There are plenty of great, secure men out there. Don't settle for an emotionally unavailable one.
A relationship when both partners are "all-in" is tough enough. But when your man is emotionally unavailable, things are so much harder. You're committed to making things work, but he just won't open up.
A tell-tale sign of an emotionally unavailable man is a lack of empathy. So check for these signs before you get too committed.
Lookout for these signs, as they signify that your man lacks empathy:
- He cheats and then blames you.
- He takes space (more than a day or two) and doesn't care that it hurts you.
- He dumps you over and over again, and each time calls to take you back — without concern for your feelings.
- He shuts down when you act panicky or insecure in the relationship.
- He isn't interested in finding ways to soothe your worries.
- He stonewalls you despite your tears and pleas for his understanding and compassion.
- He tells you that you are the problem, and that if you want to be with him, you have to figure out how to make him love you again.
- He doesn't respect your boundaries (emotional or physical).
- He verbally and emotionally abuses you because he thinks you need to learn.
- He accuses you of being smothering and mistrusting when you ask him about other women.
- He explodes when you cry or get emotional.
- He makes you feel like you're always the only one apologizing (maybe he even acts victimized for days).
- He makes you feel like the bad guy and usually his feelings are the only ones that matter after a fight.
- He dismisses your feelings, laughs at your feelings and needs, calls you "such a woman" when you are upset, leaves the room, and/or brushes you off.
- He looks at you with a blank face when you cry to him, as if he truly doesn't understand what’s wrong or what your obvious distress suggests about your emotional state.
- He makes you feel out of control emotionally, and you've never felt that way in previous relationships.
Emotionally unavailable men can't see past their needs and feelings. And women often confuse the sensitive, wounded man with the emotionally available man.
But just because a man can easily cry doesn't mean that he's compassionate. Sensitivity does not equal empathy. Some emotionally unavailable men are compassionate — they give to charities, they listen to their friends' problems, they lend money to friends and family members; however, you have to look at a man's level of compassion for another person's feelings in moments when he's upset.
You have to look at how he behaves when you are most needy: when your insecurities flare up or when you're in the midst of a tough circumstance.
It's hard to tend to your partner's feelings when you are not in a positive emotional state. Most of us quickly get irritated, frustrated and fed up with a loved one who puts emotional demands on us when we feel to-the-brim already.
However, it's important to find a way to make space for your partner's feelings at all times, because an ability to give when it's hardest to do so is testiment to good character. An emotionally unavailable man can't grasp this concept.
But it's not completely his fault that he lacks empathy. And science is proof of that.
Cognitive scientist Simon Baron-Cohen recently made the discovery that a lack of empathy is associated with the male brain. The more typically "male" the brain, the more likely the person is to systemize than to empathize. In fact, Baron-Cohen calls an autistic brain an exaggerated male brain. (Women can also have a more "male" than "female" brain; it's not just about gender.)
Knowing there's scientific proof to some of mens' emotional limitations can help you stop taking a man's lack of compassion for your feelings personally. I'm not suggesting you ignore questioning whether your man is emotionally unavailable, because that's not healthy for you or your love life.
However, understanding that some people are biologically limited when it comes to empathy can help you remove your self-worth from his reactions and responses. Too often we wrap our sense of confidence in a man's ability to love us the way we need him to.
Just because modern science links the male brain to a lack of empathy, it doesn't mean that other factors don't come into play that can make men compassionate beings. Good parenting, healthy role models and a quality education can make a man born with a very "male" brain into a caring and understanding person.
Many men are extremely available to womens' feelings and needs, and are able to do so during even the most heated of arguments; a lot of men are more empathetic than many women.
It's important that you find a man who has a level of empathy that makes you feel loved and understood. This level varies from person to person. But I will say that most women need some emotional security.
We need to feel that our feelings matter, and we need to know that we are respected. You are responsible for your actions and for communicating your needs maturely, honestly and clearly. You are responsible for respecting your partner's feelings and needs, even if he's not as verbally expressive as you are. You are responsible for giving a man space if he needs it or to accept that a relationship is over if he ends it.
But you don't have to accept being told things like, "You're too needy. You're too emotional. You're too much!"
You may have insecurities and you may feel that you are emotionally "too much" in the way you respond and react to a man's lack of empathy, but in a relationship with an emotionally available, compassionate man, you would not act so uncontained.
You would not cry, scream, emotionally shutdown, or compulsively call and nag him. It's your responsibility to take care of yourself and find the relationship that makes you feel calm, secure, grounded, happy, loved and heard.
It's not your responsibility to change a man's lack of empathy; that's only something he can do on his own. In fact, the more you try, the more he will turn the tables and make you feel bad about yourself.