4 Signs Your Partner Might Be Emotionally Unavailable, According To Experts
Before I met my current partner, I was like a magnet for emotionally unavailable people. It was like I was a walking, talking, homing beacon for anyone totally shut off from their heart, or ya know, "just not ready for anything serious right now." That's totally fine if you're on the same page — and trust me, I've been there too. However, if you're actually committed to someone and you're seeing signs your partner might be emotionally unavailable, it may be time to consider if this relationship is salvageable, or even one you really want to be in.
What exactly does being emotionally unavailable mean? NYC relationship expert Susan Winter tells Elite Daily it's a way of describing "a partner who’s there, but not there. It's as though they’re sleepwalking their way through your partnership. Technically, they’re with you but their emotions are not fully engaged. They’re withholding their complete emotional expression." Kali Rogers, relationship expert and founder of Blush Online Life Coaching, agrees with that definition and adds that "it's usually caused by deep fear of being vulnerable or hurt, but sometimes if it's serious enough it can be part of a larger issue such as a DSM personality disorder."
Knowing how to spot the signs is really important if you want to improve your relationship, or if you want to find another SO who is capable of meeting your needs. You can often gauge your partner's emotional availability just by the way they speak to you (or don't speak at all). With that in mind, I asked the experts for what they consider red flags your partner is emotionally unavailable. Here's what they had to say.
1. “Nothing’s wrong."
Do you find yourself constantly asking your partner what's wrong, only for them to shut down the conversation by insisting that it's nothing? If so, Winter says this may be a sign your partner's not engaged emotionally, and is, in effect, blowing you off. She says it’s a “line that’s often used to exclude you from getting to the truth of what your partner’s feeling.” She adds that it could be “said out of anger as in, ‘You should know why I’m upset!’ Or, stated as, ‘Case closed. Don’t ask.'” Mostly, Winter says, “it’s said because there’s nothing wrong at all — your partner’s in second gear plodding through their time with you. No need to rush. There’s nowhere they’re going with you and nothing they want to achieve.”
2. They change the subject.
What happens when you bring up emotional or serious topics with your SO? Do they engage and open up, or do they always seem to change the subject to something impersonal or benign? Rogers says if they change the subject to something “completely unemotional, such as a movie they saw last night, what happened in sports earlier that day, or projects they want to tackle for the weekend,” then it's likely because they are not interested in engaging in anything on a deeper emotional level.
3. “It’s all in your head.”
Another sign that someone's emotionally unavailable is if they resort to gaslighting you whenever the topic of your feelings come up, Rogers tells Elite Daily. “This happens whenever a partner uses tactics such as [saying] ‘You're crazy’ or 'It's all in your head' in response to someone trying to get an emotional response,” she explains. So, if you leave every attempt at deep conversation with your partner feeling like “something is wrong with you instead of feeling like the two of you connected on an emotional situation,” then you’re likely dealing with a partner who's just not emotionally available, she says.
4. They give you the silent treatment.
Another way an emotionally unavailable partner will avoid opening up is by shutting down. “Stonewalling is one sign they are emotionally unavailable,” says Rogers. “It typically happens when emotions are triggered. Maybe something stressful happened at work that day or an uncomfortable situation came up at home. Instead of inviting a dialogue about the incident, they shut down and aren't open to communicating at all.”
What to do if your partner is emotionally unavailable.
If this is all hitting a little too close to home, then it’s quite possible that your partner is not as emotionally available as you want or need. But don't panic — you still have some options. Winter says the first course of action is to start investigating the reasons why they're unavailable by speaking up. “Let your mate know that you feel they’re being emotionally withholding," she advises, adding that you "Clearly articulate the cases and times in which you’ve felt this way. State what you would have liked to experience instead.”
How they respond will likely tell you whether or not you should move forward with the relationship. “If your partner is willing and able to express more emotional interest [and] you see positive movement, you’ve rectified a problem. That means you’ve also established great communication with your mate,” says Winter. However, if you don’t see them making any changes, she says it’s time to “ask yourself if this is OK for you. Will you become resentful? Will you feel unfulfilled? If this is the case, reevaluate your relationship. It appears you’re the only one in it.”
Ultimately, the most important thing is that you're honest with yourself about your needs. If you decide you are happy with the relationship as it is, and maybe you just want to pull back a bit yourself, then do what feels right. However, if you want something more, then don't sell yourself short. As Rogers says, “relationships are fueled by emotion, and without a willingness to dive into them, there really isn't much of a point.”
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