I really thought I was doing something proactive and smart. OK, maybe "slick" is the better word than "smart". I was sitting on the couch click-clacking on my keyboard, talking with one dude on the phone while chatting with another on Instant Messenger.
Phone Guy knew it was my birthday. He also knew that I traveled a few hundred miles so that I could hang out with him. But on the day of my birthday, his RSVP changed from "yes" to "maybe". Or more specifically, "I don't know."
I was lowkey livid although my tone maintained my professional voice because I figured I had a spare on speed dial. This was also after Phone Guy had already brushed off a prior birthday because, "You know it's Mother's Day." But it wasn't his mother he was celebrating. It was his son's mother and they weren't even together.
So on this birthday, I thought I was making big, slick moves by entertaining the dude who was IM-ing me about attending my local birthday outing upon my return. He expressed interest but apparently that was then.
All I was really doing was repeating a cycle.
Months later, I cooked a midweek dinner for two. After work, I picked up some fresh salmon, fancy sides and libations for blended drinks. I timed the cook time of the fish to coincide with IM guy's arrival so that it would still be flaky and moist. Then, I poured myself a daiquiri and waited.
And texted. And waited. And texted back and waited some more.
I was the only one to eat the meal that I prepared. IM guy was a no-show with no legitimate excuse for his absence. But the more angering part isn't just that he had the nerve to ask me to bring the entire meal to work for his lunch – we worked for the same company – but that this mofo really had no intentions of even showing up despite his text messages expressing otherwise. And for the record, I threw that ish in the trash.
What made both of these situationships (because ultimately that's what they were) baffling is that I didn't approach either of the men. They pursued me. But honestly that's the part that requires some reflection because it happened twice in a row.
Blowing off plans and showing up late sends a passive message of "Sis he don't want you." But a much softer way of delivering this message is to say he's "emotionally unavailable".
According to Healthline, emotional availability refers to the ability to build and sustain an emotional bond with someone else, generally in a romantic relationship. Emotional availability is a major component of a healthy relationship because without it, there's no intimacy. A person without any emotional connection to a potential partner will struggle in relationships and hella confuse the other person.
Emotionally unavailable people actually hate to make plans but agree to them anyway. They also avoid the word "relationship", although they happily engage in relationship behavior. Nevertheless, they can never quite articulate how they feel about you other than mirroring back what you say to them. For example, he may respond, "I feel the same way about you" or hit you with the "Ditto" the way Patrick Swayze's character did Demi Moore's character in the movie Ghost. (Until his ass died, of course, and then he could find all the words.) Ironically, emotionally unavailable people will ghost you if things get a little close for comfort.
The more distant an emotionally unavailable person becomes, the more tempted we may become to try and reach him. We convince ourselves that if I can get him to open up to me, then he'll appreciate me and this relationship will work. This tactic is a trap, sis. They'll simply avoid vulnerability and you'll emotionally exhaust yourself and damage your self-esteem in the process.
Ideally, we'll make healthier romantic decisions after encountering an emotionally unavailable partner, after all, as the great Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. But sometimes it seems that a more appropriate saying for our dating life is like attracts like. These men aren't drawn to us because we're the ideal companion to help them overcome their commitment phobias. It could be that we may very well be emotionally unavailable, too.
Here are a few telltale signs that you’re emotionally unavailable:
You say you want a committed relationship but in the back of your mind, you keep your options open. OK. I didn't need to have my edges pulled like this. I'm indeed a relationship woman. I believe in exclusivity, monogamy and all that jazz. My intent is to connect with another person for a purpose other than casual companionship. However, there was this whisper deep within that kept saying, You don't want any ties to this area. The truth was I didn't really want to get involved with anyone because I planned to eventually move to another city, which I did. That part of me was still unavailable and I attracted that in a person.
This also manifests when you subconsciously think that you don't want to settle for a person because there may be someone better out there. So you keep swiping and dating. The problem is, again, you'll continue to meet the same person in different skin until you decide that you're going to give a great guy a real chance.
You're worried about what a relationship could cost you. As a single woman, you're I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T but coupled up you don't want to risk the possibility of getting lost in a relationship or somehow becoming C-O-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T. As a matter of fact, you may fear that you have to sacrifice a large part of yourself: your schedule, dreams, career, social life, travel, to name a few. But this way of thinking will limit you from making a meaningful connection with anyone because you're going to automatically build a wall with everyone. There's no exact formula for a relationship but it never means that you have to forego all of your goals. If the relationship is healthy, there'll be balance and compromise on both sides. You'll never know what you'll achieve as a significant other if you don't communicate and explore with your partner.
You're afraid of rejection and intimacy. You say you want a relationship but subconsciously you're afraid of getting hurt or revealing too much because you think someone will use your vulnerability against you later, either as manipulation or ammunition in an argument. In these instances, you'll find it safer to be with someone who's also emotionally unavailable because you know there'll never be a real commitment on either side.
Now that you have some idea why you continually attract emotionally unavailable men, here are some ways to break that cycle:
Understand your attachment style in relationships. There are four attachment styles: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant. Your attachment style links the bonds you had with your parents when you were youths to how you form bonds with significant others as part of a couple. It also helps to explain why you're too distant or too clingy. You can read "What Your Attachment Style Says About Your Love Life" to determine your attachment style. Once you know your attachment style, you'll better understand how it influences the types of partners you are attracted to and you'll easily pick up on what the signs of that particular style look like in a potential partner.
Practice expressing your emotions before you need to share them with a significant other. This is still going to be uncomfortable, of course, even if you speak to yourself in a mirror or talk to very trusted friends and family members. (And I stress the word "trusted" because if you divulge personal details and feelings to the wrong person and they repeat it, you'll have that much more difficulty connecting to the next individual.) Nevertheless, the idea is to get comfortable with vulnerability while you're still single. Other ways could be to journal those same feelings or use art or music to help foster those feelings and get them to easily flow.
Make a list and check it twice. We're not talking about a list for Santa but rather a list of non-negotiables and red flags. A Psychology Today article recommends notating the warning signs that we ignored in the past and then from that list determine the top 3-5 that we absolutely won't tolerate in the future. Examples of no-gos may be haphazardly dismissing plans, disregarding important dates (like birthdays!) or showing little respect or regard for your feelings. And just as you do in goal manifestations, you want to review this list of non-negotiables periodically, especially when you start dating someone new.
Date another type. Yes, we do have a type, otherwise we wouldn't fall into these patterns. We also tend to pursue individuals that trigger some sort of feeling such as those butterflies in our stomach. But according to Psychology Today, that flutter may not mean that's the right person; it could indicate that we're about to repeat the old pattern all over again. Instead, we should consider the person who gives us a neutral feeling. Go out on a couple of dates and take notice of how this person makes you feel. Even if the attraction isn't there immediately, studies show that it can gradually increase over time.
I'm not going to lie to y'all. I don't know about having someone grow on me and I love butterflies, literal and figurative ones! But I wholeheartedly believe in breaking toxic cycles. If it means that I need to do reflexivity work or inner reflection to change my fearful-avoidant attachment style. Done. If I need to anticipate the deep questions and journal the responses, that's done, too. Because there's nothing slick or sexy about attracting and juggling two men who don't want or have the emotional capacity to reciprocate my love.
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