7 Dating & Relationship Tips for the Emotionally Unavailable Man
In my previous blog, I provided 21 subtle signs of an emotionally unavailable man. I was overwhelmed with the responses from men, saying that many, if not all, of the signs resonated with them. They tell me they don’t want to be this way because they feel stuck in dating or in their relationship. They say that they can see the lonely and gloomy future, being alone and lonely, because they go through date after date, and one relationship after another.
Wanting to change is a necessary component to allow for closeness and ultimately having a great relationship. Here are 5 tips to making yourself more available to your partner:
- Identify your distancing strategies. These are strategies that create emotional or physical distance between you and your partner and suppress intimacy. You do them often, so they may feel so natural to you that you’re not even aware that they create distance and uncertainty in your relationship. The first step in changing behaviors is to recognize them. Some examples (check out my previous blog for more): You may focus on their imperfections, you keep future plans fuzzy, and you ignore or diminish your partner’s positive qualities or behaviors. Remind yourself that despite your discomfort with intimacy, you need it for a happy relationship.
- Speak up for your need for space. You will always have a need for space, particularly when things get too intimate with your partner. Do this as early as possible when you meet someone so that they don’t take things personally. Say it has nothing to do with them, but it’s something that you’ve needed in every relationship and will continue to need in your new one. Give examples: “If we spend a whole day together, I might not text you as much the next day or two” or “I don’t like to text daily when I first start dating someone.”
- Distract yourself. It’s easier for you to let your guard down to your partner if there’s a distraction. Engage in activities such as making dinner together or going for a walk. When you’re not hyper-focused on an intimate moment, but rather on the activity, it can help you access your loving feelings instead of repressing them.
- Think about secure people and how they behave in their relationships. Secure people are warm and loving, comfortable with closeness, communicate issues well, and work toward common ground during conflict. Pick 2-3 people and write down how they act and react in various situations, how they respond to and interact with their partner, and their overarching beliefs about relationships. Strive to engage in the ways that they do. Don’t overwhelm yourself and try everything at once; pick one behavior to try every week or so.
- Tell people what they mean to you. It might be easier to start with a non-romantic partner. It doesn’t have to be an in-depth conversation. At the end of a phone call with a friend, you can say, “Hey, I really appreciate you listening to me today. You’re a good listener and I always feel like you understand where I’m coming from. It means a lot.” I give this task to my clients and their reaction is always surprise–surprise at how much the kind words meant to the people they spoke with, and how often it was reciprocated. Little by little, you will see the positive results of this practice, and may help you be more emotionally accessible to your romantic partner.
- Challenge your negative interpretations of your partner’s behavior. You have a tendency of ignoring positive behaviors or diminishing their value. Continually focusing on the negative will cause your relationship to be overwhelmed with negativity, and it won’t be fun for either of you to be in it. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt that their intentions are positive or at least neutral.
- Challenge your catastrophizing beliefs. Your new girlfriend invites you on a romantic weekend getaway, and your brain can only think that this means you’re one step closer to marriage and a life in the suburbs. Or she invites you to hang out with her nieces and nephews, and you assume you’re practicing for parenthood. Pump the breaks. It only means she wants to spend quality time with you for a couple of days, and it definitely doesn’t mean she sees you in her future forever. Bring yourself to focus on the moment at hand, and try to avoid applying meaning that doesn’t exist.
It is possible to become more emotionally available. It takes effort, but little changes done consistently can give you the kind of relationship that deep down, you’ve always wanted.
21 Subtle Signs You’re Dating an Emotionally Unavailable Man
Dating an emotionally unavailable man doesn’t mean that he’s abusive, manipulative, or a jerk. In fact, these men can be nice guys, can make you laugh until your abs hurt, and can be your best friend. What makes it difficult to identify a guy who avoids closeness is that you have enough good times together, which keeps your hope alive. And with that hope, you convince yourself that he may be able to give you that emotional intimacy you desire if you give him a little more time. But he may never be able to meet your need for closeness.
Here are 21 subtle signs your guy is emotionally unavailable:
- He won’t contact you every day. Do you go days without hearing from your man? If you’re in a serious relationship, it’s normal to touch base every day. Not connecting with a text or phone call gives him his space.
- You feel excluded from his life. He may attend a wedding without you, despite your request to go with him. He requests time to hang out with friends without you—and not just a “guys’ night” but instances when he is also with female friends, too.
- You haven’t met the family. You’ve been dating for months and you haven’t met the family yet. You may rationalize it as he’s just not ready.
- He won’t leave any of his things at your place. Leaving things at your place would just mean too much commitment. He probably won’t give you a drawer at his place either unless you ask.
- He won’t go on vacation with you. Vacations can be not just fun, but can build closeness. And because he won’t want too much of that, he’ll just avoid going on a vacation where it would just be the two of you.
- He’s a penny pincher—but only with you. He’ll spend money on himself and be generous with others, but will make comments when you’re with him about not wanting to spend too much money.
- He talks about how much he values his independence. He says he’s always been independent and values being self-sufficient. Really it’s just another way of saying, “I don’t need you.” He may also call you “too needy” and “dependent.”
- He avoids physical closeness. He won’t hold your hand in public. As far as others around you are concerned, the two of you are just friends, because there are no signs of affection between the two of you. He may also walk ahead of you. Sure, you may be a slow walker, but walking ahead of you creates distance, and that makes him feel comfortable.
- He won’t put up photos of the two of you. You’ve been dating for months and he crops you out of his profile picture. He’ll check in on Facebook but to take a pic of his food to show off his dish, not the babe sitting across the table from him.
- He takes more than he gives. Good relationships are about give and take. Not in a tit-for-tat way, but both of you want to meet each other’s needs. If you’re with an emotionally unavailable guy, you feel like you’re doing way more for the relationship than he is.
- He doesn’t consider you. He gets dinner for himself but doesn’t pick up anything for you. He decides to apply for a job out of state without asking you how you would feel about it.
- He changed. When you first met, he was charming, swept you off of your feet, and let you know that you were the only woman he wanted to be with. And now, he does the minimum to keep the relationship going. Gone are the declarations about his feelings and your future. Sometimes you may wonder why he’s even still with you since he doesn’t seem to care.
- He avoids talking about the relationship and your future. He gives you just enough to think you do have a future, but you’re not 100% sure where you stand in his life and what his intentions really are.
- He avoids difficult talks in general. Emotionally unavailable men try to avoid difficult talks. Working through conflict can bring a couple closer together, and closeness is exactly what he wants to avoid.
- You have sex but you don’t make love. When you’re together physically, you feel like he’s still not fully present or connected. You may still have fun having sex, but there’s still a part of him that he’s holding back. You may even be the one who wants sex more often than him.
- He has unrealistic views of a relationship. He believes in the Hollywood I-always-want-to-take-your-clothes-off kind of relationship, thinks relationships should be effortless, or that the feelings should just always be there. He wants the “X factor” without doing the work.
- His exes’ descriptions say it all. You find out that his exes called him an “emotional zombie,” told him he was “cold” or talked about him having a “wall.”
- He nitpicks. He focuses on small things like the way you talk or dress. You feel criticized over things that don’t matter and don’t feel accepted by him. Nitpicking is a way for him to diminish his romantic feelings toward you.
- He’s hot and cold. After particularly intimate time spent together, he distances for a few days. It’s as though the man he was when he was with you is gone.
- He won’t spontaneously say those three little words. He rarely, if ever, says “I love you” unless you say it first. If you’ve been dating your guy for years and you rarely hear the words, spending more time with him won’t make him say those words any more frequently than he is now.
- You’ve become anxious. You’re normally confident, happy and have a positive attitude. But with him, you’re over-analyzing, spending time wondering about your relationship, and your friends are sick of getting screenshots to help you decipher his texts. You’re experiencing more anxiety than you do when you’re single.