Emotionally unavailable men are all too prevalent in our society.
We hear it all the time. I’ve been through it, and everyone I know who dates men has, at one time or another, found themselves encountering an emotionally unavailable one. It’s a frustrating situation because it creates a block to greater intimacy. One minute, we’re running headlong into love. The next, we’ve crashed into the wall of their resistance.
I could go on at length about how the patriarchy and its resulting toxic masculinity create men who struggle with expressing their feelings or communicating well within relationships. But I won’t.
While we know that the patriarchy hurts every gender, we’re still lightyears away from smashing it to pieces because while some women are on board with establishing equality, most men seem hesitant to destroy a power structure that has benefited them — even if it is equally hurting them in the process.
The trouble with dating is that we can’t always identify which men are emotionally unavailable. It’s not like they wear name tags or introduce themselves as such. Instead, we’re left to figure it out on our own.
And when we do, here are seven things we’d like to say:
Too many of us have survived relationships with men who were unable to partner us in healthy ways. I know I have. Time and again, I chose men who seemed on the surface to be available but were still hung up on an ex or unable (or unwilling) to work through their baggage.
There comes a point when we realize that we’ve invested everything we can into a relationship that has given little back. Relationships can’t be a one-way street where one person can easily get their needs met while the other person has to adapt without it.
That was my entire marriage. The roles were clear: I contorted myself into increasingly smaller shapes to make him more comfortable in our life, and he did nothing to accommodate my feelings or needs.
After too many years doing without love, sex, or romance, I set myself free and never looked back except to wonder how I had ever allowed myself to partner someone who didn’t give a damn about my experience of the relationship.
Are you a bellhop because that’s a lot of baggage you’re carrying?
Try connecting with an awkward pickup line/dad joke. (Men really love dad jokes.) Okay, maybe we wouldn’t actually say this, but sometimes we do want to point out the enormous amount of baggage being hefted around in the relationship.
It makes us wonder if there’s enough room for us.
Hold still and let me love you!
Sadly, this was usually my go-to technique for dealing with the emotionally unavailable, as if I could love them enough for them to feel safe opening up to me. I just kept pouring more love in, as if it fixed anything.
I even did this in a relationship where I knew I wasn’t loved in return. Still, I wanted him to feel loved — even though I knew I wasn’t.
Trying to love someone who can’t give us what we need isn’t healthy. It also just doesn’t work. We’ll likely run out of hope before we ever run out of love.
Help me help you.
When all else fails, throw a tired Jerry Maguire quote out there. Show me the money might be confusing and awkward, and you complete me is sure to make an emotionally unavailable man sprint for the nearest exit. Help me help you is the codependent response they’ll most likely respond to — and clearly illustrates that we will be the ones doing all the work in the relationship. With their minimal assistance, of course.
Loving you is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.
We would never say this, but it’s true. Loving an emotionally unavailable person hurts. And it likely hurts us more than it hurts them because we are in touch with our emotions. We know when we love someone and don’t have a problem expressing it. We have a full emotional range, and falling in love with someone we realize will never take that leap with us is heartbreaking.
I once loved someone who ghosted me. To be fair, I fell too fast, although it was unintentional. He always looked a little pained when he couldn’t return my affection, and it always struck me as interesting that he thought his pain was comparable to mine — enough that he felt he had to leave in the most disrespectful, painful way possible. He got to avoid the discomfort, but I was left with the crushing disappointment of having given love where it wasn’t wanted.
Call me when you get out of this toxic relationship with yourself.
It can be tempting to want to wait — to tell them to figure it out and get back to us. We realize what they do not: that the toxic relationship that is most concerning is the one they have with themselves. We’d love to see them break up with that relationship rather than with us, but if they aren’t willing to do this, we know that the end is inevitable. Because at the end of the day, we can only save ourselves.
We’ve all got problems.
This is the big one. We really do have our own problems. We’ve had our own trauma and life challenges to deal with, and yet we’ve done just that. We’ve dealt with them. We’ve figured out a way to get hurt and still open ourselves back up to love again.
Maybe it’s easier for women because society allows us more freedom of emotional expression — so long as we don’t dare do it while holding a leadership position. Still, we’ve got problems, too. Most of us don’t use it as an excuse to avoid intimacy or commitment with others.
Men don’t have to be emotionally unavailable. Many resources exist to address this problem — from therapy to self-help books to actually practicing those skills inside healthy relationships. Burning the patriarchy to the ground couldn’t hurt either.
But the truth is that we can’t fix them. They have to rescue themselves for a change. We deserve healthy, connected, intimate relationships.
All we can do is decide how much love we’re willing to pour out where it won’t be accepted, cherished, or returned to us.