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Friday, December 14, 2007

Emotional Unavailability and the Bedroom

The Sydney Opera
Much has been written about those individuals that we consider emotionally unavailable (they have difficulty being vulnerable in the emotional arena, and therefore tend to shy back from getting to that point). Much has also been written about the effect of this on their unwitting partners, who often remain blissfully unaware of the reality of their situation until years have passed, and much damage - both to them and the relationship - has been done.

Having said that, this is not meant to be a diatribe against the emotionally unavailable, as they themselves, are often unaware of what it is inside of them that continually causes them to hold those people to whom they are very close at hand's length in their lives, even after years of marriage. There is just simply a point at which they find themselves uncomfortable in certain conversations, or with a certain type of show of affection, and so they withdraw, and literally refuse to engage.

I have written a number of in-depth articles about this and several related issues:

Emotional Unavailability: An Introduction
I Need You...I Need You Not
Your Parents, Your Children, and the Marital Bed

Today's post is more about the fact that on occasion emotional unavailability can lead to difficulties in the bedroom, as the emotionally unavailable individual withdraws in that arena by withholding sex. Please understand that this is rarely done with premeditation and calculation. Nor is it necessarily done to be cruel (although instances of that do, of course, occur). The main reason why it is done - and this happens subconsciously - is because the emotionally unavailable person fears opening up to the partner on both the level of love and the level of sex.

This fear, which really translates into a fear of vulnerability, generally only occurs when the emotionally unavailable person feels secure in a relationship and that is when the othe partner begins to notice that many strange things are happening. Sex is coming to a grinding halt, and the refusal to engage in emotionally important subjects for the couple commences, partially due to the fact that the emotionally unavailable partner is now secure in the knowledge that little that he or she will do, would cause the other partner to leave...

As mentioned earlier, this is not generally due to manipulation, malice, or calculation on the emotionally unavailable partner's side, although on occasion it is, but rather due to a complete unawareness of these underlying issues of fear of vulnerability in the arena of love and sex.

If this sounds familiar to you, I suggest you read the above articles on my website in order to gain greater understanding into the dynamics of these relationships. Clearly, where there is an emotionally unavailable partner, there is another partner who somehow dances this tango with him or her, either because this other partner is needy, or has poor boundaries and all its ensuing issues such as poor self-image, poor self-respect, and a lack of self-love. Relationships - especially when they are still relatively unaware relationships, where neither partner has recognized his or her own issues, are almost always a dance of some kind, where each partner's issues fit beautifully and exactly into the issues of the other.

There is a way out of this huis clos. Inform yourself, begin to become aware, make new choices, and things can and will change.

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  1. That's a fascinating subject, What's especially interesting is to think about how our "issues" - whatever they might be - can fit so "beautifully" together.

    It's difficult to watch people who are trapped in emotionally distant relationships because so much joy is missing.

  2. But don't forget, when you say "it's difficult to watch people"... that they are, in fact, in the most perfect situation possible (as C.G. Jung would say, thanks to the infinite intelligence of the psyche) to further their own growth...if they would only become aware of the tango they are dancing, rather than blaming each other for the lack of joy or fulfillment.

  3. I'm entering my 29th year of marriage, and a total of nearly 34 years together with my husband who is emotionally unavailable. Not sure how we've lasted this long as we began having problems in our 4th year of marriage. Now I'm very frustrated and really emotionally drained! It's difficult because I know we love each other, but I'm now finding that I'm distancing myself from him as a result of the challenges for so many years. Your article here is confirming all the more that emotional unavailability is what I'm dealing with in my marriage. I've desired counseling with my husband for many years, but even trying to discuss that option with him goes nowhere. I'll just have to do it alone and see if we survive another year! Thanks for the information.

  4. Hi, thanks for your comment...in a situation of this nature, that has lasted so long, I would suggest that you might want to consider counseling (in your city of residence) on your own - even if your husband does not participate. It will help to strengthen you in important ways and thus help you consider your options.

    Most importantly, however, it will help you understand what it is in you that has allowed you to live under these circumstances for so long, and perhaps give you the insight to begin to change that part of you, i.e., grow to a greater love towards yourself.


  5. Thank you Gabriella. I will at least seek counseling on my own. In the meantime my research has revealed that I'm a love addict, and so I suppose that's why our marriage has gone on this long. Therefore, we both have our problems, it certainly isn't just him! No surprise - right! Lol. At least I'm still laughing, but even that has become more difficult to do anymore. Thanks again.