One of the most important things to remember in a relationship is that nobody’s perfect. Even if you’ve been dreaming of Prince Charming, there’s a good chance that the person you end up with might have a little baggage. And that’s okay—we all do. But when a man is emotionally unavailable it can be frustrating and even hurtful. It’s not necessarily a red flag or a reason to dump him, but it’s still a roadblock that you’ll have to navigate if you see a future with him.
Emotional unavailability often springs up when it’s time to get serious, which is why you might miss it at the beginning. It happens when you want to define your relationship, or if a big family crisis comes up that you want his help navigating. The second things get serious, he seems to get uncomfortable. That, or he awkwardly tries to dodge the topic at hand. Even if he doesn’t mean to be, it can still be incredibly hurtful.
Here are eight tips to deal with the emotionally unavailable man in your life:
Lower your expectations, just a little bit.
This doesn’t mean that you should lower your general expectations of him as a decent partner—it means that you should lower them when it comes to emotional matters. As your boyfriend, he should be there for you regardless of the issue. But if he’s short with words or doesn’t talk about his feelings much, you need to realize this may be a part of who he is. This is a key part of his personality that’s hard to change. It might get easier when the two of you put more mileage into the relationship, but it’ll never come naturally to him. If that’s a dealbreaker for you, that’s okay. But, expecting things to be different or trying to get him to change will end up leaving you more hurt than ever.
Try to figure out the best way to get through to him.
Communication is a tricky subject, and even couples who have known each other forever can have big issues when it comes to being on the same page. Figure out the best way to get through to him so that it might not seem as serious. He may shut down the second he feels like he needs to tap into his emotions, so being more casual and perhaps bringing things up in small doses will relieve some pressure.
Find a good friend to confide in.
You need an outlet for some of your emotions, and what better choice than your best friend? It’s not the same, but it’ll help you navigate your feelings with someone who, while not directly in the relationship, has your back and likely knows what you’re going through. It’s also important to maintain good friendships when dating someone new, so it’ll double as a good opportunity to grab a coffee together and catch up.
Consider couples counseling.
It might seem drastic, but counseling is a great way to maintain any relationship, even one that’s typically good. It might be a good avenue if you see the relationship having a future. If he agrees to see a counselor with you, it means he’s willing to find healthier ways to meet your emotional needs. Plus, he could be closed off for a reason he doesn’t even recognize, and a professional might help him navigate through those feelings.
Remember, this is tough for him. It’s quite easy to assume the worst if someone won’t sit down with you and talk about their feelings, but the issue likely doesn’t stem from you. Keep reminding yourself that it’s not your fault, and make sure you’re there for him if he’s looking to improve the way the two of you communicate about heavy stuff. And give yourself a pat on the back for being understanding.
Read his body language.
The beautiful thing about communication is that it happens in so many ways. Even if he isn’t ready to verbally tell you how he feels, or whether or not he thinks he’s in this for the long run, there may be other cues. Does he always make sure the two of you are physically close? Is he quick to grab your hand? Physical forms of contact that happen outside of the bedroom are good indicators that he’s taking your relationship seriously. If he’s always been standoffish or keeps a healthy distance at all time, it’s possible he’s just not as into you as you might have hoped.
Be true to what you want.
If he’s too nervous to discuss your impact on his life, or whether or not marriage is in the cards, it likely means that things started off fairly casual. But if you’re the type of person who knows they want a wedding, kids, and a white picket fence, you need to be true to yourself. Hanging on to someone who won’t give you the answers after a year or two might not end up being your best match. Don’t settle for someone who might very well be leading you on, even if he’s an ideal person otherwise.
Focus on the positive.
If he’s assured you that he’s happy but won’t really get any deeper than that, take him at his word if he seems generally trustworthy. If you have fun with him, he’s not dangerous or abusive in any way, he’s got an attractive personality, and he seems to know how to properly take care of himself, he’s likely worth sticking around for. Just remember, every relationship functions differently. If his emotional unavailability is an issue that was brought up by a friend before you even noticed it yourself, it’s possible that it’s something that doesn’t actually impact the relationship that much.
Just remember, it’s feasible to have a relationship with an emotionally unavailable man. But it’s also a little trickier, especially if you don’t trust that you’re both on the same page. It’s very possible that this is an issue he’s been dealing with for quite some time, so it’s not necessarily a reflection on you. With a little patience, you’ll be able to build communication habits that you’re both happy with.