At first I didn’t realize I was dating someone who was emotionally unavailable.
They became annoyed and felt smothered by my ability to give love and warmth. It was confusing, until I figured out what was going on.
Despite my better judgement, I have been involved with more than one of these people, thinking each time that we would grow and overcome obstacles together. I would always presume I had the patience, compassion and love to deal with their issues. However, each of them have sabotaged the relationship and shut it down.
It’s hurtful to be on the receiving end of their cruel mood swings. However, the ingredient that allowed these people to continue their pattern was my co-dependency.
They lacked the ability to reciprocate loving feelings after the honeymoon phase of the relationship was over. What was most frustrating is that instead of embracing their own need to change, I was criticized for my ability to express love. When I requested to, occasionally be a priority—I was labelled needy.
It can be tricky to detect if you haven’t experienced this type of behaviour before.
An emotionally unavailable (EU) person wears a false mask which displays an inauthentic version of themselves, that is socially acceptable. In the beginning, it’s possible to experience a strong emotional and physical connection with this person because they experience a high from the chase and seduction phase which convinces them that they too, are experiencing a feeling of love. They use flattery and compliments to strengthen a connection.
Beware of one liners that make you feel extra special, like, “this is the deepest and strongest love connection I’ve ever felt.”
The EU person may desire a long term healthy relationship and ask for this level of commitment. However, they are incapable of sustaining or exchanging a consistently loving connection.
Appreciation and gratitude for one another is a necessary attitude for a healthy partnership and they are unable to commit to this. Don’t be surprised if this person sends loving texts and cute emojis but rarely picks up the phone to connect with you, or acts coldly in person. They withhold emotion from the relationship when it involves a deeper level of intimacy.
Many EUs have a history of short-term failed relationships and social media is the best early detection tool to spot red flags. In the beginning of one of my relationships, I read several old posts written for ex-partners. Each contained similar language, using flattery and compliments and described a life changing love connection.
How could someone that was so deeply in love and connected, that was planning long term relationships with more than two people within a few years, suddenly be single?
What angered me the most was when my partners would not acknowledge how hurtful their behaviour was and refused to stay committed to therapeutic help.
These relationships can become emotionally abusive for partners when EUs do not behave congruently with their words and emotions and then use distancing tactics for manipulation.
It begins to feel like a love/hate relationship. I’ve come to learn that emotionally unavailability varies from person to person and many of these behaviors described fall into the more serious case of emotional unavailability—the borderline personality disorder.
While the capacity to be emotionally present is possible, the willingness to do so on a regular basis is limited. Being emotionally unavailable is not a life sentence. Intensive therapeutic help could change hurtful patterns.
Brushing off promises, projecting and blaming is common for EU people. Words are empty and meaningless. They will use the tactics to destroy any feeling of genuine love.
What is most painful about these relationships is witnessing the person abandon the relationship emotionally and physically. It’s as if they develop amnesia to any promises or commitments once spoken. There is nothing worse than feeling invisible as they take the relationship for granted.
This poisonous dynamic will make you question everything including their fidelity. Any attempts to discuss insecurities that manifest from their latest distancing cycle will cause them to slam the door shut.
It makes no sense how they can profess undying love, then suddenly you’re alone and abandoned. These relationships turned me into a beggar and triggered old abandonment wounds. I noticed feelings of desperation trying to get these people to return to the loving, caring partners they were in the beginning.
When I initiated communication about the disconnection and lack of presence I was met with comments like “This feels like pressure.”
If the EU person feels pressured, they begin to show resentment. If a request for mutuality is met with defensiveness and resistance, the relationship is doomed.
It would seem that the more you love them, the less they love you.
After the breakup, any attempt to initiate dialogue about their swift exit and how I had been abruptly discarded, was avoided. This unfinished business was haunting.
No romantic partner can fix the untreated emotionally unavailable person. They need help or will continue to “fall in love” over and over again, each time with a false belief that patterns won’t repeat because they have finally found the love of their life.
Many EUs lack accountability for hurtful behaviour, which perpetuates their “saviour” theory that a new, stronger love connection is what they need to stop shutting down emotionally or sexually.
It is common to learn that those who tolerate this behaviour grew up with an EU parent. Often these relationships feel like love because of old childhood programming. In reality, there is nothing healthy or loving about these rollercoaster behaviours.
We can choose to stay in this relationship, attempting to fix the disconnection— but at what cost? A relationship that nourishes the mind and spirit is rooted in peace, security, trust and joy.
Spending time alone will sometimes reveal the reasons that we stay in this one-sided, conflict-ridden drama. Instead of focusing on how to get love out of this person, we must learn how to give love to ourselves.
I had a relationship with EU person that ended but then I gave them a second chance. During the reconnection phase, deep emotional feelings were exchanged with warm affection. I was given a promise ring and other sentimental gifts. The EU person seemed to possess a serious attitude and commitment to change. However, a few months later, with no fighting or incident, they abandoned the relationship emotionally and physically; expressing very little remorse.
I feel that earlier detection of these signs would have stopped me developing the deeper attachment.
It’s normal for most people to have a couple of bad days that require checking out. However, EUs have the capacity to shut down and disconnect for weeks.
Why do most EU’s create complex overextended, busy lives? Even though they want true love, they are terrified of how it might recreate some painful past experience. To stay in control and keep intimacy at a safe distance they will create no space in their life for love to blossom.
When this person’s fears take over they will pick fights, sabotage, deny, avoid and create distance. This is emotional abuse and a strong independent person will immediately exit this toxic relationship. If this is difficult then consider you are in an addictive cycle of push and pull and might need therapeutic help to break free.
It takes consistent bonding on emotional, spiritual, physical and intellectual levels to build blocks of healthy love and to water the roots of love. Emotional availability is the capacity to be present and caring about each other’s feelings.
Authentic, genuine love is secure and feels safe.
When a relationship is rooted in honesty and receptivity a mutual reciprocation of love develops. A natural progression of trust and appreciation builds. This relationship can nourish your life, instead of depleting it.
Choose a partner that embraces an attitude of gratitude and appreciation towards love and connection. Be with someone that aligns words with actions and doesn’t brush off promises and commitments.
It begins with a belief that you deserve to be with a person that celebrates you, not tolerates you.
At some point, you have to honor yourself by letting go of a person that refuses to make you and your relationship a priority.
Author: Melissa Rondeau
Photo: Unsplash/Xavier Sotomayor
Editor: Lieselle Davidson