Attracting 'Emotionally Unavailable' Men? Here's How To Fix That.
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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I write about lifestyle and women's health and wellness. When I'm not in front of a computer screen crafting stories, I'm in a kitchen crafting cocktails. Follow me on the 'gram @teronda.
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Nelly And Ashanti Are Giving It Another Shot? Here's What You Should Know About 'Ex Reconciliation'
Okay, so if you’ve read any of my pop culture think pieces on this platform before (like here or here), you already know that I don’t tend to spend a lot of time talking like I know people who I actually…don’t. As someone who grew up in an entertainment industry home and then got my (official) start in journalism in the entertainment realm as well — let me just tell you from very up close and personal experience that nothing is a smoke-and-mirrors game quite like the celebrity world. That’s why it’s wise to not invest too deeply into it/them.
At the same time, since, for better or for worse, we do live in a culture that seems to be constantly consumed with what famous folks are doing. What I prefer to do is use certain news stories (even if they are basically nothing more than tabloid gossip, depending on the day) as personal teachable moments — and since the word on the street is saying that Nelly and Ashanti are giving it another go, I thought that topic would be a great one to tackle.
My personal recollection of them being together consists of my finding Ashanti’s visual for her single “Good Good” (damn, was that 2008?!) to be cute enough. Plus, I liked how they mostly kept everything off the grid — unlike the other relatively reunited (and does it feel so good? I can’t tell because Ben always looks so irritated) couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, chile). Anyway, beyond that, and then reading some timeline pieces on Nelly and Ashanti (a recent one is located here), there’s not much more that I can say as far as their coupledom goes.
Ashanti and Nelly during Sean Diddy Combs First Fragrance Launch for Unforgivable - After PartyJohnny Nunez/WireImage
However, when I did happen to catch a roughly hour-long Instagram post (here) on Ashanti’s page a few months ago talking about how (among other things) she used to want six kids, and now she’ll “settle for” two or three, I took that to be a subtext that she’s ready to get into something serious/substantial — and sometimes that can mean reconciling with someone from your past.
It’s kind of like a point that was made by Alec Baldwin’s character in the movieIt’s Complicated (paraphrased): “Some people should get back together 10 years after a divorce because the time apart can help each person to grow. And since you already know your ex so well, reuniting later could be the best decision ever.”
Nelly and Ashanti reportedly broke up ten years ago, so maybe they are life-imitating art. Either way, before you use them as inspiration (or ammo — LOL) to get back with someone from your own past, please ask yourself the following questions. Then be serious about the answers. Then run them by a trusted friend (or your therapist). And then, if it all checks out, proceed with extreme wisdom and logic. Because getting back with an ex is a bit like a crap shoot — it can be a real blessing or a HUGE mistake. That’s why factoring as much as possible beforehand is such a wise thing to do.
Why Did the Two of You Break-Up?Giphy
I recently got certified (and soon to be credentialed) to be a professional certified coach (a holistic one). It’s interesting because, when you’re actually learning from an ICF-accredited school, a question that actually isn’t asked in life coaching is “Why?” Why is that? Because while therapy/counseling tends to focus on the past quite a bit, life coaching specializes in asking questions that will empower you to decide what is best for your future.
In this case, though, you definitely need to take your past into account because if you don’t factor in why you broke up with your ex in the first place, it could result in you just repeating the same ish that you did before — and if that ish is centered around things like abuse (neglect is abuse, by the way), constant lying or being taken for granted, you really need to do some serious vetting to see if those things are still a present-day issue.
And yes, this is a critical point to consider because, while some people live by the motto “forward ever, backward never” or my personal favorite, “getting back with an ex is like getting out of the shower and putting the same underwear on,” not every break-up is horrific or even devastating. Sometimes it really is a matter of meeting the right person at the wrong time or the two of you really liking each other, but something just doesn’t quite “click.”
You know, it is Benjamin Franklin who once said, “All highly competent people continually search for ways to keep learning, growing, and improving. They do that by asking WHY.” And since, hopefully, you’ve been learning, growing, and improving as an individual, ever since you ended things with your ex, asking yourself why you broke up and being really honest about the answer, that can help you to see WHY you should consider trying again or WHY the past should totally be left there.
What Lessons Did You Learn? During and Since Ending the Relationship?Giphy
Everyone is a lesson. That is, if you’re humble enough to know how to be taught anything (some of y’all will catch that later). And just so we’re all on the same page when it comes to this particular point, a lesson is a practical piece of wisdom, and wisdom is something that offers insight and heightens your sense of discernment. In other words, if it’s truly a lesson — and you apply it — there will be no reason to repeat it; your insight and discernment won’t let you.
So, when it comes to your ex, what lessons did they teach you? One of mine taught me to not convince myself to be with someone just because they are a good person. Another taught me to not "be a wife" to someone who is not my literal husband (check out "Why You're Always The One Who Prepares A Man For His Wife"). Still, another taught me to stop mistaking nostalgia for actual love (more on that in just a bit). The first and second lessons I learned during the relationship. The last I learned after. And because the lessons were so profound, they totally altered my way of thinking — which makes getting back together with any of those guys basically an impossibility. Wisdom won't let me.
On the other hand, I have a friend who is kinda-sorta back with one of her exes because the lesson that she learned during the relationship was because she had never been in love before, she kept playing the exhausting game of come-close-go-away. Now that she's had some therapy (and matured a bit), she and her ex are in a far better place which makes it easier to interact with one another on another level. Is it just like it was before? No. In many ways, it's better because, since my friend has less anxiety, there is less stress on the relational dynamic, which makes them able to see where things could go a lot easier for both of them.
I am a firm believer that life is one big school. Thing is, when it comes to the lessons that you need to learn, you can stay in the same class for 20 years, if need be. So yeah, when it comes to pondering about getting back with your ex, did the lessons that you already learn reveal to you that it would be a smart move or a really dumb decision?
Who Reached Back Out First? (Yes, It Is Valid)Giphy
Typically, the "Who did it first?" question leans on the side of silly and/or petty and/or entitled to me. Oh, but not in this case. And although words cannot express how disgusted I am with how Brian McKnight is displaying extremely poor (fellow) Gemini energy, he is a great songwriter, and his song with the hook, "Do I ever cross your mind? Anytime?" — let me just say that an ex who says they never think about their exes from time to time they are a bold-faced liar.
HOWEVER, that doesn't mean that they care enough to reach out or that it's a good idea, even if they're tempted to do so. So, when someone actually does step out and send an email, get in the DMs, or leave a voicemail (your ex still has your phone number? Interesting), that's quite telling — although you do need to take into serious account what it all actually means.
For instance, back when my first book came out, a few of the characters (pun intended and not intended) hit me up. One was my first love. All he really did was send me an email to tell me that he read the book and that he was sorry for the role that he played in the pain of the relationship. And that he would always love me.
Now guess what part I focused on? You can check out "Why Every Woman Should Go On A 'Get Your Heart Pieces Back' Tour" to get the gist of that. As a result, for several more years, off and on, that continued to be all that my heart (the Bible says the heart is deceitful; always remember that — Jeremiah 17:9-10) honed in on. That man didn't say that he wanted to rekindle anything. He said that he wanted to apologize. Lawd, how much we can spare ourselves if we'd just learn to listen to what is being said instead of editing conversations into what we want to hear.
So, did he reach out first? Yep. Did he want anything? Not really. And from personal experience, that’s why “who reached out first and why” is something else that needs to be given some serious thought. After all, the two of you broke up for a reason…so, if they do reach back out, now more than ever, it’s important to take their words literally. If he only wants to see if you’re well, let him know that you are and leave it there. If he wants to apologize, accept this apology and tell him to take care. If he asks to see you — now that’s when trying to figure out if reconnecting, on any level, is actually a good idea.
Bottom line here don’t make something be what it’s not. Oh, and if you are the one who reaches out first…let me just say that I know a woman who got ghosted by an ex back in college, she decided to reach back out to him some 20 years later, and all they’ve been doing is dating for over ten years now (even though she wants to be married). I mean…he didn’t come looking for her; she went out looking for him — which kind of translates to me that he was fine whether they spoke again or not.
See what I mean? *Elmo shrug*
Is It Love? Or Nostalgia?Giphy
Please, please, PLEASE — if you don't get anything else from this article, get this: just like fleeting passion can be mistaken for lasting love, so can nostalgia; the definition of the word explains a lot of the reason why, too: "a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations."
You know, the mind is a funny thing. "Funny" in the sense that, if you lean into nostalgia, it typically will edit out all of the crappy stuff while encouraging you to focus solely on the good times. For instance, I know a woman right now who got back into something with an ex who was sending her all kinds of expensive shoes and random flowers for the first few months…just like before. Now? Now he's calling her when he's tipsy to vent about his ex-wife.
How did she get caught up in this pattern? Good ole' nostalgia, chile. Initially, reconnecting included discussing fun dates and good sex. Yet, nostalgia is kind of like a drug — it gets you really high, yet sooner or later, you're gonna crash…and that can have you feeling super low.
You know, there's not one ex who I don't have a myriad of good memories of. Yet when I bring logic, common sense, and facts into the dynamic, they all needed to be exes — and honestly should stay just that way. Just because I "love" certain things about them, that doesn't mean that I'm actually still in love with them…and why let the former cause me to overlook the latter?
Pleasant thoughts are fine. They aren't enough to go off of to rekindle a relationship, though. You are far too precious. So is your time. This brings me to the next point.
Time Is Precious: How Would Reconciling Make the Most of Yours?Giphy
It actually wasn't too long ago that I penned the piece, "Let's Finally 'Spring Clean' ALL Of Our Exes Out Of Our Lives, Shall We?" for the site. One of the things that I mentioned in it is there is something known as recycling (making something new without changing its original form), and then there's something known as upcycling (taking an original thing and changing it into something totally different; typically something better). That said, if you are thinking about getting back with an ex, I recommend that you determine if it's going to be an UPCYCLE for you. Otherwise, really…why do it?
Something that I oftentimes tell people in their 20s is it really is time out for acting like that decade is nothing more than being in the 2.0 version of your teens. In other words, if you don't make wise decisions, then, you can end up wasting a lot of time. And then you'll need even more time trying to heal and recover from it all.
Personally, that's one of the things that I mourn about a lot of the moves that I made back then; I had to spend a significant amount of my 30s healing so that, should I ever decide to marry a man, I will be the helpmate that he truly deserves. And that's another reason why I'm good on my exes — I don't have another decade to throw away.
And for those of you who may struggle with taking personal accountability and so you like to romanticize your poor choices by saying things like, "Nothing is a waste of time," — no offense, but that is a damn lie. Waste literally means "to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return; use to no avail or profit; squander," and yes — it is quite possible (and easier than most people think) to involve yourself in something (or with someone) without getting an adequate return…in return.
When one of my surrogate mothers passed away of cancer in her late 50s several years ago, one of the last things that she said to me on her hospice bed was, "It goes by sooner than you think," and I have always kept that in the forefront of my mind. As I get older, I find myself saying, "Where does the time go?" more and more.
An ex coming back into your life could potentially be an awesome thing. "Awesome" if the two of you aren't going to be a waste of each other's time. Again, use the definition of the word as a barometer. Be honest with yourself as you do.
This Time, Be Friends First (or Again)Giphy
I've been in the couples counseling game for a long time now. And if there's one thing that a lot of married and divorced people have told me, it's that they wish they had spent more time trying to cultivate a friendship with their spouse than a relationship — because when the foundation of something is unstable, the house will eventually crumble on some level.
And this brings us back to Nelly and Ashanti — they seemed to last for a good amount of time by keeping things private the first go around, so if they are indeed reconciling, I'm not sure why they would switch up the formula now. Either way, I hope that they and you will make friendship the top priority. Why? Because the best things come out of friendships. The healthiest relationships are included.
When it comes to you and your journey, please check out articles I've penned, like "10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships," "7 Signs Your Friendship...Actually Isn't One," "10 Signs You've Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend," "Ever Wonder If A Friend Is Just...Not That Into You?" and definitely "Self BFF: 7 Signs You're Your Own Best Friend." Because if you are thinking about getting back with an ex, the least that the two of you need to be towards each other is hella loyal, honest with each other, and respectful of each other's feelings, needs, and even a few wants. No relationship can thrive without those things intact and every healthy friendship consists of those "ingredients."
And you won't (fully) know if any of this is the case if you're quick to jump into bed or rush into a relationship without seeing how you are as friends…first.
You know, reconcile is a really interesting word. On the one hand, it can mean "to cause (a person) to accept or be resigned to something not desired." On the other hand, it can mean things like "to win over to friendliness; cause to become amicable" and "to bring into agreement or harmony; make compatible or consistent." And with those definitions in mind, that's what you should focus on most of all.
- Is your ex willing to "win you over" by how they (now) treat you? Are you willing to do the same?
- Would being with them bring more or less harmony into your life?
- How compatible were you before, and how compatible do you seem to be now (sans the nostalgia)?
I will never say that getting back with an ex is a good or bad idea, full stop. I'll just say that if you're going back to your past, make sure it benefits your future. Otherwise, leave it right where it's at: nothing that your present needs beyond a scroll and a click…if that much, sis.
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