Is My Partner Emotionally Unavailable? 7 Signs They're Distant And How To Reconnect With Them
Sometimes, even when our partners are normally affectionate, communicative, and kind, we may get the sense that they're holding something back from us. That's because emotionally unavailable partners can take many forms. They're not always outright distant, but what they have in common is that their emotions aren't always accessible to those around them — or to themselves, for that matter.
"Everyone stumbles in the emotional availability department from time to time," practicing psychologist and Harvard lecturer Holly Parker, PhD, author of If We're Together, Why Do I Feel So Alone?, tells Bustle. "That’s called being human. No one is emotionally present 100 percent of the time and, at least in the case of most of these signs, they don’t necessarily mean that someone is unavailable. The issue is if these become a habit and you start seeing them more often than not."
If your partner is emotionally unavailable, there are many ways for you to reconnect. But first, both of you have to be aware of their unavailability and willing to close the divide between you. To help you with that, here are some signs your partner is emotionally unavailable — and what to do if you spot them.
1. You're On Edge About Your Interactions With Them
You might find yourself wondering if each day will be a good day or a bad day in your relationship, says Parker. That means your partner may not be consistently emotionally present for you.
2. You Feel Like You Can't Do Anything Right
Emotionally unavailable people often find fault with their partners to push them away, says Parker. If you feel like they hyper-focus on your flaws and ignore your strengths and kindnesses, your partner might fall into this camp.
3. They Dismiss Your Legitimate Concerns
To avoid conflict, emotionally unavailable people often get defensive when their partners criticize them. They may even gaslight you into believing that a problem they've caused is your problem. Parker uses this example: "Let’s say that your partner didn’t call or text you to let you know that she’d been held up at work three hours late and consequently couldn’t join you for dinner as you’d both planned. When you tell her that you were waiting and would appreciate a text next time, she tells you, 'OK, next time I’ll text you every 15 minutes during the day so you can keep tabs on me, which is clearly what you’re trying to do.'"
4. They Withhold Affection
Your partner doesn't have to be upbeat and lovey-dovey all the time, but they should show warmth and caring toward you and act happy to be around you. If they're more often cold and aloof, they may be keeping you at arm's length, says Parker.
5. They're Clingy
This may seem counterintuitive, but emotionally unavailable people can become dependent on their partners, since they're essentially relying on them to do all the emotional labor in the relationship. "Your partner may not have their own interests, passions,or sense of purpose," says Parker. "You may find yourself wondering what would become of this person if you weren’t in their life, and may feel pressured in the relationship because you sense that you’re the primary source of emotional energy for the both of you."
6. They Don't Tell You How They Feel
An emotionally unavailable person may respond to a question about how they're feeling with thoughts or facts. For example, they might recount their workday or talk about how bad the traffic is when you ask them how their day went, says Parker. Sometimes, they're not even trying to hide it from you — they just genuinely don't know how they're feeling.
7. They Don't Notice When You're Upset
"No one can read their partner’s mind, but they can notice their partner’s body language or little comments their partner makes and take note," says Parker. If your partner doesn't check in with you when you're clearly upset, they may be trying to avoid emotions altogether.
"Whatever the reason for your partner’s availability, bear in mind that a very common underlying factor in unavailability is fear," says Parker. "So, the more that you can create an emotionally safe, warm, and loving environment for your partner — e.g., smiling at the end of a long day and giving your partner a long hug rather than starting off by asking why they didn’t take out the trash — your partner is more likely to feel comfortable to lean toward you and open up."
If you can't patch things up yourselves, consider seeing a couples' therapist. And in the process of it all, make sure to take care of yourself to meet any needs your partner isn't meeting.