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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Having a Relationship with an Emotionally Unavailable Partner

Before reading this article, I strongly suggest you read an earlier article I wrote: Emotional Unavailability: An Introduction, which gives much detailed information about how to define emotionally unavailable individuals, as well as how those individuals can do something about changing how they deal with their partners and themselves.
In today’s article, however, I wish to focus in much greater detail on the partner of the emotionally unavailable person, what being that partner tells you about yourself, if you are indeed in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable person, and what you can do about it. I might add, that the reason I wish to focus on the partner is because it is typically the partner of the emotionally unavailable one that comes to see me, as opposed to the reverse. It is the partner who wishes for things to change because of the pain he or she feels. Only rarely is it the emotionally unavailable one who comes into my office.
Defining the Partner of the Emotionally Unavailable Person
·       In all probability there have been issues with cool or rejecting or critical or absent parents on your side
·       This means there may have been unmet or disappointed emotions on your part, leaving you feeling bereft and alone, like an abandoned child
·       Therefore you may have learned a dysfunctional model of love, where love was never freely given, but you accepted that kind of love as the status quo due to your lack of knowledge and understanding as a child.
·       This in turn may have created a deep well of neediness, neediness, neediness, and more neediness (see also I Need You … I Need You Not)
·       The neediness in turn caused you to have a lack of healthy boundaries … basically causing you to accept most types of unacceptable behavior, just as long as you received some form of love or approbation in return (see also the two articles about boundaries listed near the end of this article). Of course, you may have occasionally exploded, when you had enough, but you never actually set the boundaries. You let things go, you accepted what should not have been accepted, you felt resentment, it went on for too long, then you exploded, and then eventually things went back to normal and the cycle would repeat itself.
·       Poor boundaries are implicit in a lack of self-respect, self-worth, and very particularly, self-love (see also the article about loving the self listed near the end of this article).
·       There tends to be a desire to fuse or merge with a new partner almost immediately after the relationship has started.
·       Frequently there is a loss of identity and little differentiation from the partner (you tend to take on their interests, activities, and friends, as opposed to continuing to develop your own).
·       Furthermore, of course, there tends to be addiction to the partner which implies withdrawal symptoms of the worst kind if and when the partner leaves.
·       This process (just as the process on the part of the emotionally unavailable partner) is also unconscious. What the person with this particular aspect of dysfunctionality – the partner of the unavailable one - is aware of, is the pain.
·       But the pain is interpreted as the fault of the partner, the emotionally unavailable partner, because this partner is not behaving the way the one who is feeling the pain would like him/her to behave. Consequently, blame is placed firmly on the shoulders of the emotionally unavailable person by the partner who is not getting what he wants, and feeling all this pain, and hence the partner does not become aware of his or her own need to clear up the issue of neediness and lack of boundaries and lack of real meaning in the life.
Now please read the next sentences carefully. Under no circumstances am I suggesting that the partner who is with the emotionally unavailable person is to blame. All I am saying is that this person has not yet accepted responsibility for their own well-being, which is a huge topic. Without being responsible for your own well-being – no matter what the outer circumstances – you will always be at the mercy of those outer circumstances, including how you react to a partner such as these, who appear to make life miserable, painful, and difficult. See also Claiming Responsibility For the Self and Cellular Responsibility: getting Your Power Back.
Steps To Take If You Are the Partner of an Emotionally Unavailable Person
First of all, please remember that this is not a question of “fixing” the emotionally unavailable partner. He/she will have to do that work, should he so decide, but the partner of the emotionally unavailable person, the one who feels rejected and who feels that the other one is cold and unemotional, needs to take a good look at the reasons why he or she is attracted over and over again into situations of this nature and what might be done about it (see also the Neediness article mentioned above):
·       It may mean, that as you work on yourself in order to resolve these issues within yourself, so that you no longer need to be attracted to these unavailable people, you may need to get out of the relationships, and get out fast! It may just be that unhealthy.
·       At the very least it means you need to immediately take a good hard look at your issues of self-love and poor boundaries and begin to make some deep changes there:    
Please forget about blaming your partner – he/she may have been horrible, but that simply is not the point (See also Grow in Richness: Stop the Blaming). From a psychological perspective you are in this relationship because you have some issues you need to work out and this particular partner brings those issues to the surface. Even if you get out of the relationship, you’ll need to consider those issues because if not, in all likelihood you will repeat the pattern. Someone without those issues would never have started a relationship with this particular partner, their self-love or healthy boundaries would have let them see from the beginning that this was not someone they wanted to get involved with, whereas in your own case you were blind to those early warning signs, that in hindsight you can probably recognize…
What I have sometimes suggested to clients is that if and when they start a new relationship, they do so from a position of very great awareness of their own past patterns, where they are constantly looking at their own reactions to the other person, as well as the other person’s behavior, their own boundaries, their desire to merge with the new partner long before that actually makes sense, the information their body is giving them, for example, did your tummy just scrunch painfully when your new date calls to cancel at the last minute, or when you catch this new person in a lie, albeit a very tiny, white lie, or when you notice that on those initial dates his/her eyes keep wandering around to check out the other people in the place you are at? The scrunching indicates that this is probably something you are familiar with, and may have avoided acknowledging in the past, especially at the beginning of other relationships because of your desire for it to work out. Now, however, with your new awareness you not only need to acknowledge the scrunching feeling, but you will also need to speak about this with your new date. Not in a bad way, but simply to say something along the lines of you not being accustomed to being stood up in the last minute, or lied to (even if it’s only such a tiny thing), or be disrespected by those wandering eyes, and that you would appreciate it; that it’s important to you, that it not happen again. Then, if it does happen again, you already know there is probably a pattern, you may allow another chance, but then, if it happens a third time,  you may decide to get on your horse and gallop out of Dodge.
And here is the most important part of what you’ve just done with that new person: you have shown yourself that you care enough about yourself and love yourself enough to follow through on this and to not see this person again if this is the way they are showing you – so early on in a relationship – that they are going to be treating you.
This brings growth and self-understanding, it brings awareness, and with awareness comes self-responsibility, and with that you are well on the road to inner peace and freedom.
NOTE: As with all my articles, and due to the restrictive nature of an article, there is always only an aspect of a given situation that can be discussed, when we all know that in real life, situations are much broader, more all-encompassing, and much less easy to define or typify. Therefore, please do not take the information in this article to be definitive: in real life, there is always much more to consider. This is merely a signpost helping to point you in a direction you may not have considered.

For more about love, relationships, love for the self, about inner peace, about choice, about self-responsibility, and about the self-transformational process - both in your outer life in the world, and in your inner life with your connection to your inner, divine self, have a look at my book Rewiring the Soul: Finding the Possible Self

To download the first chapter of the book, click here

From the Description of Rewiring the Soul on Amazon:

Ask anyone, whatever their circumstances, if their life is vibrant, fulfilling, harmonious and happy. An honest reply is likely to be 'no', because to answer a truthful 'yes' is no mean feat. Only to grow psychologically and emotionally is not enough. And only to grow spiritually is not enough either. All three dimensions need to be developed in order to realize your full potential. If you are willing to assume total responsibility for the self and to start what is an on-going journey, you will quickly begin to glimpse the first fruits of the ultimate goal: inner well-being, freedom, peace, harmony and joy. This book sets out the pathway to self-mastery and self-discovery and walking that pathway will be the most exciting adventure of your life.


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