Do you feel alone even when you are with your partner? Do they seem emotionally distant, and you can’t figure out why? If you’re doing most of the emotional heavy lifting in your relationship, it can be pretty disheartening. Unfortunately, some people convey emotional unavailability in relationships, which is the inability or unwillingness to connect deeply with others in an emotional way. It’s often characterized by inconsistent communication, avoiding deep conversations, avoiding public labels of your relationship, not showing affection, and acting selfishly, among other things.
So, how do you recognize and deal with emotional unavailability in your relationship? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Recognizing Emotional Unavailability
If you aren’t exactly sure if your partner is emotionally unavailable, here are some signs to look out for:
- Ghosting (literal unavailability),
- Having your feelings invalidated
- Conflict avoidance
- Not being prioritized
There are also quizzes you can take online to help you determine if emotional unavailability is an issue in your relationship. While every person is different, the effects of emotional detachment are typically the same – feeling distant, unappreciated, and unsupported by your partner.
If you’ve recognized emotional unavailability from your partner, the next step is to bring it to their attention. The conversation might not be easy, but it’s necessary if you want to work through it! This is where open, honest communication comes into play. Tell them how you feel! Ask them to explain where they stand and what their expectations are from the relationship. Creating a safe space for them to share emotions – good and bad – without judgment will encourage them to open up more frequently.
Identifying the Root of the Problem
If emotional unavailability is an issue, it’s helpful to figure out where it stems from. Some people act this way out of fear or insecurity. They might be afraid of getting hurt or suffer from self-esteem issues that end up sabotaging the relationship. It could also be the result of past trauma or mental health issues.
Of course, some people just choose to be emotionally unavailable. It’s often a temporary one, as either you or your partner are navigating how to prioritize a new relationship or process a new situation while in a relationship (including big life events like job changes/loss, loss of a loved one, etc.). Getting to the root of the problem will help you discuss and plan ways to move forward, whether it’s together or separately.
Focusing On Your Mental Health
Whether it’s you or your partner that is emotionally unavailable, focusing on your mental health should be a priority. Since insecurities and past trauma often play a big role, it’s helpful to address them. Reflecting on past relationships, naming your emotions, focusing on being more vulnerable, and creating clear boundaries with your partner can help people learn to be more emotionally available.
If your partner is the one who is emotionally detached, try prioritizing your mental health through journaling, exercise, meditation, yoga, mindfulness, therapy, etc. It will not only help you cope with an emotionally unavailable partner, but will also allow you to be a better support system for them as they work through their availability.
Take Responsibility for Your Emotions
Evaluating your boundaries, how you communicate your needs, and the expectations you pose to your partner can help you understand if you play a role in their emotional unavailability. Their behavior is in no way your fault, but there are things that you can do to encourage more emotional vulnerability on their behalf.
It’s important for both of you to take responsibility for your emotions and how they make each other feel. Sometimes, this requires you to take a step back from the relationship, but other times it can be resolved through an open and honest conversation.
Evaluate the Relationship
As much as you might want the relationship to work, there comes a time when you have to ask yourself: is it worth it? Being with someone who is emotionally unavailable can take a toll on your mental and physical well-being. At the end of the day, you should be making yourself the priority, not a relationship that brings you nothing but anxiety and stress. You and your partner need to candidly evaluate the relationship and how committed you each are to working through emotional issues.
If you need a little extra help navigating emotional unavailability, a therapist or relationship coach is always there! Therapy provides a safe space for both of you to be open about how you feel and find ways to address any issues. Relationships can’t survive on emotional unavailability, so if you can’t seem to work through it on your own, a therapist might be the best option.
Traditional therapy isn’t for everyone, so luckily there’s an alternative that’s just as effective – Relish! It’s a relationship coaching and self-care app that can help you and your partner identify and address different struggles in your relationship, including emotional unavailability. Relish offers personalized coaching where you can communicate with real relationship experts.
There are certainly ways to address the causes and manifestations of emotional unavailability, but remember – it takes a lot of patience, time, and vulnerability. Focusing on communication and commitment will help strengthen your relationship and leave all those emotional issues in the past.