Emotionally unavailable men may appear anywhere in your life. He may be a husband, boyfriend, son, brother or father. These men rarely share what they feel and may appear uninterested in hearing a woman share her feelings. Emotionally unavailable men may withdraw, ignore or even get defensive or angry when asked to be vulnerable in a relationship. In order to connect with emotionally unavailable men, you will need to understand why they withdraw and how to connect safely.
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Learn what drives your man's emotionally unavailable behaviour. He may have had a childhood characterised by a controlling, dominant mother, an emotionally distant or unavailable father, or a household of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Relating at a deep level may not feel safe for him. A qualified counsellor can help you identify and address his fears.
Become a safe person. Authors and counsellors Henry Cloud and John Townsend write about becoming a safe person in their book, "Safe People." In order to connect with an emotionally unavailable man, you must not react with emotional pain from your past that could prevent him from opening up. Cloud and Townsend say that becoming a person who can help drive emotional healing and character growth will give the unavailable man room to open up.
State feelings not accusations. Refrain from statements that begin with, "You never..." or "You always..." Rather, use "I" statements that reflect your own feelings. Begin a conversation with, "I feel lonely when you turn on the television during dinner," rather than harpooning him with the blame for your feelings. Resist the urge to tell him that he is "always on his iPad" and try just telling him you miss talking to him. It's hard to argue with feelings.
Ask for what you want. Men usually like to get to the point and help solve a problem. Beating around the bush with complaints or vague accusations rarely facilitates connection. Asking him to spend a few minutes talking with you because you feel lonely will help him know what you want and may help him be more willing to connect.
Invite, don't demand. Complaining that he "never shares his feelings" will often result in fewer connections than an invitation to share what might be on his mind. Gently ask if he'd be willing to share what he's feeling about a certain subject.
Thank him and let go. Once he shares his thoughts or feelings, run from the desire to pull more out of him than he is willing to offer. This can give him the freedom to share more the next time you ask
Tips and warnings
- Many emotionally unavailable men have been conditioned to avoid feelings. In his book, "The Half Empty Heart," author Alan Downs says that most people who have been taught that their feelings are bad or wrong will avoid being in a situation that requires vulnerability. They have often been shamed about having feelings. Shaming your man to get him to connect more rarely works and most likely will result in less, not more, connection.
- If he argues, blames you or gets defensive while you are sharing, tell him you just wanted to share your feeling and end the conversation. Don't fight back. Defensiveness and blame can be a sign of shame or fear of inadequacy.
- Attempting to connect with an emotionally unavailable man can be painful. If you have tried unsuccessfully to get your man to connect, you may need to find a skilled marital counsellor who can help you avoid harmful behaviour and develop tools to help you get what you want. This information is not meant to substitute for a trained therapist. If the relationship is abusive, get help immediately.
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