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When I realized I was emotionally unavailable, I could compare it to the sound of a car accident: a high-pitched screeching, then the crushing of metal against metal.
A partner had blurted out to me in a moment of anguish, “I can’t keep breaking down your walls; you won’t let me in.”
For years, I had been an active participant in the societal narrative of emotional unavailability, which is essentially man-bashing, and the chorus echoes, “He’s not emotionally available.”
I never grasped that I had been attracting emotionally unavailable men because I was emotionally unavailable myself, and it had absolutely nothing to do with gender.
It was a poignant reminder that our connections are often the most accurate reflections of ourselves. We attract what we are, not who we wish to be.
Then I immediately found myself in “pity ville,” wallowing, “What’s wrong with me?” And I did what I always do: I consulted with the Google gods and devoured material.
To my horror, I discovered that emotional availability is not the same as bravado. It’s not the same as fierce and f*ck this and f*ck that.
Emotional availability is rooted in vulnerability.
It’s laying ourselves bare, knowing full well that there is a chance we might get hurt.
That every time we open up to the world and its wondrous gifts, we open ourselves up to pain—there can’t be one without the other.
Essentially, fear of this pain stunts us emotionally, and we develop some rather insidious coping mechanisms in a daft way of “protection,” which, ironically, only hurts us more.
This is an article of sincere caution. Before we jump to the inevitable conclusion that someone else is emotionally unavailable, we should take a good, hard look at the signs.
The signs that say, “Is it maybe me?”
Here are five signs that you (or your partner) might be emotionally unavailable:
Adept at Short-Term Intimacy
I’m pretty sure I could write a course about this and sell it online for all the emotionally unavailable people to continue on their quest of chasing butterflies.
Emotionally unavailable people are masters of flattery because the thrill is derived from the chase. They embody charming behaviour and are able to woo with great communication and listening skills. But this is short-term intimacy.
There is a certain degree of vulnerability but not enough to sustain something healthy in the long-term.
Once the person is caught, the nitty-gritty of a relationship starts to require more—more understanding, more time, more compromise, more communication, more intimacy (and no, I’m not talking about sex because it’s easy to get naked in body but not in soul), and more of oneself.
These factors come into play when a relationship moves from giddy to stable, from easy to more difficult, from exciting to a little mundane. If we can’t adequately process and handle our own emotions, we won’t be able to handle it in a relationship.
For the sake of argument, let’s say you are maybe one of the lucky ones who discovers a relationship where you can grow within, but sadly, for the most part, emotional unavailability is a breeding ground for toxic relationships.
They are everywhere. In fact, some have said that emotional unavailability started from meme culture—clearly, there’s a great imbalance.
Control and The Independence Illusion
I will be the first to put my hand up and say, “I am an independent person.” Note that I didn’t say “woman.”
This is truly one of the key indicators of an emotionally unavailable person. They won’t be inconvenienced, they are inflexible, and they can’t master the art of compromise—relationships essentially revolve around them.
This type of commitment-phobic behaviour is a defense mechanism so that if someone decides to leave, the seemingly independent person still feels as if they have the power. But there is a vast difference between independence and control.
An independent person knows the value of asking for and receiving help, as well as how to allow space for financial, mental, and spiritual growth that two people need to navigate when they decide to share a life together.
I remember a time of vigorous online dating when I would say things like, “I’m not really good at relationships” or “I don’t see myself getting married.” These were statements that should have been a warning sign to me—never mind the other person.
These are negative belief systems that are ingrained into someone who hasn’t dealt with past pain and heartache in a healthy way.
If you are the one dating an emotionally unavailable person, you must believe them.
If someone tells you outright that they struggle with this, the best thing you can do for yourself is pay attention because they might not be fully aware of it, but you can be.
Early Sexual Seduction
You know what we aren’t doing when we are having sex? Talking.
I’m putting my hand up again for this one because I am a master at using sex as a way to shield myself from true intimacy. Seduction is a power play; don’t be fooled.
If it happens too early or too quickly, it could be a sign of distraction and control. Early sexual seduction is a sign of avoiding authenticity and allowing a relationship to build naturally and in the time it needs to.
The Game of Hot and Cold
I once dated someone who loved to play this game and because he was a reflection of my own emotional unavailability, I actually got a kick-out of this dynamic—until my feelings became more serious.
Oftentimes, it can be overwhelming and confusing for a partner on the receiving end of this. One minute we are smothered in love and adornment and then two weeks go by with not so much as a word: a telltale sign that someone is emotionally unavailable.
As I have progressed in being more open myself and learning how to process the uncomfortable feelings, this is one of the first things I take note of when I develop a connection with someone.
No one deserves to be jerked around, and if you are struggling with your own emotional unavailability, this will only cause more damage.
As with all problems that we face due to the human condition, we need to work on self-awareness, always. We need to constantly delve into the depths of who we are so that we can not only be of benefit to others but to ourselves as well.
We should always be questioning why we feel a certain way, why we behave in a certain way, and how we show up in our relationships before we use popular, societal narratives as another way to live in denial.
Most importantly, we need to embrace where we f*ck up, take ownership of it, feel the shame, and then do the only thing we can do: be better at it.