Emotional availability in a relationship can sometimes seem as elusive as the Holy Grail. I know how precious this quality is and most definitely a part of the treasure I seek in a solid relationship.
Lately, I have been better able to look at those issues troubling me in a relationship as opportunities for introspection first before turning my gaze toward the other person. I might still conclude that someone is not the best match for me for various reasons. Yet now, if I know I have taken a good look at myself first, I feel more empowered about any observations I have about my date.
Emotional availability cuts both ways, of course, and I can see where I have work to do as well. Yet, at least I am aware of this! It would be great to find a man who is at least aware of emotional intelligence and who is willing to work on emotional availability alongside me.
Of course, as a divorced person, I do have to learn to trust again (and not blindly). But how the heck am I supposed to do that? The only information I have come across that makes sense in the real world is to use the old principle of “test, trust, test, trust, test, trust.”
This involves consciously testing the waters in a new relationship and putting myself out there just a little bit to see what happens. If, after each milestone of “testing the waters,” my partner seems demonstrably trustworthy, then it is incumbent upon me to try to open up a little bit more each time and experiment with being fully present in the relationship, stitched up heart and all.
In the testing phase there are definite signs to watch out for, both in your date as well as in yourself. Using your own feelings as a guide, here are eight you might experience when dating an emotionally unavailable man, keeping in mind some of what you feel may be a function of your own emotional unavailability, too.
1. You feel dismissed or ignored. He always has something on his mind or seems distracted by work and other priorities. (Question: Is he really dismissing you, or do you fear that he is?)
2. You feel cut off or that you can’t say everything you would like to say. He cuts short more meaningful conversations (as though uncomfortable). He doesn’t seem to want to hear about the unsexy parts of your life. (Question: Is he the uncomfortable one or are you uncomfortable with discussing the areas of your life that make you feel more vulnerable?)
3. You feel he comes on too strong. He is too quick to flatter or seems to skip ahead and talk about your relationship like you have been going out longer than you have, yet he doesn’t outright say things like, “I want us to be exclusive. Please tell me how you feel,” or “I am ready to commit to this relationship and see where it goes. How do you feel?” The key here is the dialogue and interest in what you have to say. (Question: Is he really coming on too strong or are you scared because he likes you so much? Are you ready to receive love?)
4. Mixed messages. You feel confused. He says one thing and does another. He comes on strong, then retreats. Sometimes this is just crossed wires between the two of you. If so, this is a good opportunity to try to clarify what confuses you. But if you do this more than once and are still left with this feeling, then it could be his chronic pattern. (Question: Are wires crossed due to his behavior and chronic lack of clarity and consistency, or are you trying too hard to read between the lines and predict outcomes thereby stressing yourself out unnecessarily?)
5. You feel like he has hidden a message in a comment and it feels puzzling. You don’t know what to make of it. There is a saying that goes, “People always tell you who they are.” If he says he “isn’t good with emotional stuff” or expression, believe him. He’s not saying this for nothing. (Question: Do you believe him? He just told you who he is in plain language. If you want him to clarify what you think he just said, ask him if what he said is true and see if he will elaborate.)
6. A sense he is holding something back. He seems secretive, vague or makes excuses. You feel uneasy. (Question: Is he vague or is this a communication issue presenting you with a good opportunity to practice your communication skills? Ask again. If he is still vague, then you have more data.)
7. You feel he has gotten less interested in you now that he is sure of your interest in him. Some men just like the chase and run as soon as they catch you. This is not a good sign and the minute you pursue him (because he seemed so interested), you have lost him forever. His interest is in the conquest only. Either play a stressful, tiresome game of always being slightly unavailable and slightly disinterested or accept that he’s a chronic conquistador and move on. (Question: Is he clearly less interested as in not contacting you, or are you merely fearful that he is not interested because your feelings for him freak you out?)
8. You feel he is uncompromising and critical. Perfectionism is another form of control. His need for perfection can go hand in glove with a distaste for the messy part of love and life. Basically, perfectionism is a socially acceptable form of addiction and escapism and addiction and escapism make it hard for anyone to face real life and a real relationship in all its messy glory. (Question: Is he really critical of imperfection or are you fearful of not being perfect?)
There are no right or wrong answers and you are not a bad person if you find out (by asking yourself the above questions) that you might have to monitor your own ability to be fully available. If you see that you might have some work to do, then this is good news. You may have just discovered what has been holding you back! Likewise, if your man fits the above patterns of emotional unavailability and seems unaware of this fact and unwilling to work on his stuff, go find someone else. You deserve someone who is fully there for you.
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