Is Your Partner Emotionally Unavailable?
Why do we date a person? Have you ever asked yourself this question? Physical attraction, yes, of course. But that makes up just a small fraction of the reason for seeking a partner. For the most part, we are looking for spending time with someone.
Be it Netflix and chill or lunch dates or adventurous treks-we try to find companionship with a person with similar tastes and interests. This is exactly what gets us involved emotionally with a person. Ultimately, we want a partner who is there for us, in our happiness and sadness.
But if lately, you are feeling a lack of emotional connection with your partner, there could be something more serious going on. Could your partner be emotionally unavailable? Or is it you who’s the culprit? Read on to find out.
Emotional unavailability: What does it mean?
Before understanding what emotional unavailability is, let us first try and understand what it means to be emotionally available. Emotional availability refers to the ability of two people to share a healthy connection and show each other emotional support. It is a direct reflection of the quality of the relationship between the two on a psychological level. Emotional availability between partners in a relationship finds its roots in insensitivity, structuring, non-intrusiveness, and non-hostility. This concept is a dynamic one, where one’s availability influences the feelings of another. Being a good listener and giving your loved one emotional support is key to a long-term relationship!
Now, moving on to being emotionally unavailable. If you are in a relationship where either partner neglects making an effort for emotional investment, there’s a high chance that he/she is emotionally unavailable. Such a person may find it difficult to get involved on a deeper level with another person and tends to have more casual relationships than something serious.
Signs of an emotionally unavailable partner
1. Avoiding the talk
When was the last time you and your partner had a long, serious talk about your personal/couple issues? If you took too long to even think of an answer, it could be a problem. Relationships thrive on communication, and its lack thereof could be a problem. It could also mean that one is unable to have such conversations/lacks interest in having them. Either way, it’s not good news.
2. Time for a history lesson
How well do you know your partner’s relationship history? Have they been known to jump from one relationship to another? Or have never had a long-term relationship in their life? A reason for this instability could be that they avoided having a deep emotional connection with their partners and one of them broke it off.
3. Having a relationship with their voicemail
Does your partner often ignore your call? Or ignore your texts? So much so that you are constantly left leaving voicemail and messages that go unanswered? If yes, this is a sign of an emotionally unavailable person, who doesn’t invest and prioritize enough time for you.
4. Your plans and time are non-existent to them
Does it happen often that they make plans without consulting with you? Or decide to ditch you when you made plans to meet? Once in a while is fine, but if this happens often, it means they don’t respect your time and schedule and that could be a problem.
5. Your message gets lost in translation... always
Does it happen often that when you share a part of your life or your feelings with your partner, they get misinterpreted and you end up feeling guilty about sharing? Mutual understanding is a basic need in a relationship, and when that isn’t there, you may begin to question the relationship.
Why is your partner emotionally unavailable?
There could be many reasons for a person’s emotional unavailability. One of the most important reasons could be a rough childhood. If a person’s parents/guardians neglected to show their emotions to their child, it could leave a lasting impression on their child’s mind. This can hamper their emotional development and lead to emotional unavailability, where they shut off from expressing their emotions.
Another reason could be other underlying issues such as mental health problems, or if they are going through a difficult time in their lives, etc. In such situations, maintaining an emotional connection with a partner can get too overwhelming, and hence they focus on other things. This situation is usually temporary and can remedy itself.
A third reason could be a negative experience in their past relationships. Studies show that men experience more distress from the sexual involvement of their partner with another man whereas emotional involvement with another woman is the trigger for women. Toxic relationships or incidences of abuse can also cause a person to not open up easily in their next relationships.
How does such a relationship affect your health?
A relationship thrives on connection. And if that is lacking, the whole dynamic can go haywire. Not to mention, a failing relationship can hamper your physical and mental health too.
Here are some ways such a relationship could harm your health:
1. Heavy on your heart
A bad relationship can take a toll on your heart literally. Distress within the relationship is associated with poor cardiovascular health. It can also be a reason for weight gain and puts further pressure on the heart.
2. Attacks your immunity
Besides personal attacks and sneaky remarks, a failing relationship can be bad for your immune system. It causes an increase in inflammatory markers in your body and can weaken your immune response.
3. Extra gloominess
Such relationships can affect your mental state. You may feel lonely being in a poor relationship. They can lead to anxiety and depression as well.
What to do in such situations?
If you want to build a healthy relationship with your partner, here are some things you could try:
- Understand where they might be coming from: Does your partner seem like an emotionless person? There might be more to what meets the eye. Making an effort to understand the reason why your partner is distant can be the best way to get around their emotional unavailability. This way you can gauge what steps to take next.
- Communicate your concerns: It is possible that your partner might not know about the troubles you are having with them. It is important to communicate your concerns with their specific behaviors. However, ensure that you do the same most compassionately.
- Give them enough space: This sounds like the last thing you want to do with an emotionally unavailable person. However, giving them a safe space and emotional support is important to not push them away.
- Couples counseling: You can encourage them to go for therapy, either by themselves or together. Getting professional help to resolve deep-rooted issues can be an effective solution.
- Be mentally prepared: If you do things right, your partner will open up to you. However, you need to be prepared in case they have an emotional breakdown. Offer them support and kindness to the best of your ability and they will feel closer to you and trust you more.
Change is not something that happens overnight. Especially in situations like these. If you are serious about making it work with your partner, you need to be patient, supportive. So don't forget, healthy relationships and long-term relationships take a lot of work, and those willing to take the efforts reap the benefits.
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- Saunders H, et al. Emotional availability: theory, research, and intervention. Front Psychol. 2015 Jul 28;6:1069.
- Wade T, et al. Emotional Accessibility Is More Important Than Sexual Accessibility in Evaluating Romantic Relationships - Especially for Women: A Conjoint Analysis. Front Psychol. 2018 May 14;9:632.
- Kiecolt-Glaser J, et al. Lovesick: How Couples' Relationships Influence Health. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2017 May 8;13:421-443.
- Dealing With Your Partner's Fear of Intimacy - Albert Ellis Institute Available at https://albertellis.org/2014/04/dealing-with-your-partners-fear-of-intimacy/