Emotional Unavailability Part 2 – Unmasking the Unavailable

(If you haven’t read Part 1 of this series about Emotionally Unavailable People, you might want to start there… the rest of this will make more sense.)

So you see where the telltale signs of emotional unavailability show up in your life and, you’re a little surprised…

You see that you have the surprising pattern of being a little emotionally unavailable too. It’s just that your version doesn’t look like being cool, aloof, or narcissistic.

You can see that in reality, you struggle to let people in. You don’t trust easily, and maybe that’s indicative of emotional unavailability.

Maybe you recognize that you have a pattern of chasing after people who don’t want to be caught – aka the emotionally unavailable. Now you’re ready to stop the heartache that goes with “never being enough for them”.

Maybe you still see it as a “them” problem. Maybe you’re missing how you have anything to do with the problem…

Regardless, what we are looking at next is all the different ways emotional unavailability disguises itself; the masks it wears. 

Because after all, once you see it you can deal with it. It’s when the problem is hidden from your view that it’s hard to fix.

Emotional unavailability refers to those who create barriers and/or obstacles between themselves and others in an effort to avoid emotional intimacy.

One of the easiest places to spot emotional unavailability is certainly in dating relationships. However, I know the impact of the emotionally unavailable doesn’t apply strictly to the romantic relationships. 

I have personally experienced this in friendships, family and business relationships as well. I also hear my clients dealing with this in their marriages, with family, and at work too.

It’s everywhere.

Basically what I’m saying is: “just because you’re not on the dating scene doesn’t mean this topic is irrelevant to you!” 

You’re not off the hook yet…

Unmasking the Unavailable

I tried to make this as comprehensive as possible and I’m still sure I missed some.

TIP: I strongly recommend that as you review this list for how you experience emotional unavailability from others, that you also notice of any of your own behaviours

Here’s an opportunity to see your own personal style of unavailability…

Emotionally Unavailable Traits May Include… 

Compartmentalization of Their Life:

  • They’re extremely independent and always do things on their own. Always. 
  • They’ll come to your place but don’t invite you to their place – ever. Or it’s the other way around…
  • They’re always busy, meaning not a lot of space for you.

Limiting Emotional Connection:

  • They ‘don’t trust easily’.
  • They communicate strictly through electronic means. This means text communication is their preference. Live, real-time, face-to-face communication is basically nonexistent.
  • You never feel like they are fully engaged with you or your life. This is especially important as a flag for identifying emotionally unavailable friends.
  • They’re certainly generous but they have trouble receiving anything. This includes, (and is not limited to) anything from compliments to things, to love and appreciation. If you’re in a relationship with someone who can’t receive, it’s likely indicative of trouble down the road.
  • They avoid and/or minimize conversations about feelings and boundaries; which are necessary for functional relationships.

Manipulative or Controlling Behaviours:

  • Withholding – themselves and their love. Often in an effort to modify or change your behaviour. Meaning they might try to punish you by withholding communication or love etc.
  • They’re always right.
  • They avoid taking responsibility by saying they don’t understand, they’re confused, or they don’t know what to do in a given situation.
  • Regular deflection, avoidance, and blame. Doesn’t matter the topic, they deflect responsibility and avoid looking at their stuff. They may even try to change the topic or put blame back onto you.

Avoiding Commitment – to Both Plans & People:

  • Inability to commit to plans; the person who likes to get a ‘loose idea’ of what you’re up to this coming weekend but avoids setting any firm plans.
  • They’re always (secretly or unconsciously) looking for bigger and better. That might mean they’re constantly texting with other people while they’re with you (or checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc…). Or maybe they stay on dating sites while they’re dating you.
  • They’re ‘players’ – both the men and women.
  • They participate in extra-marital affairs or cheat on their partners; cheating while in relationships and being the ‘other man/woman’ when they’re not exclusively involved.
  • They have ‘commitment issues’ and probably even joke about them.

Avoiding Responsibility for Impact:

  • Disappearing with no explanation. This includes disappearing emotionally, even if they remain physically present.
  • They make the same poor decisions over and over and over… 
    • Dating the same type of person – or worse yet, the same person! – even when they know it’ll end in disaster. 
    • Always ‘saving’ the same (type of) person from the same problems. 
    • Taking the same type of job even though they hate it.
  • They’re elusive and regularly have to explain and re-explain things.
  • They won’t outright ask for what they need.

Being Highly Independent:

  • They rarely, if ever, ask for help.
  • They prefer to always do things on their own. Always

Having High Standards & Expectations:

  • They strive for perfection.
  • It feels like they’re always judging you
  • Can be extremely critical; even if they don’t say it, you know they’re not impressed

This list is intended to give you some markers to start working with. To help you identify your own tendencies through the typical experiences you have with unavailability from others.

It’s important to note that: not all of these symptoms will be present with any given person.

The Emotionally Unavailable Can be Digitally Addicted to Their Devices

Emotional unavailability is an issue that has long plagued our culture. However, as technology continues to change how we connect and communicate, emotional unavailability has become an epidemic.

In today’s world we get to hide our emotional unavailability behind computer screens and smartphones. We cover up our emotional unavailability with being too busy. 

As we continue to rely on digital communication instead of face-to-face interaction, this epidemic will continue to worsen. It is up to you to identify and fix it within yourself. Only you can be a stand for having emotionally available, functional connections in your life.

Standing in your power will stop you from getting tangled-up with people that will hurt you. 

One of the most frequent ways I see this pattern manifest is: people thinking they can get into a relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable (exhibiting signs from the list above) and fix them. 

Anytime fixing or changing a person comes into a relationship, it is immediately dysfunctional. This includes romantic relationships and friendships alike.

I promise you ‘fixing’ is not an option, it’s not how it works. If you want a healthy functional relationship, emotional availability is a key ingredient.

Remember: All relationships are a mirror of ourselves. They are an opportunity to learn about and grow ourselves. Therefore, if relationships with emotionally unavailable people are your norm, you’ve got some work to do.

What to Do About Emotional Unavailability 

I’m clear that figuring out how to deal with this in your life – in whatever capacity it shows up – isn’t easy. 

Seeing your own behaviour and tendencies is a real challenge for people to do on their own. With that in mind, I’d like to suggest that we start dealing with your stuff by looking at them – by doing a little finger pointing first.

This is the ONLY time I’d ever suggest this approach, however, it’ll make this process easier to get your head around.

Where You Can Start

  1. Start by looking at them, the other people you’re in relationships with, and see what the dynamics are there. Look at your romantic relationships (past and present), your friendships, and your family affairs. See what some of the similar behaviours are and make a list. 
  2. List all of the common ways you experience emotional unavailability from others; you can use the list from this post as a starting place.
  3. Get honest with yourself and see how you contribute to those experiences and make a list of that stuff. 
  4. Then bring it with you to next week’s post so we can pull this all together. 

I promise that the next post will explain how to stop this from happening in your life. It’s a simple – and definitely not an easy process – and it works. 

But you gotta do the work…you have a metaphorical ‘emotional-debt’ to pay and this is where you can start.

Grab a pen and your journal. Then make a couple of lists and come to the next conversation armed and ready to do battle for yourself!