It's not always obvious when someone's an emotionally unavailable partner — because their emotions may not even be available to them. So, it's possible you yourself are one without even knowing it. But if you learn how an emotionally available partner behaves, you can figure out if this sounds like you or not, and if it does, you can work on getting more in touch with your emotions and sharing them with others.
Being emotionally unavailable doesn't always look the way you'd imagine it. An emotionally unavailable person may show certain emotions but not others. Or, they may be very talkative but still fail to connect with their partners. That's another reason we may not see the signs in ourselves right away.
Everyone is emotionally unavailable occasionally, practicing psychologist and Harvard lecturer Holly Parker, PhD, author of If We're Together, Why Do I Feel So Alone?, tells Bustle. So, if you only see these signs in yourself sometimes, that doesn't necessarily mean your relationship is unhealthy. There's only a problem if you notice them habitually. Still, working on getting closer to your partner is usually worthwhile, even if the feelings of disconnect are few and far between.
Here are some signs you could be emotionally unavailable, even if it doesn't seem like it on the surface.
1You Don't Think You'd Be Upset If They Left You
If you feel like you'd shrug it off if your partner left you tomorrow, you may be intentionally keeping them at a distance, says Parker. The truth is, at least part of you probably would hurt — you're just not in touch with that part.
2You Think They'd Leave You If They Knew Everything About You
If you're afraid your partner wouldn't even want to be with you if you shared your whole, flawed self, you're likely not being totally open with them, says Parker. You may feel like you're wearing a mask around your partner.
3You're Not Being Affectionate
Affectionate gestures like cuddling together and greeting each other with hugs are essential parts of a healthy relationship. If you've been neglecting these things lately but want to reconnect, you may have just gotten too caught up in your lives. But if you can't imagine doing them, you may be putting up a wall, says Parker.
Criticizing your partner over small things could be a subtle way of pushing them away, says Parker. Constantly bringing up past mistakes or making exaggerated comments like "you’re so inconsiderate" and "you’re never on time and you’re always irresponsible" are examples of this.
5You Have Trouble Answering When Your Partner Asks You How You're Feeling
If you find yourself able to talk about thoughts but at a loss when it comes to feelings, there may be something you're not facing. In this case, you need to first be open with yourself to be open with your partner.
6You Rely On Your Partner For Happiness
This could be a sign that you're not meeting your own emotional needs, says Parker, which means you can't fulfill your partner's needs either.
7You Can't Take Criticism
If you get defensive when your partner tries to point out something that bothers them, you're missing out on opportunities to connect and improve the relationship, says Parker. Try to remember their criticism likely isn't a statement about how good a person you are and keep the conversation focused on the action.
If you think you might be pulling back from your partner, the first step toward getting closer could be to discuss your emotional unavailability itself. This issue likely won't go away the moment you become aware of it, but you can work at it just by being honest.