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How to work with an emotionally unavailable partner?


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Hey Enotalone, 

I am dating a man who can really come off as cold and uncaring sometimes. He has told me that he cares for me very deeply, but he doesn't love me yet because he is "emotionally slow". He mentions the only thing standing in the way between him and deeper feelings is time. We've been dating for about a year and a half and I just can't seem to get anywhere in our relationship. I've met his colleagues and I love his parents. I am craving for a deeper more intimate relationship with him. I open up to him about my feelings. I know that I love him. I will try to do things to keep him in mind, like bake him dessert. I made his favorite cookies from scratch and he could not see the sentiment behind it. The fact that I think about him, and I want to make him happy. The cookies were a token of my appreciation, a symbol of my love. To him, it's "just a cookie" and there is "nothing special about anything or anyone". So, I find it sad that I will never be "special" to him, and his response is that at least, I will be his. Which is nothing more than possession. I am not trying to annoy or irritate my partner, but I feel we need to have conversations to form a more intimate bond. Conversations about feelings... and this makes him very uncomfortable. If I try to calmly talk to him about how he hurt my feelings or upset me about something (the cookie situation), he'll shrug it off and tell me he did nothing wrong. 
I have been having strong feelings of doubt about us, but I really REALLY love him. We've made it this far.  I don't want him out of my life. It's so hard to get him to open up. And I am feeling like there is something wrong with me. I wonder if is something about me, or about our chemistry that's preventing him from loving me, opening up to me. What can I do to communicate effectively and understand someone who is emotionally available? Navigating these waters are hard and difficult, but I want to try to make things work.

Edited by ConfusedLady21
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You ended up going back to him even after this?

https://www.enotalone.com/topic/443278-i-blew-my-second-chance-i’m-devastated/

This relationship has been a drama filled, anxious nightmare since the beginning. You have always felt insecure and inferior around him.

Why do you keep trying to force this? I know you'll say "but I LOVE him!!" But why? You've been miserable pretty much the entire time.

I don't understand this at all.

What does your therapist say?

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Yes, I did. I went back to him, because I see the value in him and noticed the things I could improve on and I have. I've never been this serious about a partner before. When we have good times, they are lovely, and we are having less dramatic times now (maybe because I am taking antidepressants). My therapist thinks that I should date other people, because she states that my boyfriend is avoidant and has issues emotionally connecting. I don't want to give up on him.  

I've re-read my old post and responses on there. I realize that I have been and continue to be foolish. He's not a saint. Neither am I, but saying goodbye is so hard. I've been thinking about that a lot lately. I just want to exhaust all options first for a slim chance that maybe we might work..

Edited by ConfusedLady21
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31 minutes ago, ConfusedLady21 said:

I just want to exhaust all options first for a slim chance that maybe we might work..

Exhausted (emotionally) is what you are now... yes?  😞

You have tried and tried some more... but, has he really changed for the better?  Why are you running yourself down...?

While YOU have gotten emotionally invested in some guy who sounds incapable?  Sucks 😞 

You do not feel so appreciated, right?  

I once heard, that if they don't truly 'love' you by now, they never will.

What's your ages?  Has he been involved before you?  What's your therapist say about his personality- will it change?  I doubt it.

 

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You're confusing emotionally unavailable with "not that into you."

This guy has shown you - repeatedly - that it's the latter. Your other threads are evidence of that. Making him his favourite cookies is not going to make him love you. 

You keep going in circles and expecting this relationship to suddenly become something it's never going to be. 

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3 hours ago, ConfusedLady21 said:

My therapist thinks that I should date other people, because she states that my boyfriend is avoidant and has issues emotionally connecting. I don't want to give up on him.  

 I realize that I have been and continue to be foolish. I just want to exhaust all options first for a slim chance that maybe we might work..

Please listen to your therapist.  That's what you're paying her for.  Why go for therapy, pay a lot of money, and not follow the advice?  You admit you continue to be foolish - that may explain why you are continually confused?

Don't want to give up on him?  You do realize that he will never change, right?  So you plan on being miserable for as long as you are with him?  You've been miserable since the very beginning and now you go back to him (again), only to find nothing has changed.  So you continue to be miserable and confused.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.  Hamster wheel. 

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Dating 1.5 yrs is a long time to have sex with someone and get nothing in return.

Stop baking stuff. Or worse debating it's significance.It's meaningless. It won't make a cold fish give you the love you crave.

You are overinvesting. Smothering. Playing mother. Just stop. If you enjoy baking, and choose to give him something fine. But why "discuss it" and it's "deep meaning"?

 

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Well....why don't you stop being so emotional, stop craving some deeper connection, in fact stop being you. Can you do that? No. So why are you asking him to become someone opposite from who he is?

This is really the thing about your entire relationship - opposites attract but then they fight. You've become obsessed with changing him and demanding validation from him for services rendered. It's pretty obnoxious on your part to bake someone cookies and then demand payment. He didn't ask you to bake those cookies and you have no right to extract emotional ROI from him or practically blackmail him about that. That's actually pretty disordered behavior on your part. This relationship seems to be bringing out the worst in you in many ways. Maybe think on that instead of fixating so much on trying to change someone else to your liking.

On that note, you don't actually love him at all. You only love the idea of who you can mold and manipulate him into being - your dream, your needs, your fantasy. That's NOT love OP.....not even close.....

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11 hours ago, MissCanuck said:

You're confusing emotionally unavailable with "not that into you."

This guy has shown you - repeatedly - that it's the latter. Your other threads are evidence of that. Making him his favourite cookies is not going to make him love you. 

You keep going in circles and expecting this relationship to suddenly become something it's never going to be. 

Exactly what I was thinking.  Please stop baking him cookies- he's going to be repulsed at some point because you're acting like a doormat  - jumping through hoops to get his approval like a puppy dog - "here, I spent hours baking your favorite cookies maybe this time it will work and you'll tell me how much you appreciate the cookies and me. PLEEEESEE!!!"  It's cringe worthy.  Please stop.

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If he doesn't love you in 1.5 years, he never will. This is who he is, and he will not change, I would wonder why you would continue to persist, even if you do love him.  This relationship will never fulfill you. 

"but I snooped and I looked through his phone. Only the text messages and nothing else. He flirted pretty heavily with one of our coworkers even while with me. No big deal. I don’t like it but whatever. Then I saw messages between him and his ex. How they have nicknames for one another and they’re silly over text. Of course he was flirty with her as well. I didn’t find any cheating and I didn’t think I would... but I did see that the moment we broke up, he’s messaging her to go on a Whole Foods run not even a month later. Asking to see her, even she was surprised because she had not seen him in over a year. Why am I surprised? That hurt so I called him and took him away from his time spent with friends. He was irritated he knew I went through his phone and told me that obviously we do not trust each other so we don’t need to continue. I panicked. I didn’t eat, I threw up. I know I messed up. I insisted on seeing him that night he returned but he didn’t want to see me. I know it was wrong, I showed up at his house anyway. He didn’t want to let me in ( I left the key in his house before I left). He didn’t want me to sit in the car with him. He didn’t want to to hug or touch him. He just didn’t want me around. He was so cold towards me. I asked him why he was so venomous towards me but he was so kind to her. And his response was “she didn’t deserve it.” Which implies that I do.. I knew I should’ve walked away and left but with this guy, unlike any other relationship I’ve been in, I have acted impulsively because he just disregards my feelings and he acts like he doesn’t have any. "   

Personally, I do not understand why you are still with this guy.   You know that he has cheated on you emotionally and has never been fully present in the relationship.  Clearly, he does not value you.   He is capable of love (his ex) just not with you.   Don't you think it is time to move on?

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14 hours ago, ConfusedLady21 said:

Yes, I did. I went back to him, because I see the value in him and noticed the things I could improve on and I have. I've never been this serious about a partner before. When we have good times, they are lovely, and we are having less dramatic times now (maybe because I am taking antidepressants). My therapist thinks that I should date other people, because she states that my boyfriend is avoidant and has issues emotionally connecting. I don't want to give up on him.  

I've re-read my old post and responses on there. I realize that I have been and continue to be foolish. He's not a saint. Neither am I, but saying goodbye is so hard. I've been thinking about that a lot lately. I just want to exhaust all options first for a slim chance that maybe we might work..

It takes two people to work on a relationship, not just one.  You will not get that from him.  

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Confusedlady,

I'm so sorry you are going through this. 

Unfortunately, you care, you love, you're looking for solutions and I'm sure it's exhausting. But here's the rub....

You're already doing all the work. What is he doing?

Why are you so in love with him? Serious question for you. 

You're knocking yourself out,  jumping through hoops, to prove to him you deserve to be loved. that is not love!

You're trapped in an ego game with yourself. if you could just get him to love you, all will be right. WRONG.

You need to work on yourself, to the point where, when you love someone and they don't return it, you leave. 

That's how you deal with the emotionally unavailable and anyone else that does not change their toxic behavior. 

 

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18 hours ago, ConfusedLady21 said:

 

Both of you are incompatible and he lacks emotional intelligence.  Google "emotional intelligence."

He's not the one for you try as you may.  Your love for him is one way; it's not a two way street.  Stop hoping and wishing because he's not the man you want him to be.  He is who he is and you cannot change a man.  He admitted the kicker:  He does NOT love you.  If I were you, I wouldn't waste anymore time, energy and resources on a man and an abysmal relationship.

He was ungrateful for your gesture and cookies.  Why bother?  No, you're not special to him.  Stop begging and pleading for his heart because he's a cold fish. 

Listen to your gut instincts or intuition because it's always right.  You have strong feelings of doubt so why be with him?  Why love a man who does not love you mutually?  What a waste.  The only thing wrong with you is that you're too blind to see.  Wake up.

You can't do anything.  Dissolve and exit the relationship so you can be with a man who respects and sincerely loves you.  It's better to be alone than be with a man who makes you feel lonely and miserable.  Use common sense.  You will be fine.  Stay strong.

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Girl.... GIRL....

Why are you still barking up this tree??? 

How can you expect this guy to love you when you don't even love yourself enough to listen to your own doubts about this guy?  

The first step to happiness in your life is accepting the notion that it is better to be alone than with a guy who doesn't appreciate and care about you. 

 

 

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I really hope that you sit with yourself and just really take in all the advice you’re getting here. These are pretty intelligent, empathetic, and wise people...and not one of them has told you to give this guy another second of your time.

You will never be truly happy as long as you continue with him. Actually, the opposite. You will be depressed with no self esteem as long as he’s in your life. I implore you to make the hard choice, remembering that it’s only hard in the short term. In the long run, you will be so much happier. The more time you give to this guy, the more you’re prolonging finding the right guy.
 

What do we need to say for you to believe it: he is NOT the man for you!

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I may be repeating what others have said (apologies if this is the case as I haven't read every post.)

I have a tremendous amount of experience with nearly the exact situation; please believe me when I say this: It's not going to change. For the better, anyway. If it changes at all, it will only get worse.    I spent 6 years bending over backward to "win" the love of a guy who was sometimes lovely, sometimes horrible (and even when he was "lovely" he was still, in hindsight, not all that great, and his "lovely" times were much less frequent than his horrible ones.)  I did everything I could -- yep, even baking him cookies, taking care of him when he was sick, doing all sorts of kind things for him, totally putting myself out a lot of the time, etc. -- and he was still talking to his ex (and probably others) and being very hot-and-cold with me.  A friend asked me why I kept going back for more, and my answer was, "When he's really into me, it's like I'm the best thing in the world to him.  Until I'm not again, and then I just want that feeling back, so I keep trying." Ugh. Truth be told, I had a lot of my own issues that caused me to continue to do a trained seal act for a guy who was barely paying attention half the time.  It took a couple of years to move past it, but once I did, I met my now husband, a guy who ALWAYS treats me like I matter to him -- every day, consistently.   What a relief to never have to wonder how a guy feels about me! (Or, if he feels anything about me at all!)

Here's the thing:  No one should ever get into a relationship based on "potential" -- "well, he COULD be a really great guy, if only..." or "The relationship is sometimes great, but sometimes not -- I know I can make it great all the time if I just put a ton of effort into it!" etc.  People, unlike houses, aren't "fixer-uppers."  You have to either accept them "as is" or pass on them.  They are who they are.  Can people change? Yes, they can change some behaviors, habits, etc., but...I don't believe most people can change who they fundamentally are.  

From a third party, objective perspective here:  If you're having to talk yourself into sticking with this guy, you shouldn't be with him at all.  And, from where I'm sitting, you're definitely talking yourself into it. The thing is, you can come up with a million reasons to keep giving him chances, but ultimately, he is who he is, and that's not likely to change.  I hope you'll listen to the great advice people have been giving you here. 

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So what BEG says - FWIW I think I remember her posting about him either when she was with him or maybe after?? And -more importantly -I remember the huge difference it made when she met her now husband.  If I can speak "for her" I bet it was like many lightbulbs going off, many 'aha!!" moments.  Anyway I remember her posts read that way.  

I will add- be careful that you're not hooked on the excitement of having to win someone over.  It can be intense -even addictive -and then feel boring when the person treats you with respect.  What I'll add though is to me anyway it is exciting in a good way to be with someone who keeps you on your toes -by raising interesting issues, wanting to have interesting discussions, challenging you but from a place of respect and curiosity - -keeping you feeling alive and alert.  So that even though you're secure in the fact that you have each other and want each other and don't have to win each other over you're both motivated to keep things interesting even if it means disagreeing over things you're each passionate about.  It's not as "exciting" as that best short lived feeling in the world when you "win him over" but I promise you that stops being exciting. And you can't even remember why it was, ever.

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38 minutes ago, Batya33 said:

So what BEG says - FWIW I think I remember her posting about him either when she was with him or maybe after?? And -more importantly -I remember the huge difference it made when she met her now husband.  If I can speak "for her" I bet it was like many lightbulbs going off, many 'aha!!" moments.  Anyway I remember her posts read that way.  

I will add- be careful that you're not hooked on the excitement of having to win someone over.  It can be intense -even addictive -and then feel boring when the person treats you with respect.  What I'll add though is to me anyway it is exciting in a good way to be with someone who keeps you on your toes -by raising interesting issues, wanting to have interesting discussions, challenging you but from a place of respect and curiosity - -keeping you feeling alive and alert.  So that even though you're secure in the fact that you have each other and want each other and don't have to win each other over you're both motivated to keep things interesting even if it means disagreeing over things you're each passionate about.  It's not as "exciting" as that best short lived feeling in the world when you "win him over" but I promise you that stops being exciting. And you can't even remember why it was, ever.

Yes!   I had so many "a-ha" moments.  It was the most significant learning experience of my life, dealing with that ex (and I'm 50 now, so that's saying a lot!)  I was only able to meet my now-husband after I'd not only completely given up on a relationship with my ex, but also after I'd completely changed my thinking about love, relationships, and...myself.   There was a reason I was on that rollercoaster for so long, and it wasn't because my ex was some wonderful guy who was worth all that suffering (quite the opposite, actually -- not worth it at all!)  but because I had convinced myself I couldn't do better -- that I didn't deserve better, perhaps. And, as you've said here, I think I was addicted in a sense to trying to "win" my ex over (especially as there was another woman, his previous off-and-on ex, hovering in the background the whole time).  In short, I had issues, and that relationship just put them into sharp focus for me.  It took a ton of emotional work, but I got past it, met a few other guys that didn't work out, and then...out of nowhere, a friend introduced me to my now-husband.  By that time, I was not only "over" my ex, but had also worked through the issues that kept me tied to him in the first place.  Now, I have no idea where he is, what he's doing, etc. -- and that's fine with me. There was a time I couldn't go five minutes without thinking of him.  What a change.

To the original poster:  Trust me when I say this guy isn't worth what you're going through.  Whenever I encounter someone in a situation like yours, I ask them to ask themselves this question, and to give themselves a totally honest answer:  Why do I think I don't deserve better than this?  EDITED TO ADD:  There's a quote I love (I think it's at the bottom of my post as my "signature line," but I'm not sure, so I'll add it here.  It's from a self-help book by Guy Finley:  "You cannot be directed to decide against yourself without first being deceived into thinking that what hurts you can also help you."  So true. 

Edited by browneyedgirl36
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Making cookies, doing favors, having sex, over validating a man etc rarely keeps a man interested.  It's instinctive for us woman to do it though.

I experienced it first hand with men I dated.  I actually did make cookies at Xmas for a guy I liked at work & who I was talking to a lot. 

The first time he seemed all gooey about it, saying how great they were and thanks.  The 2nd time was a very different story.  Either he didn't like them or was generally indifferent to me at that point.  He didn't say thanks but only "it was the thought that counts". The more I did like this & in other ways, the less he appreciated me.  It was a bit humiliating. I lost the guy by being a mommy.

Please don't go out of your way for a man unless he is doing lots for you.  This guy isn't.

Interestingly enough, I have noticed when I show lack of interest in men or effort, they seem to come running back on their own.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Didn't he also have a helicopter or hovering ex in the background he's still somewhat emotionally tied to? She let him go and he's still confessing his feelings or enjoys spending time with her? This might have something to do with his lack of emotional availability or avoidance, inability to recognize you or appreciate you fully. 

I think there has also been prior advice to look within to help with self-worth and self-confidence. Being with this man keeps doubling back on this issue that's really with yourself. 

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