Eleditor’s note: Elephant is a diverse community of sixteen million readers and hundreds of writers (you can write too!). We are reader-created. Many blogs here are experience, opinion, and not fact or The One Right Point of View. Have opinions or thoughts about this article? Join the conversation by commenting below or sharing your own view here.
I was cleaning out my dressers today.
I came across various items like concert and airline tickets, receipts and various sentimental items that I had collected over the past few years from women that I spent time with.
I refrain from using the term “relationship” because while looking at these items something hit me: I have not been in a true relationship in almost 10 years.
All the women I was “with” during that time were emotionally unavailable.
One flat out told me she was emotionally unavailable but still wanted to spend time together. We agreed to keep it light, have fun and not attach any label to what we were. That was my best experience because we did not hold anything back. We lived each day for that day and nothing more which made each day fulfilling.
It lasted almost a full year—a wonderful year, but a perhaps it was a year that I could have spent with someone who would have been willing to take our time together to the next step.
Despite the warning signs she would give me every few months: subtle comments about making sure my needs were being met, or that I understood that she just got out of a long term relationship and may at some point want to be alone, I was still crushed emotionally when it ended.
During our time together, she would have moments of vulnerability and say she loved me and that she needed my love. She would tell me how amazing I made her feel. She took me to places I’ve never been physically, emotionally and spiritually that I have never been or explored.
Still, I would get the regular reminders, “don’t get too attached.”
How could I not. I could dazzle you for hours about how amazing she is and how she changed my life forever, but the truth is, regardless of her feelings and the strength of mine, she knew what was going to happen, and I didn’t. Or perhaps I did not want to accept the warning signs.
At the end of the day, no matter how deeply we connected, it ended.
Many men, probably like many women think we can change the emotionally unavailable person or wear them down over time with our constant love, affection and availability.
Sometimes we can but usually we cannot and then the good times come to a crashing halt.
Another experience I had with an emotionally unavailable girl came at me from a different angle. She approached me and wanted to “give us a shot” at being together. I was skeptical at first but I was also intrigued so I decided to give it a go.
Almost immediately, I could sense her emotional unavailability. She would dodge deep conversations, get skittish at signs of affection and become uncomfortable whenever I tried to express my feelings.
When I tried to distance myself by not engaging in our normal routine, such as meeting up every Friday night, or certain response times to text messages, she would pull me back in for a while, then slowly start to reel me back out to sea.
I don’t think of these experiences as wasted time—I wanted to be with these girls. I wanted our time to evolve in to something more than fun activities and weekend sleep overs. I wanted a deep intimate connection.
I wanted to grow with them.
There seems to be a double standard that men can separate sex and emotionalism more than women can. That it is easier for us to have fun, have sex and not develop feelings for women. Whenever a man offers this type of an arrangement to a woman and the man pulls away emotionally, it is almost as if it is more acceptable, understandable and even expected. Guys being guys.
Men hurt just as deeply and have trouble letting go of those women whom we gave (or inadvertently took) a piece of our heart to.
When an emotionally unavailable woman takes or is given a piece of a man’s heart, it creates a domino effect.
The emotionally unavailable woman just created the emotionally unavailable man.
My experiences with emotionally unavailable women led me to become emotionally unavailable myself. I have also witnessed this countless times with male friends of mine who get involved with women who are not ready to fully commit to a relationship. When the relationships ended, we always wanted more of them and wanted them back. Since my heart would still belong to these women, I was unable to connect on a deep level with any new potential partner that crossed my path.
As men, we are expected to rebound quickly and to act “manly.” We aren’t expected to attach to any woman, emotionally available or not. Society dictates that we should all strive to be the alpha-male and not feel the emotions of heartbreak. We should get over it and go find other women as quickly as possible.
I can not do this.
When I connect with a woman, it’s for a purpose. When a woman breaks my heart, I cry. I am not ashamed to admit my emotionalism. I do not try recover quickly by sleeping around with as many women as possible as most men feel they should after heart break. Some men even go as far as taking out their frustration from their previous relationship on the next woman they encounter (I must admit that I have done the latter).
After a break up with an emotionally unavailable woman, the next woman I encounter usually gets a half-hearted effort from me—I am more guarded because of the pain I just experienced so I tend to frustrate whoever I meet next by not opening up to an equal level.
All men are created equal but our emotions develop independently from one man to the next. I enjoyed my time with the emotionally unavailable women I spent time with, but also became emotionally unavailable myself immediately after and for a good while as pieces of my heart are in the hands of women who don’t appreciate what they have.
It isn’t that emotionally unavailable women are a waste of time, it’s that we can not get enough of them. It’s harder to move on. It’s harder to become emotionally available to any one else. Men leave wounded and scarred inside and the truth is we are no different than women in this regard. I feel a mixture of jubilation and frustration when I think back on the time I spent with the emotionally unavailable women in my life. They were, and still are incredible people, but I wanted something more.
I wanted the evolution. I wanted the evolution of our connection to evolve in to a meaningful relationship that we both could shout from the mountain tops and express our true feelings about while holding nothing back.
Looking back, there are a few things I wish I did differently. I hid my true feelings for a long time when they began to blossom.
I see now, though, that the best way to handle this sort of situation is to be up front and honest with feelings as soon as you develop them, leaving nothing off the table. It may push the emotionally unavailable woman away, but at least our feelings will not be as hurt at the end of the day if we stayed true to ourselves.
In doing this, we mitigate (some of) the damage to our emotions.
A side effect for most men of bottling up our emotions and not sharing our feelings with emotionally unavailable partners is that we also become emotionally unavailable. We tend to repeat this pattern with the next woman who crosses our path. It creates a never ending cycle of hurt feelings and emotional unavailability for all people involved.
If we can not accept the terms set forth from the emotionally unavailable woman or we have trouble keeping our feelings grounded, then we need to step back for our own well-being so we do not hurt others by taking out our frustrations on the next woman to cross our path.
While we shouldn’t run away from every sign of emotional unavailability, we must always be mindful of the warning signs that this particular arrangement is likely not meant to last forever.
Author: Adam Wilkinson
Editor: Renee Picard / Apprentice Editor: Ellie Cleary
Photo: Flickr/Malo Malverde