By Sile Walsh for Good Men Project
Being emotionally unavailable is a protective defense, your man has developed it as a way to reduce the hurt he experiences in life. It’s there for good reason, so you attempting to tear it down or criticize it will only make it harder to relate to him. In fact, it is likely that he will need to use the defense further to protect himself from your criticism.
What was once protective now is likely to be negatively impacting his relationship with himself and others in his adulthood. Even though this is the case, the defense has been so well established that it may be the automatic place he goes to find a sense of safety that he is there without any awareness of it.
He doesn’t want to be that way though, even if the desire to feel more and be more available is unconscious it is there somewhere under the defense. No one wants to live without connection, but many men haven’t learned how to feel secure within the connection, especially intimate connection.
A man won’t suddenly wake up and be emotionally available, he may wake up and realize that he wants to be, but that’s different from actually having the capacity to be.
The men I work with around their emotion availability and the men in my personal life all have something in common. Big hearts, deep hurts and being amazing survivors. They got here, to today using this defense and to shame them for it would be cruel.
Instead, bringing light to the unavailability, compassion, and personal ownership over our part in the dynamic can offer our relationships true hope and healing.
If your man is unavailable it will impact you, and you need to ensure you have strong boundaries around what is and isn’t OK for you. However, we cannot be in control of another person’s emotional availability. Their love for us is not going to give them the skills to change. It’s just not like that. Both in my private practice and in my personal life I have seen this to be true.
So there is your first clue; find out if your man has a conscious desire to be emotionally available. If there is a conscious desire then he is available on some level to do the work he needs to do. If he isn’t, you really need to look at what has you invested in an unhealthy dynamic like this.
His desire to be emotionally available will present as …
A willingness to attend therapy or a coach
A willingness to attend support as a couple
Looking up articles and /or YouTube about the matter
Attending personal development workshops, classes or courses
Attempting to share how he feels even if it lacks clarity
Starting meditation or healing practices
Then you must look at your own attraction to a man who is emotionally unavailable. It’s vital that you bring awareness to your unconscious comfort with your man’s emotional availability. Otherwise, it’s too easy to blame him for the quality of the relationship and become stagnant yourself.
Ask yourself …
Where have I experienced this before? Start with family of origin.
What are the payoffs for me in this dynamic?
How am I contributing to the dynamic?
Where’s my self-esteem?
Am I playing out some sort of unhealthy game around proving myself?
Is this relationship showing up my on co-dependency?
Do I need therapy/coaching?
Then it’s about learning to hold yourself when he is rocky. It’s about learning to speak up without nagging. It’s about having healthy standards and expectations for how you want to be treated and acting on them. It’s about finding a secure and transparent place within you that doesn’t revolve around his feedback. One that you can turn to for reassurance and clarity.
Then you need to co-create with your man a space in which transparency is facilitated within your relationship. Even if you don’t like what’s being said or you wish it not to be true. Without a space in your relationship for transparency, he will need to continue to withhold and you will need to continue to nag or to be passive aggressive. Both using each other’s behavior as an excuse for your own. You need for the two of you to arrange a day to discuss life and problems, a space where you both become still and can truly hear the hurts of the other without molding them because of your own discomfort.
We are drawn to people and relate to people that can help us heal, given the right relationship culture. However, with these same people, we can scar each other further and deepen wounded beliefs. It’s the capacity we can create within our relationship that allows us to heal, rather than further wound.
The love we have and the will for better, in and of themselves does not make it possible. it’s the culture we create together in our relationship and individually in our inner worlds that facilitate this.
You start with where you have the most influence, in your life—that is with you. It is with how much you heal, what you say and what you do. If you focus on him and what he is and isn’t doing you will get lost in his life and have little to no power over it.
Come home to your feelings, needs, and unavailability while he comes home to his. Get therapy, coaching, attend relationship groups. But show up for what you bring to the dynamic and you will be investing in a relationship with yourself, which will hold you when your own relationship can’t.