Is Your Partner Emotionally Unavailable ?

lonely wife

lonely wife

If you have an emotionally unavailable spouse, does him make you feel starved?

 We connect with others in this life using the attachment models we learned in our families. So, perhaps when you were growing up, you could marvel at the different ways in which people treated each other in your friends’ own families? some mothers were too connected and overbearing, others were distant and preoccupied by other issues than their children’s lives…all the gamut of emotional involvement can be found, from the smothering to the unavailable.

Of course, everyone can connect as much or as little as he or she wants…up until the moment they enter into a permanent relationship that has a set of expectations already set in. Then, the real pain begins, due to different needs from the two sides. What we call now emotionally unavailable is the communication style that permanently frustrates the emotional needs for love and connection from the other side…This person will end up feeling neglected, unloved and unwanted, inside the relationship designed to give him/her the most comforting experience of being loved.

 

Lots of articles tend to describe this emotionally contained attitude as a voluntary strategy to create barriers between themselves and their partners in an effort to avoid emotional intimacy. It’s kind of a bind: people will actually seek out relationships with others, believing that they can connect, or that they will learn with time to open up. In the present, even when they promise to do so, they are unable to commit fully to their relationships. They will fall short of the live and deep emotional bond that the other person they married keeps expecting.

 

Even if you have to decide if this person can’t or doesn’t want to make himself available to you, you still need to look for ways of shielding yourself from this frustrating situation.

In short: what are you supposed to do when he or she behaves in this way?

 

  • Is elusive, secretive and restricts sharing information with you, not with others

  • Offers always excuses for not being more communicative, as being tired, etc.

  • Ignores the words to talk about feelings, and avoids talks on the relationship.

  • Reacting with anger, criticism, and sarcasm to the pleas for a talk;

  • Constantly inventing activities to create distance.

The worst that can happen to you:

Is that you cover up the situation with excuses: He is too busy; he is tired; he grew up in a silent household, but promised to change…..

You need to know what kind of emotional proximity you need in this most important relationship. If you really need feeling loved and connected, to be married to an emotionally unavailable man is sheer torture.

 If your answer is: “I grew up in a very warm home, and I want the same for me and my kids,” then perhaps you need to evaluate if you can help this man shed his childhood inhibitions, acknowledge that he also needs affection expressed every day, and ask for some kind of professional help.

 After you’ve told him the kind of relationship you want and need, let him respond. Perhaps he will give you an honest answer that will tell you just what the situation is…

There is only a choice: is he willing to find some help to overcome the emotional shortcomings of his past?

 If he is not, and for him the way he is now is “normal,” and doesn’t think he needs to change you’ll need to start putting some space between the two of you. Without a plan to get him into a better emotional degree of maturity, you may be always disappointed with the bits of affection you can get. And, most important, he has to need this change in his emotional life…you can’t make him change, because you can’t parent him!

If he rejects this conversation and wants to “be accepted” as I am now” is time to reflect on your future and make the painful decision of looking outside for a fully emotional relationship. Time to take care of yourself….right? Or you can read “Breaking Free from Emotional Abuse...” and begin to consider emotional unavailability as a way of life,  as a form of abuse on you.

About Nora Femenia

Nora Femenia, Ph.D, is the CEO of Creative Conflict Resolutions and the author of the book: "The Art of Living with a Passive Aggressive Husband," a field guide for women that have to deal with passive aggression in their partners. Nora also posts regularly on her blog Creative Conflicts. Visit her blog and join the community to discuss issues related to Conflicts, Relationships and receive also Free her book “Breaking Free From The Silent Treatment.” You are warmly welcomed here, because we care for your happiness!

  • Frankie

    I am going through this right now, I have left an emotionally unavailable man after 12 years. He works away for 30 days a month, then comes home for 7 days and I am at work. He also cannot fit in more than a day or two when he is home to spend time with me. I havent lived with him for over 4 years and he has his own rented room for the times he returns from his fly in, fly out job. Some weeks he loves me, some weeks he doesn’t. He treats me like crap so I will react and this buys him even more space from me. He is passive aggressive, cannot communicate, is afraid of confrontation and will deal you the silent treatment for months to lower my expectations and train me to toe the line or I will not see him for another month. He has a child in another state and he is turning out to be as materialistic and narcissistic as his father. He is idolised and every holidays for 12 years I am left behind. I asked him to join me in an overseas holiday next xmas and also invited his son to come with us, I was told that it won’t be happening, I can go alone and make sure I bring him back some t-shirts and hats. He also said my son is bringing three friends with him next xmas and I’ll be spending all my time with them. I have no issues with his child but I now detest this situation, he will not allow us to blend after all this time, I am no priority to him and I never ever will be, after 12 years and never ever coming first just once can really lower your self esteem and get you to the stage you feel you’re not worth anything and that there is something wrong with you. He tells me some times he loves me and at other times he’s telling me to blonde my hair. He also watched porn from his room at work every evening and I have become a nothing to him. Money is all he cares about. I also work and earn very good money so there is no need for him to be away all the time like this. He has issues with compulsive spending and has to earn big big money to support this lifestyle. This man is emotionally unavailable and I have been away from him now for 4 months. He has contacted me several times to beg me to go to counselling but has also told me that he won’t be changing anything major even if its causing problems in our relationship. He has asked me to marry him but I am feeling that he just wants to hang on as I have a horse farm and large house in the country, he has no home but earns $3’000 Australian dollars a week. I feel that he just wanted a material guarantee with me as he is not promising me anything that is going to meet my needs. Your post resonated with me and lifted some stress tonight as I was going through one of those self doubting moments and I am also experiencing cognitive dissonance from being with this man so long and never ever having my needs met. I think you are an honest and straight to the point, hard facts writer and I love your style. AS we say in Australia, no bullshit! Thank you

  • http://www.creativeconflicts.com Nora Femenia

    Your picture of the situation is devastating…how come this man continues with the pretense that he loves you when doing everything in the opposite direction! Now, is your time to evaluate your own needs: take care of yourself, detach from his false promises and make a plan w=to have the most fun you can. Id you have some money, plan travels, visits to friends, taking courses, changing your clothes, remodeling the house and do whatever you can to enjoy the moment. You have spent too many time wasted in waiting for a loving response he will never deliver. Sorry, but it looks like it is so… When you say : ” he will not allow us to blend after all this time,” is obvious that your husband is using his son as the perfect excuse (after his job; his video/porn/trips, etc) to leave you waiting. He has a very poor image of what a loving wife is, so don’t spend more of your life in this useless pursuit….learn to have fun with the people who love you, instead.

  • Frankie

    Hi Nora, Thank you for your reply, I have ended this farse of a relationship and will never go back. He has called over 40 times in the last week, I sent him a letter saying its over in a kind way and that I do not want to continue with any discussions or go to any counselling with him, another line he threw at me to try to become a better person for me. Once upon a time this would have meant something to me but not anymore, he is just buying time with more to string me along and I have finally reached my limits. Each day I can feel my self esteem returning and I am saddened that I allowed myself to endure this treatment for so long. Thank you for your kindness and advice, for the first time in over a decade I know I am doing the right thing. Your advice and writings have helped open the exit door for me and I am extremely grateful. Thank you Nora x

  • Elizabeth

    Dear Nora and Frankie, I am in a similar marriage. Frankie, I am so happy for you, it is wonderful that you have taken charge of your own life, please never go back to that misery and hell. I am unemployed and so am totally dependent on husband who lives and works in another country. He even had an affair and refuses to talk about it and made me feel it was all my fault! I didnt think I would survive last year, thought of ending it all. After 12 years of this second marriage, having brought up his 4 and my 2 children who are all grown now, I feel I was just used and dumped. God will surely make a way and help me, please keep me in your prayers, I am trying so hard to find something that will make me financially independent of him. Thanks, it helps to share.

  • Sarah

    I am going though this now with my husband of almost 20 years. We’ve had a rocky road our whole marriage because of passive aggressive behavior on his part, and on my part, my continued belief (probably mistaken and probably enabling) that he wants to get better. It is the loneliest kind of lonely living with someone who makes sure that you don’t count.

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