Emotional Unavailability – When Your Partner Can’t Connect

Emotional Unavailability – When Your Partner Can’t Connect. When we commit to a relationship, we usually expect that our partner will reciprocate with roughly the same level of emotional involvement that we put into it. Many of us hope to find a soulmate, a partner who can share and understand our feelings and ways of thinking on an intensely personal level. Others don’t expect such an intense level of involvement and feel more comfortable maintaining personal privacy within a relationship with more appropriate boundaries. Conflicts may arise when the two partners differ in their expectations of how close they should become. One partner may feel emotionally stranded, feeling abandoned and craving more closeness, while the other partner may feel smothered or pressured into providing more of his or her emotional self than can possibly be given.

The course of a relationship follows a predictable path. The early weeks, months, or even years of a relationship, in fact, are a time of togetherness – when partners search for and experience the similarities that bring them together. It is common for a couple during this first phase to experience a level of emotional sharing so intense that they want to carry their relationship to a more committed level. The next stage, however, is when boundaries are established, when we focus on our differences and in maintaining our own individuality. Couples who can negotiate their way through both of these stages are moving toward a successful long-term commitment. Both of the initial stages typify a good relationship – the coming together phase, followed by the firming up of our own identities within the relationship. A solid relationship is one in which feelings can be readily expressed and shared while each of the partners is able to experience a sense of their own identities.

All too often, however, there is a discrepancy between the two partners in terms of how much of their emotional life they make available to the other. When one partner is able to share emotionally and the other is not, it is usually the emotionally available one who feels more pain. Take the classic example of a couple who has an intense courtship. One partner lavishes the other with flowers, expensive dinners out, and intimate phone calls. Sweetness fills the air and it feels like a dream come true. You have finally met “the one” you had always hoped to meet. But then, almost as quickly as it began, your partner fails to reciprocate when it comes to sharing emotional feelings. Dating comes to a stop, voicemail messages are not answered, and it’s over. There is no fight. There is no discussion about why things are coming to an end.  You’ve now experienced being “ghosted.”

After you accept that it’s over, you struggle to make sense of the relationship and notice that the focus was always on you, and that’s why it felt so good. In fact, your partner knew a great deal about you, but you knew virtually nothing about him or her. You confused flattery and attention with emotional involvement. You may finally realize that your partner was unable to connect with you or anyone on an emotional level. He or she was an expert at luring people in, but had no ability to sustain an emotionally available relationship over time.

It is a painful ride, but you can learn a valuable lesson from it – that relationships entail reciprocal self-disclosure and sharing. The next time, you’ll have the wisdom to know this before being drawn in.  For more information about emotionally unavailable people and how to avoid them or try to live with them contact me at (858) 735-1139

The Dumpers and The Dumpees

The Dumpers and The Dumpees.  A breakup seems easiest for couples who decide mutually to end the relationship. In most cases, however, as suggested by Bruce Fisher and Robert Alberti, in their book, Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends, a breakup involves a dumper, the party who takes the initiative to end the relationship, and a dumpee, the one who wants the relationship to continue it.  Sometimes, when one analyzes the nature of the relationship, it may be difficult to decide just who is the dumper and the dumpee. In general, however, the dumper is the one who says it is all over, and the dumpee is the one in shock who begs the other not to leave. Dumpees often say they were taken completely by surprise by their partner’s announcement.

The breakup experience is often very different for each of the two parties. The dumper usually began preparing for the end well before the final announcement, and the actual parting often comes as a relief for the dumper. The primary emotion experienced by the dumper is guilt. The dumpee, on the other hand, is usually hit by surprise and with a great deal of pain. The turmoil of the breakup itself is usually much more intense for the dumpee, but it is this pain that can motivate more personal growth. The main task of the dumpee is to work through feelings of rejection. Both parties usually experience a great deal of pain as their relationship comes to an end, although the pain of guilt is different from the pain of rejection. For a healthy adjustment, it is important to recognize which role has been assumed, dumper or dumpee, and to work on the issues appropriate to that role.

How Long Do I Wait Until I Get Into Another Relationship? Expect that it will take at least a year before things begin to feel at all normal again. For most of us, depending on the length and the nature of our previous relationship, it will take two or three years. This may seem like an eternity, but in reality, this is a wonderful and precious opportunity to find out who you are as an unattached individual. A word of warning is in order – don’t expect to involve yourself with someone else immediately! You are on the rebound. To attach yourself prematurely in a love relationship is unfair to you and to the other person. You must deal with important personal issues when your previous love relationship comes to an end.

Living through the transition and exploring these issues can be painful – and falling in love again may seem like the perfect way to end the pain.  If you enter the dating scene too quickly and before you have a chance to explore the issues which led to your breakup, the other person becomes a replacement object, and that is not what a healthy relationship is about. You will probably carry into this replacement relationship the same issues that helped to lead to the demise of your former relationship – and similar events may very well happen again. Your real goal is to discover who you are and to explore what happened. When you are at the point of being able to have a happy and fulfilled life as a single person, then you can choose when, or even if, you should involve yourself in another love relationship. When you know that you have that choice, you may be ready. I help individuals and couples who have broken up, with this process in therapy.

If you would like to know more about working on personal issues as they do effect relationship issues, please call me at (858) 735-1139 and I can help you sort out what you need to know about what is contributing to your relationship.