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Unlocking The Mystery – Understanding Emotional Unavailability In Relationships

Ania Osiecka is a professional, certified coach known for her creative and holistic approach. She is the author of a Program, "missing element" and the founder of the first online Book Club in Poland, where members choose and read books in the fields of personal development, psychology, and motivation.

Executive Contributor Ania Osiecka

We often hear the phrase that someone is emotionally unavailable while dating or in a committed relationship, but what does it really mean? Maybe someone has told you that you always end up with emotionally unavailable people, and you're trying to break the pattern but don't know how. Or maybe you just suspect that the person you're dating might be emotionally unavailable. In this article, I'll get must knowledge know on this topic!

Loving couple holding hands

Emotional unavailability – What is it?

Traditionally in discussions of unavailability, men are more often talked about. Blogs, books, and advice are more often directed at women. This is a mistake. Emotional unavailability has no gender and can equally affect anyone. Avoidant behaviors may be more common among men, which is likely why the topic is described this way.

Being emotionally unavailable means an incomplete emotional presence – the spectrum is broad from completely avoiding closeness to avoiding specific areas, such as a reluctance to show weaknesses. Being emotionally available for a partner and being able to express emotions are two different things. One can have the ability to name and talk about emotions and still not be emotionally available.

Emotional unavailability is a distancing mechanism. It’s a way to hide and never risk rejection. It’s a way to reject the other person before they reject you.

How to recognize an emotionally unavailable person

Temporary unavailability affects even the most emotionally healthy people because when something traumatic happens, such as a breakup, a physically and/or psychologically damaging experience, or the loss of a loved one through death, we may close off as a natural defense mechanism.

Habitual unavailability means an emotional style learned from childhood or resulting from a painful experience that changed our perception of ourselves and relationships. It becomes second nature, and have a destructive impact on interpersonal relationships.

When it comes to emotional unavailability, there is no one-size-fits-all pattern. There are emotionally unavailable people who behave passively and those who act confrontational.

Signs in a long-term relationship

Most often, emotionally unavailable people are discussed in the context of issues with commitment and declarations. Yes, these behaviors are common to the dating stage, which I’ll discuss in the next paragraph. Different attitudes are characteristic of long-term relationships. Here are some signs that you’re in a long-term relationship with an emotionally unavailable person:

  1. Avoiding conflicts: Sometimes you get the space to express how you feel, but you don’t get a response on how the other person feels. Another form is shading or avoiding the conversation.

  2. Shifting blame/avoiding responsibility.

  3. Being absent: This can mean wanting to spend a lot of time alone or being physically present but absorbed in one's own thoughts/world. Frequent use of the excuse of being an introvert to justify their behavior. Remember, introverts are people who emotionally recharge when alone, but being an introvert does not mean being antisocial.

  4. Indecisiveness.

  5. Lack of loyalty: An emotionally unavailable partner does not want to defend you because it requires engaging in conflict and making you their priority. The partner often remains neutral or sides with the person attacking you.

  6. Disproportionate anger/resentment: An emotionally unavailable person uses this state to build a defensive wall around themselves and distance themselves.

  7. Lack of physical intimacy: In a long-term relationship, physical intimacy is built on the emotional closeness of the partners.

  8. Frequent problems with substance abuse/addictions: These allow them to cut off from their emotions.

Signs during dating/early stages of a relationship

Being emotionally unavailable is not one-dimensional. These are defense mechanisms that can change with age, experiences, or self-work. Here are some signs that you might be dating an emotionally unavailable person:

  • Chaos/cack of regularity in contact, often being open and available at first, or maintaining very infrequent contact despite the relationship lasting for several weeks/months.

  • Not introducing family/friends (after a few months of dating, initially, this is natural).

  • Slowing down engagement, moving to the next stages in the relationship slowly.

  • Talking about money in a harsh or critical way, reluctance to spend money on the relationship.

  • Avoiding closeness.

  • Overemphasizing Independence/benefits of being alone. Emotionally available people do not constantly convince others of their independence.

  • Lack of initiative in meetings and spending time together.

  • Not considering the partner in decision-making.

  • Frequently moving from interest and engagement to lack of contact.

  • Talking about the future without placing plans in Time (pertains to relationships over 6 months).

  • Avoiding conflicts or deeper conversations Altogether. Being authentic and real can bring a couple closer together, which an emotionally unavailable person avoids the most.


Reasons for emotional unavailability

Emotional unavailability can have various roots, influenced by individual, family, and cultural factors. Here are some potential sources of emotional unavailability:

  • Attachment style: Formed in childhood and can significantly impact emotional availability in adulthood. People with an avoidant attachment style may struggle with forming close emotional bonds or openly expressing their emotions.

  • Trauma: Emotional or physical abuse, neglect, or other adverse experiences can lead to emotional unavailability in adulthood. Trauma can also affect the ability to regulate emotions and form healthy relationships.

  • Mental health issues: Such as depression, anxiety, or personality disorders, can also contribute to emotional unavailability. These conditions can make it difficult to express emotions or connect with others on an emotional level.

  • Cultural or social norms: Some cultures or societies may prioritize emotional restraint or view emotional vulnerability as a weakness.

  • Personal beliefs or values: Such as the importance of independence or self-sufficiency, can lead some people to prioritize their own emotional needs over their partner’s.


Summary – Next steps

Emotional unavailability is complex and can have many roots. Understanding these roots can help identify underlying issues and work towards building healthier, more satisfying relationships.

Being emotionally unavailable is a reaction, a response to pain, fear, hurt. Recognizing the roots, dealing with the pain, and managing your fear can help you become emotionally healthy/available. We become emotionally unavailable because it feels safer. It’s a defense mechanism. Emotional unavailability does not mean the inability to express emotions. Emotionally unavailable people can be angry, bitter, jealous, happy, and calm. They can experience and express a variety of emotions. What they cannot do is allow themselves to be fully open, to risk rejection.

If you need support, take advantage of an initial consultation here. My work program, "Missing Element," addresses the issue of emotional unavailability and working on it to build intimacy in your relationship.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and visit my website for more info!

Read more from Ania Osiecka


Ania Osiecka, Certified Coach

Ania Osiecka is a professional, certified coach known for her creative and holistic approach. She is the author of a program, "missing element," which allows her clients to discover, understand, and ultimately overcome what stands in the way of their desired tangible results. The main areas of Ania's interests are self-sabotaging behaviors, emotional neglect and its impact, the shadow mechanisms in the subconscious, growth mindset, and healthy habits for mental and physical well-being.



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