Singles who have done therapy, coaching, and are just hitting the dating scene again are most likely looking for a man with a secure attachment style, meaning they can and want to commit and are emotionally available. What if you have been in a long-term relationship with someone you now suspect is an emotionally unavailable man? How do you change things without a separation or a divorce?
Wanting to stay with the person but desiring a different relationship dynamic can be challenging, but not impossible. There are ways to change the nature of the relationship without leaving your current partner. But before we delve into what you can do, let’s look at what it means to be emotionally unavailable in the first place.
Sings your partner is emotionally unavailable
It’s a person who is emotionally detached from the most important person in their life: you , but often seems to be attached to everyone else. They might be very caring and friendly in a social situation and turn into someone uncomfortable with the same amount of intimacy at home.
Here are five signs you are living with an emotionally unavailable man:
1. Freedom is their priority
They value freedom above all and rigidly hold on to an “I feel safe when I’m free” often subconscious belief. Anything that might endanger this freedom is a threat they need to defend themselves against. They don’t open up to the same extent their partner would or is nourishing in a relationship, often because of a fear of rejection and the pain that accompanies it. The more their partner tries to get close to them, or demand that they open up, the more distant they become.
It feels as if there were a wall between the two of you and that there are parts of him you don’t really know.
2. They’re Uncomfortable with your emotions
They don’t only avoid sharing what they feel, they are also uncomfortable with your emotions. As you open up about your feelings, they might withdraw, minimise the issue, change the topic, or might even get angry with you and blame you for being “too sensitive” or even “too needy.”
They will not initiate a conversation about deep emotional matters, and if they listen to you, you might feel that they are deep in their thoughts or fidget instead of deeply listening to you.
3. They value physical intimacy over emotional intimacy
Some emotionally detached men have learned to deflect deep emotional conversations by initiating physical intimacy instead, often in the middle of a deep discussion. It is a convenient way out of an uncomfortable situation and when a partner is emotionally vulnerable being shown physical love can at first feel like a natural transition, but when it becomes a pattern it creates tension and a sense of alienation.
4. They use sarcasm or jokes to avoid emotions
It refers to both what is going on in their own emotional landscape and yours. Even if they are hurt, they’ll be more comfortable brushing things off with a joke or a sarcastic comment instead of sharing how they feel, and if you share your emotions, they might joke about the topic and then move swiftly on to doing something else.
5. They never make an effort
If you’re the one suggesting and organising everything to keep the relationship vibrant, you might be in a one-sided relationship.
It is important to mention here that no one is a mind reader, but many people expect their partner to be. You need to be able to communicate your needs clearly and sometimes repeatedly. If they don’t make an effort because they don’t know you would like something, it’s a different question. If they just take the relationship for granted, there is an issue.
How to live with them regardless
Whilst it’s not ideal, you can live with an emotionally unavailable person without feeling continually lonely or debating in your mind whether you’d be better off alone.
Here are some things you can do:
1. Know what you want & need
Do you know what you want and need from your romantic relationship? If you do, can you distinguish between needs and wants? A need isn’t negotiable, a want is.
Once you gain clarity on that and also on what is behind these needs and wants. For instance, if you’re in constant high levels of stress, you might need to deal with that first. If there is clear source for the stress (e.g. overwork) try to eliminate that because it can cloud your judgement on the relationship and change your needs.
2. Learn to communicate your needs
A lot of relationship therapy and coaching is concerned with teaching individuals and couples to communicate clearly in the relationship.
Instead of expecting your partner to know or intuit what you need, tell them. How we communicate is also important, a demanding or whining voice is usually not met with a positive response.
Our personal responsibility is to say what we need, knowing that the other person might say no to it, in which case the decision is whether we can have that need met somewhere else (e.g., by having a chat with a close friend) or we might be in the wrong relationship.
3. See their perspective
We all tend to think that what we need or do is normal and it is the right way, but that’s not always the case. In any relationship, we need to consider the other person’s perspectives and needs too.
This increases empathy and helps us understand our partner at a deeper level. If they need more space / freedom, is there a way you could give them that? Maybe spending more time with friends, or developing your hobbies, instead of demanding to spend all your free time together, which incidentally can make the relationship feel stale.
Instead of demanding that they talk about their feelings, you could ask them to speak about it if and when they are ready, or ask them if there’s anything you could do. Since behind emotional unavailability there’s usually a fear of rejection, when they joke about something serious that happened to them, you could ask to give them a hug or tell them how much you love them.
If they feel that opening up isn’t a demand but an invitation, they might be more likely to do it.
4. Do things separately as well
Just because you are in a relationship it doesn’t mean you need to spend every waking hour with them or give up on your friends and interests.
We have two basic needs: a need for belonging and a need for autonomy. Couples who can balance this appropriately have the most fulfilling relationships. Instead of giving up on your interests and friends groups, continue them, as long as you spend time with your partner as well, naturally. This way you will feel that you haven’t given up on your autonomy and enrich the relationship with novelties to talk about.
This goes both ways. Encourage your partner to meet his or her friends and continue doing the things they really like without having to include you in everything.
Putting a little space between the two of you will bring you together as both of you realise how nice it is to have each other and then the time you do spend together will be more enjoyable and intimate.
5. Take time for self-care
Just because you’re no longer dating them doesn’t mean that now you can forget about self-care and your looks. It not only enhances your confidence when you take care of your body, your present yourself as a beautiful woman to your partner, which is likely to be reciprocated.
Self-care isn’t just bubble baths, although it can include it, it’s a mixture of all the things you do for you mental and physical well-being, such as meditation, eating healthy food, regular exercise, etc. But don’t do these things for them, do them for yourself and for the enjoyment of it. Do it because you love this lifestyle. Then it will benefit your relationship too.
To conclude, living with an emotionally unavailable man isn’t easy, but before you pack your bag and move out, there might be lifestyle changes and micro habits that help you make your relationship better. Ultimately, it is your life, your needs, and your future we’re talking about, which no one else can decide on but you.
Sometimes the answer is leaving things behind, but make sure it’s not an escape route that paves the way to a similar relationship dynamic, but a decision about incompatibility of values and needs that are non negotiable.
Remember that we have but one life that we can enjoy more when we’re with the person we love and respect and who loves and respects us, even if it takes some compromises.
Do you need personalised support?
If you’re interested in honing your embodied relational intelligence skills to build a loving, mature, and enduring romantic relationship either with your current partner or the one you commit to next, reach out or simply buy one of my coaching and or hypnotherapy services and I’ll meet you on Zoom.