I’ll never forget the first time I felt the brutal ache of loving someone who didn’t reciprocate. After months of casually dating the guy in question, I found myself collapsed into a pathetic heap on a park bench, wailing on the phone to my mom about how the man I’d fallen in love with still didn’t want a relationship. It wasn’t until many months later that the relationship guru of my friend group deemed him "emotionally unavailable." When you love someone who’s emotionally unavailable, it can be so frustrating to feel like you’re giving in a way that the person you love simply can’t give back.
We’ve all likely heard the term "emotionally unavailable" thrown around when talking about someone who "isn’t looking for something serious." However, some people do find themselves in relationships with people who aren’t in a place to be vulnerable and connect in a meaningful way. And in most cases, this might not even be their fault, but rather the result of baggage from the past. I spoke with NYC relationship expert Susan Winter and relationship expert Alexis Nicole White to find out more about what typically happens when you fall in love with someone who isn’t emotionally available.
So, how do you know if someone isn’t currently willing or able to open up? Well, unfortunately, it can take a while to realize, which can make it tricky to spot early on. According to Winter, the most obvious sign is not feeling fully connected.
"There’s always a sense of disconnect with an emotionally unavailable partner," Winter tells Elite Daily. "Emotionally, it feels as though there’s a trapdoor behind which all the goodies are hidden. If you could just find a way to pry it open, you’d finally feel loved."
As someone who used to find myself chronically attracted to men who almost always ended up being off the market emotionally, it can be all too easy to get stuck doing all of the heavy lifting in the relationship. And needless to say, when things don’t work out, it can be a huge blow to your self-esteem.
"The downside of falling in love with an emotionally unavailable person is that you’re always left feeling like something’s wrong with you," explains Winter. "Why aren’t you good enough to receive their love? Are you not smart enough, pretty enough, or interesting enough?"
White agrees that if you’ve found yourself having feelings for someone who isn’t equipped to return them, then chances are you could be in for some serious hurt.
"One must be exceptionally mindful that falling in love with a person who is emotionally unavailable will result in one feeling depleted, dejected and frustrated," White tells Elite Daily.
The hardest part about coping with these feelings is wondering if the person can overcome their emotional inaccessibility in time to get the relationship where it needs to be, so you both are having your needs fulfilled. Unfortunately, this can be an issue that is really difficult to address, and in many cases doesn’t get resolved.
"The person you love is incapable of loving you back. Period. It’s not about anything you lack, nor is it a reflection on your level of desirability. The defect lies within your partner," says Winter.
That’s not to say that emotionally unavailable people are incapable of becoming more available in the future, but it’s not your job to convince them that you are worthy of their love. If they can’t get there, that’s OK, but there are so many other people out there who can. While this can be a tough pill to swallow, the sooner you realize that you are completely enough as you are, the sooner you can find someone who’s on the same page emotionally.
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