It’s one of the top complaints I hear women make about men. But, as my story illustrates and countless men can tell you, emotionally unavailable partners come in both sexes.
But, an emotionally unavailable person isn’t always obvious from the start. You might meet a man or woman who seems like a dream come true. However, they might not be able to open up emotionally.
Here are some signs that the person you love (or want to love) is emotionally unavailable:
I want to add that I’m not saying to give up on such a person. But, these signs can at least let you know what to expect and seek the help necessary to make the relationship work.
A former client of mine was emotionally abused by his mom. Every time he trusted her as a child, she would openly sabotage his plans, usually in the name of “teaching him a lesson.” It’s no wonder that every relationship he tried to get in failed because he could never trust a woman enough to commit.
Everyone has been through trauma to a degree. However, some people have been through a lot more. And, most people who have been through a lot of trauma have never sought help for it or tried to address it.
Those who have suffered trauma in relationships might be reluctant to bond emotionally with other people for fear of being further abused. Like my former client, it might stem from trust issues.
People don’t just suffer childhood trauma either. Many men and women have suffered painful experiences in their romantic relationships. Some of it is outright abuse, but it also could be harsh breakups, extreme rejection, and unreturned feelings of affection. All of these are traumatic in their own way and can lead to a refusal to open up emotionally in the future.
If your partner has had a lot of trauma in his or her past, then realize that lack of emotional availability remains a strong possibility. Such a person might just need time to trust you, but, short of seeking therapy, might never emotionally bond in a way you desire.
The woman from my introductory story used the same joke about “the wall” with her family and friends. In other words, her lack of emotional bonding didn’t start with me. And, likely, it didn’t end with me.
If you worry that the person you’re dating suppresses his or her feelings, look at the current interactions with others, like family, friends, and children.
- Does he have an open relationship with his father or is he emotionally closed?
- Does she bottle up problems with her friends instead of discussing them?
- Do his children try to bond with him, but he blows them off?
Your partner’s other relationships are good predictors of how he or she will behave towards you. If you observe a lack of emotional availability in those other relationships, the chances are good his or her relationship with you will be the same.
Use of Defense Mechanisms
A friend of mine was complaining about her boyfriend the other day. They’ve been having problems and fighting a lot. She wants to get to the bottom of it and solve them, but he refuses to address them at all.
She noticed that whenever she tried to discuss the relationship and get to his feelings, he would always have some excuse or some way to avoid the topic. This isn’t unusual.
Many people who are emotionally unavailable are very much capable of falling in love and they certainly feel things. The issue is that they can’t express those feelings or adequately meet your emotional needs.
And, they rarely come out and say, “I’m emotionally unavailable.” They’ve usually developed defense mechanisms to combat expressing their feelings and bonding emotionally. So, when they should express their feelings, they resort to getting defensive.
Here are a few common defense mechanisms your partner might use:
- Denial (she denies she isn’t expressing her emotions)
- Lashing out (you bring up feelings and he gets irrationally angry)
- Intellectualization (you talk about a feeling and she talks about emotions in general, but not hers)
- Projection (he accuses you of being emotionally unavailable)
If your partner is an expert at using defense mechanisms when you try to discuss issues or feelings, then it’s likely masking a general lack of emotional availability.
One Sided Expression of Emotions
Any successful relationship will involve interdependence. If one person is too dependent or too independent, the relationship will have serious problems. The same is true regarding emotional availability.
While one partner is usually more emotionally available than the other, if there’s a huge imbalance it can create problems.
Look at your relationship with your partner.
- Is the sharing of feelings relatively equal?
- Or, does one person make all the efforts at emotional bonding?
Trying to bond emotionally with someone only to have that rejected can be painful. So, if you’re constantly affirming your partner emotionally, only to have her never reciprocate those efforts, then the relationship will not be very successful.
These are a few signs that you’re dealing with a person who is emotionally unavailable. Once again, what you do with this is up to you. But, if you need someone who is emotionally expressive and available, and your partner isn’t, you might have to seek outside help or even move on.
This video explains the secret reasons men LIE to women (even women they truly do love)…
And a special “tweak” you can make in how you interact with a man to force him to tell you the absolute truth…