Caitlin Weese LCSW-C, 200 RYT
Emotional availability is a crucial aspect of any relationship. It's the ability to connect, empathize, and share your feelings with your partner. However, not everyone is comfortable being emotionally available and they may even be unsure of how to be. For partners on the receiving end, being in a relationship with them can feel frustrating and painful. If you’re interested in learning more about emotional unavailability read on. But first, what causes emotional unavailability?
Why are some people unavailable?
Emotional unavailability can have various causes, including past traumas, attachment styles, and personal beliefs. Here are some possible factors that contribute to people becoming emotionally unavailable:
Childhood experiences: Childhood experiences can have a significant impact on emotional development. People who have experienced neglect, abuse, or emotional trauma during childhood may have difficulty forming emotional connections later in life. As a result of their experiences, they may learn to shut down or avoid emotions as a way to cope with the past.
Attachment styles: Attachment styles developed in childhood have a large impact on how people interact in relationships as adults. People with an avoidant attachment style may have difficulty connecting emotionally with their partners. This comes from a deep-seated belief that is unsafe to rely on others and they must meet their own needs. As a result, these partners are more likely to project these beliefs onto their relationship and their partner.
Fear of vulnerability: Some people may fear being emotionally vulnerable, as it can be seen as a sign of weakness or expose them to potential emotional pain. As a result, they may avoid emotional connections or withdraw emotionally to protect themselves from getting hurt.
Personal beliefs/Cultural Norms: Some people may hold personal beliefs or have been exposed to cultural norms that discourage emotional connection. For example, they may believe that emotions are a sign of weakness or that expressing emotions is not masculine. This can make it difficult for them to connect emotionally and lead to overall unavailability.
Signs Your Partner is Emotionally Unavailable
They avoid emotional conversations: If your partner frequently changes the topic or avoids talking about anything that involves emotions, it could be a sign that they are emotionally unavailable. For unavailable people it may feel safer to keep their feelings to themselves, or they may not know how to express their emotions to another person. On the flipside, they may struggle to hold space for you when you feel emotions. This can look like, ending a conversation or even telling you that you’re being “overly emotional.”
They prioritize their own needs: Emotionally unavailable partners often prioritize their own needs over their partner's. They may appear selfish, dismissive, or insensitive to your needs and feelings. While this behavior comes from a place of self-protection, it can make you feel unimportant, neglected, and unsupported.
They struggle with intimacy: Emotional unavailability can also manifest as difficulties with physical intimacy. Your partner may have difficulty connecting with you emotionally during intimate moments, having sex feel disconnected and mechanical.
They have a history of failed relationships: Because people who are emotionally unavailable struggle with relationships, they often have a history of failed relationships or struggle to maintain long-term connections with others. As a result of these past relationships, they may have unresolved feelings or fear emotional vulnerability, which can make it challenging to develop deep emotional connections.
They are guarded: Emotionally unavailable partners may be guarded and closed off, even with those closest to them. They may struggle to open up, share their feelings, or let their guard down, making it difficult for you to get to know them on a deeper level.
They are inconsistent and won't commit: Finally, emotionally unavailable partners can be inconsistent in their behavior and communication. They may be warm and affectionate one day, then distant and cold the next. This often comes from their own ambivalence about intimacy and a fear of being hurt. This inconsistency can make it difficult to build trust and security in the relationship.
If you've noticed any of these signs in your partner, it's essential to have an honest conversation about how you feel and what you need from the relationship. It's possible that your partner may not be aware of their emotional unavailability, and they may be willing to work on it. However, if they're unwilling to change or show little effort, it may be time to reevaluate the relationship and consider your options. Remember, you deserve to be in a relationship where you feel seen, heard, and emotionally supported.So often, I see people ignore their needs in a relationship in the hope that their partner won't see them as "clingy." However, its important to note that vulnerability in a romantic relationship is a reasonable and basic request.
It's essential to remember that emotional unavailability is not a choice, and it can be challenging for people to change their behavior without help. If you are in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable partner, it's important to have an open and honest conversation about your needs and boundaries. Encourage your partner to seek professional help if they are struggling with emotional issues that are impacting the relationship.