Have you ever encountered somebody you think is not emotionally available? Have you ever felt like a friend, family member or partner doesn’t care about how you feel? Is there emotional distance no matter how hard you try to connect?
Your answer must be yes. Everybody has encountered somebody like this at some point in their lives. The kind of people I’m talking about are not emotionally unavailable and you can’t make them be.
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Dismissive Avoidant Attachment
No matter what you try or how emotionally balanced you are, they are still not able to “go there” with your feelings or theirs. There are many reasons for this.
As for just about everything I write, it stems from their childhood. They developed a dismissive avoidant attachment with their parents or caregivers.
If you want to read more about dismissive avoidant attachment, click here. This article is wonderful about explaining the dismissive avoidant attachment.
For now, we need to look at loving someone with avoidant attachment. Keep reading and I will give you the signs to see if somebody is not emotionally available.
Before I do that, I want to remind you again that you cannot change somebody who is not emotionally available. Trust me, I tried that many times. It never works.
Loving Someone with Avoidant Attachment
For many years, I was a pro at attracting men and friends who were not emotionally available. As I mentioned previously, that behavior stems from my own childhood.
Both of my parents were emotionally unavailable throughout my childhood. If you want think that may have been the case for you, click here to read my post “Emotionally Unavailable Parents: 5 Steps to Heal.”
The result of my having parents who were not emotionally available to me showed up in every romantic relationship prior to my husband. I attempted to force men who were not emotionally available to truly hear my feelings and share theirs.
Engaging with somebody who is not emotionally available is incredibly frustrating. People who are not emotionally available struggle any time there is the slightest bit of conversation related to feelings.
I remember a specific conversation with a guy I dated for a few years. I was fairly new into my healing journey at the time.
We were sitting in our living room and I was talking about the trauma of having an alcoholic father. It appeared as though he didn’t care about my trauma.
He wasn’t being mean intentionally. However, I later realized he had that same dismissive avoidant attachment I mentioned earlier.
The way he dismissed my feelings was to tell me about a traumatic experience from his childhood. The difference between what we shared was that I could express my feelings and he couldn’t.
The way he talked about his traumatic experience falsely showed me that he wasn’t affected by his traumatic experience. So, what I heard was that my feelings of sadness and anger about mine were wrong since he didn’t have any of that.
He was not emotionally available. So, the sharing of his story sounded like he was reading a cookbook.
His emotional distance from the traumatic experience was HUGE. Finding your mother in a bathtub barely alive after a suicide attempt should elicit feelings in a grand way.
That is truly traumatic and something I can’t imagine. Like I said, he spoke about it as if he were simply reading a cookbook.
No emotion. Just going through the experience step by step, like then I added two eggs to the bowl. At the time, I was working on being emotionally balanced and thought that everybody could talk about their feelings as well.
Oh how I was wrong. Not only could he not talk about his feelings, but he also couldn’t empathize with mine.
That was a big sign that I missed pointing me towards the realization that he was not emotionally available. Loving somebody with avoidant attachment is hard, to say the least.
The reason I chose him as a partner was that I was used to people who were not emotionally available. Subconsciously, I believed that’s what I deserved. Plus, it’s all I ever knew.
Being Shamed for Being Emotionally Balanced
Are you thinking about similar experiences you’ve had with somebody who was not emotionally available? If so, you’ve probably beaten yourself up for being “too emotional.”
Unfortunately, that’s what I did too. My thoughts were, “I am too much. I should be able to control my feelings better and not let things affect me.”
Thinking like that is damaging to your soul. Instead, you need to learn the signs that somebody is not emotionally available. Also, you need to find a licensed therapist to help you heal your childhood wounds. That is what is leading you to attracting people who are not emotionally available.
For help with finding a good therapist, click here to read my post “5 Important Steps to Finding a Good Therapist.” If you don’t heal that, you will continue to attract people who are not emotionally available.
Now, for the signs I promised to identify if somebody is not emotionally available. What does it look like to interact with somebody who is not emotionally available?
5 Signs Someone is Not Emotionally Unavailable:
- You never know what they are actually feeling, regardless of the situation they are experiencing. Their facial expressions and body show no response to experiences others would easily show anger, sadness, shame, etc.
- They are dismissive towards the feelings of others. You might hear things such as “you are so emotional,” “I don’t know why everything seems to bother you.” Reason being is that they have worked so hard to block themselves from feeling anything.
- They don’t seem to have intimate connections with others, as they’re only able to have surface-level relationships.
- Deep and meaningful conversations are one-sided and you leave those conversations feeling lonely or as if you weren’t truly heard.
- They appear to have a calmness about them no matter what takes place, but that “calmness” is merely a mask covering the feelings they have avoided.
We need to dive deeper into these signs. Let’s look at how you never know what the person is feeling. No matter how hard something “should” be emotionally, they still show no emotion.
No explanation is needed as to why that is incredibly unhealthy. Nobody ever benefits from a life full of emotional distance.
If you spend a lot of time and energy trying to “read” a person who is not emotionally available, then you spend a lot of time and energy being frustrated. Typically, the reason they don’t show emotions is that doing so in childhood left them with negative experiences.
When that happens, they learn they should never feel or express their feelings. That’s the root cause of someone not being emotionally available.
It can be infuriating to interact with somebody who is dismissive of your feelings. Often, it feels like they don’t care about you.
Most of the time, that is not true. What it means is that a person who is not emotionally available never learned how to express or experience his or her feelings. Like I said, he or she had a negative experience when doing so as a child.
That makes it almost impossible for them to do it as an adult. They can go to therapy and learn how to do that, or some may learn on their own.
However, most people who are not emotionally available will not go to therapy for that. The reason for that is because they don’t see a need to discuss their feelings.
If they were to dig deep down into their subconscious mind, they would see a lot of fear related to feelings. Again, their dismissiveness of your feelings does not equate to them not caring about you.
Relationships with the Emotionally Unavailable
Somebody who is not emotionally available usually will not have deeply personal relationships with others. Not only that, but they don’t really want to.
They don’t want to because deeply personal relationships would require vulnerability, which would require the ability to experience and express feelings.
It can be tricky to determine if somebody has those kinds of deep relationships. A person who is not emotionally available may have several “friends.”
They also may spend a good bit of time with those “friends.” However, if you were to analyze those friendships, you’d probably see that they are surface level.
What I mean by surface level friendships is that their discussions with “friends” probably center around things like what’s going on in the world, sports, their jobs, and activities they do. They won’t have conversations that point towards any kind of feelings.
When a topic comes up for people who ARE emotionally available and would without a doubt have feelings about, you’ll know what they are feeling. As for somebody who is not emotionally available, you’ll think that same topic doesn’t affect them in any way.
Let’s look at an example of that. I’ll use a 40-year old man named, Stan. He just found out that his mother has dementia.
The day Stan gets that news, he is out with his friends at a bar. Stan orders a beer and sits down with his buddies. They ask him what’s new in his life.
Stan simply states, “Apparently, my mom has dementia. My dad said he’ll eventually move her into a nursing home. I’m working on a new project at work and I’ll be going to New York for a couple of weeks to work on it.”
Do you see how the news of his mother seems to be exactly that? It’s just news. Stan and his friends then move on to another topic or comment on the football game they are watching.
About an hour later, one of Stan’s friends might tell him that if he needs to talk about the news of his mom, that he can talk about it to him. Stan feels uncomfortable and finds it odd that his friend would think he’d need to talk about it.
In Stan’s mind, he already talked about it because he gave them the facts. His mom got diagnosed with dementia. His dad will eventually put her in a nursing home.
End of story for Stan. Remember, Stan is not emotionally available. So, if anybody alludes to him possibly having feelings about anything, he finds that odd.
This is an example of creating emotional distance. Stan is making it abundantly clear that he is distanced from any feelings about his mother’s diagnosis.
Stan and his friends continue on with their night. There is no more discussion of his mom and there won’t be until she is moved into a nursing home.
When that happens, Stan will tell his friends just as matter of factly as he did with the news that she was diagnosed with dementia. He is incapable of connecting to any feelings that those who are emotionally available would easily have about their mother’s declining health and brain function.
Now, let’s look at how deep conversations will be one-sided with a person who is not emotionally available. I’ll use my ex-boyfriend again as an example.
I lived in an apartment in Dallas that had a beautiful rooftop that over-looked the city. We were up there one night just hanging out.
The topic of conversation was what we wanted in life. Big dreams are something I’ve always had and I almost always make my dreams come true.
As I was sharing my dreams with my ex-boyfriend, I noticed that he seemed bored. He was listening, but he didn’t know what to do with my excitement about the life I was creating.
I had been talking for about thirty minutes before I realized that he had not said a word. That’s kind of funny to me now because I am so passionate about that topic that I can get carried away!
Our “conversation” was one-sided. He had no clue what to do with me and my “big” feelings. It doesn’t matter if your feelings are “negative” or “positive.
Somebody who is not emotionally available will not know what to do with them either way. That’s a terrible feeling when you’re the one pouring your heart out.
The realization of the conversation being one-sided left me feeling incredibly lonely. I quickly let him know that, which led to a fight.
Now, I realize that he was not emotionally available and that deep down he did care. He just didn’t know how to show that.
Sadly, my ex-boyfriend had a dismissing avoidant attachment with his parents when he was a child. That resulted in everything I have been describing about our relationship.
Again, loving someone with avoidant attachment is hard. If you are emotionally balanced and emotionally available, the relationship will result in heartache.
My relationship with him continued for a couple more years. However, I am glad that it continued. I needed that time for healing.
That time allowed me to see the importance of finding an emotionally available man with whom I’d spend the rest of my life. For that, I will forever be thankful for that ex-boyfriend. He realized he wasn’t what I needed emotionally and ended the relationship.
Emotionally Unavailable People Appear Calm
Moving on to the final sign. People who are not emotionally available often appear as very calm, “even-keeled.” This is not because they have done a lot of work to get that way.
Instead, it’s because they learned as a child to never show emotions. That is easily confused with that calmness I was referring to previously.
This is the sneakiest and hardest to see of all the signs that somebody is not emotionally available. He or she might even feel as though they are your “rock” because they’re always calm no matter what is going on.
However, that is actually unhealthy. You need to feel your feelings and allow others to feel theirs for a relationship to be healthy.
Healing from Relationships with Those Emotionally Unavailable
After you have read more about these signs that somebody is not emotionally available, are you thinking about different relationships you’ve had? Did you miss the signs that they were not emotionally available?
If so, that’s ok. Please don’t beat yourself up for that. You are not broken. Stop thinking that right now.
If you feel like you are lost and don’t know who you are due to relationships with people who are not emotionally available, I’ve got you covered.
You need to read my post, Feeling Lost in Life. It will help you see that you are not lost. In fact, you are right where you need to be, reading this post.
You can’t be mad at yourself for not knowing something you were never taught. However, you now know the signs that somebody is not emotionally available. You get to decide if you will get your needs met or not.
As with all of my posts, my suggestion for healing from relationships with somebody who is not emotionally available (and everything you struggle with), is to find a licensed therapist to guide you towards healing.
Also, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Comment below about those experiences to share them with the Not Good Enough Stuff Community. We have a supportive community and can learn from one another.
Not only that, but if you have questions about these signs, ask your question in the comments. I will respond and answer your questions.
This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.