7 Signs Your Partner May Not Be Emotionally Complex
It's no secret that relationships can be hard work, especially when it comes to understanding your partner's feelings, needs, and emotions and how they relate to your own. However, it's possible that your partner may not be emotionally complex, meaning they may not be as in-tune with their emotions as you previously believed.
But it's important to look at the signs to better understand your partner's emotional intelligence. In some cases, your partner could actually be emotionally complex, but they have purposefully built a wall around them to prevent people from getting in. It's also possible that they may want to break down the walls, but they don't know how.
On the other hand, some individuals may not be emotionally complex at all, but rather just emotionally undeveloped. "With some people, what you see is what you get and they really don’t let things get to them," marriage and family therapist Nicole Richardson, tells Bustle. "They may not be emotionally complex and be totally fine with that."
If this is the case, it could mean that your partner's lack of emotional complexity comes from a greater emotional unavailability. While this can be difficult on a relationship, there are ways for your partner to better understand their emotions, possibly with the help of therapy. Here are some signs to look out for to tell if your partner may not be emotionally complex, according to experts.
1. They Have A Hard Time Expressing Mixed Emotions
According to Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist and author, "The ability to hold complex mixed emotions is vital to a healthy psychological development."
For example, if you were leaving your old job to go to a new one, it's common for the occasion to feel bittersweet — it's sad to be leaving your coworkers, but also exciting to embark on a new chapter.
However, if an individual is not emotionally complex, they may not be able to hold more than one "good" or "bad" emotion at one time. "Containing both good and bad together is viewed as healthy," Dr. Walfish says.
If you notice your partner is unable to hold more than one emotion, there is a possible solution. First, you'll want to speak to your partner very gently so as to not overwhelm them, says Dr. Walfish. Then, you want to validate your partner's feelings. "Gently give [them] your thoughts, one thought at a time," Dr. Walfish says. "Do not flood your partner by overloading your partner with too many things, you'll defeat your goal."
2. They Avoid Intimate Conversations
"This is a good example of the fact that emotional unavailability is not a matter of character, but of skill, experience and comfort level," Dr. Jess O'Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist, tells Bustle.
According to Dr. O'Reilly, it's possible that your partner may be avoiding intimate conversations because they want to avoid any conflict or tension, or perhaps they are just too stressed and distracted to sit down and talk about these topics. It's even possible your partner simply lacks the communication skills to have such a deep conversation.
"The good news, of course, is that circumstances change (you can help to put them at ease) and with practice, they can develop the skills to communicate more effectively," Dr. O'Reilly says. It could be beneficial to speak further about this with a mental health professional, as they can provide different strategies to help you communicate better.
3. They Have A Hard Time Admitting Fault
In a relationship, it's crucial to own up to whatever mistakes you've made in order to improve and strengthen your bond with your partner. However, if your partner isn't stepping up to the plate to do this, then it's possible they may lack emotional depth.
We all want our partners to "get" us, which means that they understand all of your quirks, strengths, weaknesses, and traits that make you, you. But for your partner to better understand you, they must first understand themselves, though it may be hard for them. "As difficult as it is to face yourself, it is necessary for building those feelings of emotional safety and comfort with your partner," psychotherapist and author LeslieBeth Wish tells Bustle.
However, if your partner has not done their own emotional homework on themselves, it's unlikely that they will be able to understand, accept, and help you, Dr. Wish says.
4. They Are Unable To Empathize With You
If your partner is unable to relate to your feelings, it's possible they're emotionally unavailable, or have low social-emotional complexity. According to relationship expert Dr. Stan Tatkin, author of We Do: Saying Yes to a Relationship of Depth, True Connection, and Enduring Love, social-emotional complexity is the degree to which an individual is able to get along with others, maintain safe and secure love relationships, form mutually beneficial relationships, and maintain social engagements in romantic relationships, even under stress or hardship.
Although you may believe your partner does have low social-emotional complexity, don't panic. "Careful not to beat yourself (or your partner) over the head if you notice something is missing or off," Dr. Tatkin says. "That just leads to feeling bad. Be curious, not furious." In other words, show and teach them what works for you, and be honest about what you need.
5. They Cut People Off Without Working On Relationships
If you're noticing a pattern of your partner cutting off friends, siblings, parents, coworkers, or any other people in their lives, it's possible that they are the problem.
"They may make excuses and believe that they have all the answers which leads them to an expectation that they can unilaterally dictate the terms of all relationships," Dr. O'Reilly says.
As a result, you may want to look out for this behavior. If your partner does do this to people in their life, it may be worth talking to them about it, or taking a step back and thinking about how you want to proceed in the relationship.
6. Your Partner Doesn't Have Much Of A Reaction To Things
If your partner is unable to empathize with you or try, or has very little reaction at all when you are expressing a concern, it may feel difficult to get your needs fully met. This may be because your partner is not in touch with their emotions on a level that they should be, relationship therapist Dr. Gary Brown, tells Bustle.
But this can be worked on. "In the most nonjudgmental way possible, simply share an observation with your partner that you've noticed that they don't seem to show very much emotion," Dr. Brown says. "Then see what their response is, and then ask them if there is any reason for that? Is there something in their past experience that makes it difficult for them to show their feelings?"
Based on your partner's response, Dr. Brown suggests asking your partner if there's anything to do to help. However, if they don't seem interested to express their emotions at all, you may want to proceed with caution.
7. They Refuse To Express Vulnerability
To be vulnerable, especially in terms of a relationship, you need to feel secure and trust your partner. If you feel your partner isn't opening up as much as they should be, there are solutions you can try to get them to express their vulnerability more, Dr. O'Reilly says.
For example, you may be frustrated that your partner is pretty tight-lipped when it comes to talking about sensitive topics. In this situation, Dr. O'Reilly suggests talking about how this impacts you and makes you feel.
"Opening up about your own emotions including your vulnerabilities (e.g. insecurity) may foster a safe environment that encourages your partner to do the same," Dr. O'Reilly says.
All in all, a strong relationship is one where both partners' needs are being met, and that includes emotional ones, as well. If your partner does these seven things, it could be a sign that they may not be emotionally ready for a relationship with you. However, exploring therapy could be a viable option to help the relationship get back on track, and ensure everyone is happy (and emotionally healthy).