Signs to Look Out When Dating an Emotionally Unavailable Partner

Being emotionally available means developing and sustaining emotional bonds in your relationships.

Lynnet Okumu
Tips to ensure you are Emotionally Available in a relationship

Photo by RODNAE Productions:

Imagine you’ve been dating someone for several months or years, and all seems to be just great. You like them a lot, enjoy the time you spend together, have great sexual chemistry, and your interests match up well.

But one thing seems off, though. Although you’ve gotten to know the person, you need to connect to them deeper.

So, you want to have “the talk”, but anytime you bring up the issue, your partner brushes you off and immediately changes the subject. Suddenly, you are left wondering if this is going anywhere.

You may have an emotionally unavailable partner but fail to notice the signs. So, what exactly does that mean?

What it Means to be Emotionally Unavailable

Consider what it means to be the opposite – emotionally available. Emotional connection is essential to a healthy relationship, especially if you’re hoping for a long-term partnership. You must both be there for each other emotionally to make it work.

Being emotionally available means developing and sustaining emotional bonds in your relationships.

It is the extent to which partners share a healthy emotional connection and a foundation to build a life together. Sexual chemistry may be essential, but forging a path together into the future requires emotional stability.

Now, if your partner is emotionally unavailable, they won’t be able to provide that stability. They will have trouble opening up emotionally, shy away from discussing their feelings, and tend to fear intimacy.

They will never start or support any subject purporting to build your future together. Taking significant steps together, like buying a house or having children, can only happen if you’re sure you’re even in a relationship.

What Causes Emotional Unavailability?

Much of the research around emotional unavailability focuses on background and abrupt changes in the relationship.

The attachment theory is the first and most important foundation for understanding emotional (un)availability.

It proposes that the bond between a mother and her child is based on an emotional connection and the mother’s actions affect the child’s feelings even when an adult.

Parents play a significant role in how we function in our future bonds. If you’re your parents deny you emotional support or punish you for demonstrating emotional needs and expressions, you’re more likely to become emotionally unavailable.

Likewise, most people get detached emotionally when their partner suddenly changes and starts doing things they didn’t do during the initial stages of the relationship. For example, women tend to change their mode of dressing when they finally get into marriage.

This can quickly turn off the man emotionally.

Some people also develop attachment wounds, which can be caused by abandonment, neglect, or ridicule. Those wounds might cause one to stay emotionally distant as protection.

They believe they can’t get hurt if they don’t let people in. They use emotional unavailability as a form of self-preservation.

How do you know if your partner is emotionally unavailable?

Sometimes, a clear notice you are dating someone emotionally unavailable. In the same way, most people don’t know that they’re emotionally unavailable and thus don’t recognize that they are acting in a way that’s preventing their relationship from progressing.

It’s always the opposite in most cases. An emotionally unavailable partner may make you feel great in your relationship at first.

But there are some signs to look out for if you suspect your partner isn’t emotionally available.

They are afraid of commitment – this seems like more of a job than something that makes them feel a connection with you.

They might wake up one day and decide to end the relationship even when things seem perfect. Or they could act in a way that forces their partner to end it. For instance, they suddenly work differently than they know their partner wouldn’t.

They avoid deep conversations –Their conversations are always kept at a surface level and don’t get more profound. In particular, they avoid topics about the future.

They are always defensive – They react to conflict but don’t want to talk about it or acknowledge the emotions after the fact. In most cases, they may blame you for your problems and can’t own up to their role in conflicts.

They avoid labelling the relationship – They may refuse to define it or avoid having the conversation. As a result, it makes it unclear what exactly they want from you.

They don’t trust people easily – They question other people’s intentions and are suspicious of them.

How to Overcome Emotional Unavailability in a Relationship

​If you have noticed any of the signs in your relationship, it may be the right time to start reflecting on them. Analyze the situation and seek to know whether your partner’s attitude affects you emotionally.

You can do this by asking yourself questions such as:

Is their emotional unavailability affecting me negatively? If the answer is yes, it may be time to reconsider the relationship.

Are they acknowledging their emotional unavailability? Emotionally unavailable people can change their ways, but it is up to them to first recognize that they indeed have a problem and decide that they want to fix it.

It may be essential to reflect on whether you are the cause of the behaviour. If not, set boundaries and be clear about what you want and deserve in a relationship. I’m I enabling this behaviour?

Is our relationship meaningful enough for me to fight for?

Tips to ensure you are Emotionally Available in a relationship

Focus on strengthening your current relationships: You can do this by opening up to the people you trust and are attached to, like an old friend, family member, or even your partner.

Learn how to cope with your emotions in a healthy way: To take control of your emotions, you must first learn to love yourself. It will entail accepting your feelings instead of shutting them down. Mindfulness and meditation can also be valuable tools to help you feel connected with your emotional self.

Seek help from an unbiased professional: It can be easy to live in your head, but sometimes you need to open up to a natural person. Consider talking to a therapist before you move on to a new love interest or shut down.

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Lynnet Okumu

LA writes on various subjects, from family, relationships, and health to commodities in East Africa. She is a graduate of Journalism and Mass Communication from Masinde Muliro University. She is an advocate for women's and children's rights.

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