Your man feels cold and distant? It turns out he can't help it. Here's why ...
You're hoping to spend time together, but he'd rather go out with the guys. He finally calls you back, but then wants to hang up after 10 minutes. He's a passionate lover, but then leaves or goes right to sleep after sex.
He wants your love at his beck and call, but gets angry if you expect the same of him. When you ask for anything he says you're too needy and too dependent. And when that comment hurts you, he says you're too sensitive.
Is he just a jerk? Is it something about you or something you did? Does he treat everyone this way?
Trust me, it's nothing you did. Your man is "emotionally unavailable."
That's just a common phrase we use to describe a real issue your man likely suffers from called Avoidant Attachment.
As frustrating as his behavior is, if you can understand what Avoidant Attachment is, you'll better understand why he does all of those emotionally unavailable things. Then you can accept him for who truly he is.
So, what is Avoidant Attachment?
Attachment Theory describes three styles of attaching to your lover (and, to life).
Secure Attachment is the good style. Makes sense, doesn't it? People who attach this way start relationships in which both partners trust and rely on each other, and otherwise become a real, stable couple. We all want this kind of relationship.
Anxious Attachment is the second kind. These are incredibly needy, clingy people who want to know where their partner is all the time. They need constant reassurance and constantly fear abandonment. Painful.
Third is Avoidant Attachment. People with this style fall along a continuum from just a little emotionally detached, all the way to being an extreme recluse who doesn't want to relate to anyone at all.
An emotionally unavailable person, like your guy, is somewhere in the middle.
He protects himself from abandonment or engulfment in the same way he protected himself as a baby or child—He makes himself feel safe by never fully connecting.
And here's the thing you need to know—he can't help it.
He only feels normal and safe when he knows that he can pull away at any moment. And chances are, if he isn't naturally introspective, he likely has no idea that he's protecting himself. He'll think that you are too much, that you're one more person to avoid committing to.
If you understand that men (and women) like this develop this attachment style because of childhood attachment deprivation or abuse—or because of strange, unreliable relationships going on all around them—you'll likely find a little compassion for them.
What can you do about this behavior?
Tactfully invite him to learn with you about this seemingly safe, but actually quite limiting, way of life. Bring him books, read them with him, and lovingly ask him to take a look.
If he struggles with understanding that he has avoidant tendencies because of his history, the two of you can talk about it to prevent unnecessary pain.
For example, once when a lover of mine started talking about intellectual concepts right in the middle of us making love, I felt abandoned. I explained to him that him detaching that way felt like him leaving me.
He acknowledged his actions and said he didn't want to leave. He then brought himself fully back to us.
But what if he didn't admit or accept that he'd lapsed into this avoidant style? What if me bringing it up just offended him? We could easily have spiraled off into separation from each other.
So, I do recognize that raising this topic with your man likely feels scary to you.
I realize my lover might easily have stopped making love when I brought up how I was feeling.
You know how they get that look? ... They're annoyed with you, their skin seems to pull inward, and their energy retracts, shutting you out even though he hasn't moved an inch away from you physically.
Suddenly, love making stops and now you're just having sex.
And it would have been my fault, right? He was just going along, making love, doing it just the way he knew I liked it. All of a sudden he thinks I'm blaming him for abandoning me. He could have said, "What's wrong with you, anyway?"
Instead, wonderfully, he checked in on his desire to pull away from me and did not do so. He knew he had many behaviors that fit in the avoidant continuum and he respected my ability to recognize when life triggered the avoidance. As a result, he was able to stop.
Sometimes, though, emotionally unavailable people can't stop. The fear of intimacy is too strong. They suddenly feel so uncomfortable they need to detach and pull away.
When that happens, YOU have the choice of whether to take that detachment personally or not.
Even if your man can't (or won't) work with you to manage his avoidant style, it's still possible for you to better understand what he's going through.
He has a true need to pull away from you.
In this case, all you can do is accept it. You need to do this for yourself because confronting him just brings more misery to both of you.
If he is not too far along the avoidant continuum, your relationship is still workable. Together you can create a nice relationship short of your idea of perfection, but where you can give love and feel loved.
But, if he is further down the continuum and doesn't want to examine his reactions, it's probably time to pack your things (your belongings and your heart) and go.
The bottom line is, we need to understand emotionally unavailable avoiders. They can't help it. But we don't have to live with the treatment they give us. We aren't obligated to tolerate being rejected over and over, because it harms our self-esteem.
You can either stay, or you can tell your lover, "You're not wrong for being this way, but this dynamic is wrong for me."
To learn more about Avoidant Attachment and loving emotionally unavailable men, visit Anne Stirling Hasting's website and read her book "Create New Love: Understanding How Men And Women Can Prepare for a Lasting Relationship."