If you find yourself repeatedly falling into relationship with men who are emotionally or often physically unavailable, you’re not alone.
It is the single most frequent relationship complaint that I hear. Truth: there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer for this, but there are some guideposts.
As John Bowlby wrote in Separation (from his seminal series: Attachment, Separation, and Loss)
“In the working model of the world that anyone builds, a key feature is his notion of who his attachment figures are, where they may be found, and how they may be expected to respond. Similarly, in the working model of the self that anyone builds a key feature is his notion of how acceptable or unacceptable he himself is in the eyes of his attachment figures.
On the structure of these complimentary models are based that person’s forecasts of how accessible and responsive his attachment figures are likely to be should he turn to them for support.”
Translated: our primary attachment figures growing up, usually our parents, provide the template for how we know to receive care and love.
If we had unavailable parents; we might seek out, however unknowingly, unavailable partners.
You could reasonably argue that his/her/their initial presentation was completely different “but he seemed so open!” I believe it. We have excellent radars for partners, even if they reveal themselves to be the “wrong” ones. It is my position that we sniff out people who mimic traits of our parents, but who also show the glimmers of possible change. They may be entirely different people, but in their company, we may find ourselves feeling the same way.
Let’s say your boyfriend scrolls through Instagram over dinner, rather than talking to you about your day. It may echo experience from when you were young, and desperately trying to get the favorable attention of a parent, savoring it when you did.
We are, fortunately and naturally, calibrated towards healing and growth.
If you look at past relationships, you may notice similarities, but also look for the differences, which could even look like improvements. With each relationship’s end, we may find ourselves saying “Never again will I date a… married man/founder of a start-up/person with addiction issues/member of a traveling circus, etc…” , resolving to repair going forward. We might also find some things that we really liked, and want more of with our future partner/s.
So how can we prepare for the next time in the ring
1. Take an inventory
Make a list of what you won’t tolerate going forward, not only in your partner, but in yourself. Draw a line down the middle of a page and devote on side to yourself and one to your partner. Do the same on a second page, and devote that page to what you want more of-from your partner and yourself. Hold true to this.
2. Go inside-be honest about your own availability.
This can be supported by sitting in meditation, journaling, or drawing. However you best know to access your feelings. When you tap into what your heart wants, notice if there’s any resistance or counterbalance. You may absolutely want a partner, but recognize a quiet trepidation, or past hurt that still gets triggered. Allow that hurt a voice. Imagine holding a microphone up to the uncertainty/hurt and see what it has to say.
3. Be kind to yourself-you’re not doing anything wrong.
We learn in increments and repeat until the lesson is metabolized. Take all the time you need, and try to enjoy the exploration. You don’t have to get everything right, now or ever. In fact, that’s a wildly unrealistic expectation. Honor the mates you choose as well as your choosing of them. They may not be the one, but each experience brings you closer to your dreams.
Elizabeth Baum, M.A., MFTi – www.elizabethbaumintegral.com
For me, this is less about women wanting a guy they can’t have and more about women wanting guys they SHOULDN’T want to have. Let me explain….
The Bad Boy
It’s true that women are often attracted to the bad boy. These men often break the rules, but also break women’s hearts. The non-conforming personality of a bad boy is often full of narcissistic and antisocial traits. While this may seem attractive at first, it often won’t last long-term. These type of men don’t want to settle down and often are not loyal.
The Attached Man
Men who are attached are more attractive to other women. When men are in relationships/married, and have children, they come across as more stable and committed. So to single women, they are significantly more desirable than they would be if they were single. Stop going after men who are unavailable, and instead realize that you deserve to have a man’s full, undivided attention!
Women often seek out men who are emotionally cut off and unavailable. Then they get frustrated when the guy doesn’t meet their emotional needs in the relationship. If you want your emotional needs met in a relationship (we’re talking conversation, affection, validation, supportive, and helpful) then you need to seek out a man who has the ability to go there.
A lot of this boils down to your self-confidence. If you don’t believe that you deserve to be treated well in a relationship, you will attract men who don’t treat you well. You also need to know what you are looking for in a partner.
Go into dating like you would a grocery shopping trip. Know what you are looking to buy and what is on your list. If it is a dealbreaker, put it back on the shelf and walk away. Don’t waste time with men who don’t fit the criteria of your grocery list. Know that you are worth it!
As long as we can remember some people always seem to go for the one they cannot have.
Why do they set themselves up for endless torture and heartbreak? There are a few reasons that may be behind this phenomenon.
One sure fire way to avoid a true real life, completely in committal relationship is to go for someone that does not want a relationship with us.
First thing to look at if you find yourself in the pattern of going for the one that will never be yours is, do you really want to be in a relationship.
When asking this question look at the real life, ups and downs, day in day out committed relationship not the one from the movies. My guess if you are completely honest with yourself this may be a cause of going for the unattainable man. There is safety in knowing that you are never going to have to really be both feet in if you continue to go for the unavailable man. Figure out why you are so reluctant to have a real day to day relationship and start addressing this. When you do this, you will find those red flags of unattainable status pour out clearly.
Another possible reason for this pursuit is the glamorizing of the ones that are out of reach.
Is he really perfect? The truth is no one is perfect, everyone has faults and his just might be his being just out of reach for a real relationship with you. Take a look at him in the light of day for the strengths and weaknesses he possesses. If you take the rose colored, fault free glasses off you may see a person standing in front of you that you really don’t want. This can help change the perspective, he is not out of reach for you, he is the one you do not want and therefore you are out of reach for him.
We all do things for a reason.
Ultimately you need to look at what is going on inside of you that is helping you continue to make these choices and what are they serving for you. If you can figure this out you just might make better choices.
He Says “I Love You”… But does he really mean it?
This 7 question quiz tells you if your man truly loves you or if he is just using you…
This is SUCH a common mistake that today’s modern day single woman is making.
She jumps to the erroneous conclusion that just because she WANTS something / someone, that she should be able to HAVE it / him.
Remember, we only have a shot at the guy who thinks we’re hot.
A man will pass over a particular woman if
1. Timing is off for him
He’s focused on work, family or another woman who’s got his attention.
2. If he’s not attracted to her in a romantic sense
(85% of women have the ability to develop romantic attraction over time. Guys? Sadly, less than 5% have this ability.)
Unless you’re HIS type, physically, you simply don’t get to have this guy… in which case, simply move on….
3. He is not feeling empowered around her energetically.
BIG ONE, ladies. It’s common for today’s Alpha female to think that she should partner with an Alpha male, but… rarely is that type of man drawn to the female version of himself.
Men need to be appreciated, admired and respected — Can strong, smart, accomplished women BE this way?
Yes, indeed, but it requires discipline and practice, which you can begin doing NOW, to literally become the type of woman that a big, strong, successful man wants and needs in his life. Get really good at demonstrating those qualities with the men who are already in your world and see how they respond.
Things to practice if we want to be with The It Guy: Use our ears more than our mouths.
Let him lead. And be open to the men who ARE responding to you. You have a shot with THAT man.
Julie Ferman, B.A. – www.julieferman.com
There are a few fascinating observations about many relationship seekers that are so common that they sometime feel like the norm.
One of them is when a person is more intrigued by something out of reach than something he or she has, or might be able to attain. That grass-could-be-greener-if-we-could-only-get-to-it-desire can occupy one’s total imagination, wiping out any true contentment in what is at hand. And, though that wishful thinking is not a problem if it is an occasional passing whim, it can be an extremely frustrating and damaging way of being if it persists.
Many think that those fantasy desires only happen when a current relationship has matured and lost its novelty.
Actually, many people are “relationship-table-hoppers” all their lives, wanting their current relationship to stay in place while constantly thinking or actually looking for something that might be better. They may not act on it or betray an existing relationship, but they are constantly fantasizing on how they could be happier with someone else. And, because they don’t necessarily want to risk what they have, that someone else is usually an unavailable partner.
At the foundation of all intimate relationships most all humans need a balance of both security versus adventure, and safety versus risk, to be genuinely content.
Relationships that maintain their discovery and novelty are less prone to hidden desires to experience impulsive experience somewhere else. And, people who opt for more security than risk are going to be more likely to fantasize what they are missing to keep the balance, at least internally.
But there are those, in a cherished partnership, who continue to see life as a series of “relationship islands,” each with their unique characteristics.
And, who are those people who often are the objects of those fantasies.
There are the “bad boys” and “fatal attraction women” who seem to seduce at will, only to dump when done?
The people who so leave their comfort zone and go for the elusive knight or sequestered princess, fantasize that they will be the one who will capture him or her forever.
Harlequin romances are made up of this duo of the quality, lonely woman who has given up on true, passionate love, who falls in love with the tall dark stranger who enters the town with a hit-and-run agenda. Because of her rare combination of not needing to possess him while giving totally of herself, she feels that she might be “the one” for whom he will give up his renegade ways. He, of course, takes advantage and then skips town, only to finally return because she was, in fact the one. (See the classic stage play and movie, “The Music Man”).
And what about Scherazade, the famed young woman who won over the heart of the murderous sultan?
Reportedly, his first wife was unfaithful to him. In retribution he sequentially married 1,000 virgins for one night each, and then had them beheaded the next day. Scherazade was the most beautiful, learned, and fascinating woman in his realm and daughter of the Vizier.
Deciding to stop the massacres, she agreed to marry the Sultan and, on their wedding night, asked to see her sister one more time. He agreed, and then listened with fascination as Scherazade told her sister an intriguing and magical story. When the Sultan asked her to finish it, she said she would the next night because it was so late. So, of course, he spared her.
She continued to tell only half a story for 1,000 nights, keeping the Sultan engrossed in the beautiful fantasies. When she told him there were no more, he had become so enraptured by her that he spared her and stopped his revenge on women. Women ever since, have attempted to master how to give enough to maintain interest, but not so much as to give away the mystery.
The common ironic belief is that most men want a beautiful elusive woman in public, hopefully desired by many other men, but who is only theirs when the bedroom door is closed, and that most women want a chivalrous, giving man whose sexual and emotional hunger for them is visible but not ever forced.
And most people would agree that they have felt that at times. Sadly, the fact that beautiful, elusive, hot women are rarely sacrificial, giving, and unselfish, and that sexy, unavailable men hunger to stick around when things aren’t easy and fun, tends to throw a monkey wrench in the hope that both traits can exist in any one gender. As a result, many relationship seekers go from one to the other, trying to end up fulfilling all of their needs, albeit sequentially. (See my Psychology Today Article, “Why Great Husbands are Being Abandoned.”)
Your fantasies about creating a great relationship with an elusive, self-protective and self-serving partner are probably, at best, a waste of time.
Better to work on blending your own autonomy with your availability in a great package that neither over-sacrifices nor is over-elusive. Don’t play games with yourself or with potential partners. Hot, passionate relationships can be their own reward, even without any guarantees for the future. (See my Psychology Today article, “Touch and Go Relationships – Do they have to be Superficial?”) Trying to make a comfy, secure, loving relationship compete with the hot passion of a new relationship with an out-of-reach partner rarely works, and is not fair to either.
Generally, it is more hopeful to pick a partner who is closer to the middle, someone who knows how to love, but isn’t so attached to you that he or she will give up integrity and personal growth just to hold on to you.
Great, authentic intimate partners who recognize the need for both comfort and challenge, keep their hearts and souls open to that continued discovery. They know how to balance their own risk versus safety ratios internally and they want the same for their partners. They recognize that both will always fantasy about another at some point in time, but that they are highly unlikely to leave a relationship that is in the top ten percent already.
Here are some related articles I’ve written on Psychology Today Blogs that might provide more interesting perspectives:
Is this True Love?
10 Important Questions You Should ask a Potential Partner
Should I date this Person Again? – First date behaviors that predict relationship success
Selling Out – Compromising Integrity
Dr. Randi Gunther – www.randigunther.com
How do you know if he is into you? And how into you is he?
Should you ask him straight up? Should you guess? Get a tarot card reading?
I would answer: If you don’t know where you stand in your relationship, then that is probably not a good sign.
When a man is into you – if you are “the one” – you will know.
This means that if you are not sure what your status is with him, then likely it is not too solid. And if you’ve been wondering after weeks and weeks, and maybe, months and months . . . even more so!
Basically what I am saying is, if you are wondering where you stand with your man, then your very unsureness is part of your answer.
A man will turn the world upside down to be with you if you are the one for him. He will cross the country, miss the big game, and throw his coat over a puddle for you to walk over.
You will see it in his eyes, you will hear it in his tone of voice, you will feel it in the touch of his hand, but most importantly, you will experience it by his actions. His feelings for you will be whispered into the background of every moment. If that’s not happening, take that in as data. As hard as that may be to contemplate, you need to consider it.
For a relationship to be strong, it needs to be authentic: not manufactured by a fantasy, or a wish, or an artificial timeline, but based on a truly genuine and real connection between the two of you.
Remember these 3 things as you navigate a new relationship.
If you remember these three points you won’t wonder what the state of your relationship is – it will become apparent.
You will see it, feel it, and know it. Nor will you need to have “the talk” about exclusivity. You will have talked about everything under the sun already, including that. When your man loves you, he will profess it, he will tell his friends and family, he will shout it out to high heaven! Everyone will know that you are the one – including, and especially YOU.
Diana Lang, Counselor and Author of Opening to Meditation – www.dianalang.com
Timing is sometimes a difficulty in a relationship.
People have different paces as they move towards commitment and exclusivity. While there isn’t a right or a wrong pace, there is probably some kind of range of time that partners fall into. It becomes problematic if your pace and your partner’s pace differ to a large degree.
It’s the faster paced partner who has the problem.
She may get anxious and rush the slower paced partner. I think one of the ways to tell if you are either rushing (or stalling) is to look at your anxiety level about “the talk”. Somebody has to bring up the topic eventually, but if you feel anxious doing it, you may sense that you are moving too fast for your partner. Anxiety can make us want to rush the talk and seal the deal so to speak. This seldom goes well.
I think most of us can take the temperature of a relationship and pretty much know if it’s moving towards commitment.
If it is, it’s probably safe to bring up the topic. The feedback you get from your partner can help you understand how he sees things. Once the commitment issue is out in the open any anxiety drains away. You can check in with each other and talk about what you want for the future.
If after a reasonable time period, your partner avoids the issue, it’s probably safe to assume that he either isn’t that committed to you, he isn’t looking for commitment at this time, or he doesn’t ever want to be in a committed relationship.
While all of that information can be painful to some degree, it’s helpful to you to know whether you are building something together or if you will look back on this relationship as a waste of your time.
Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
Learn Why Men Pull Away
There is a deep-seated “Gap” in communication that very few women (or men) understand.
It’s the #1 reason why men pull away.
To be truly irresistible to a man, you MUST understand this gap, and the way feelings of love get confused and entangled in a man’s mind…
One thing you are going to have to trust is your instinct about when it’s appropriate to have this type of talk.
Many women wait until the man brings it up. Some women don’t say anything and just make their own assumptions based on behavior. A lot of women are scared of pushing away a man by having this talk too early. Does any of that resonate with you?
If so, reviewing the do’s and don’ts of “having the talk” will help you to channel in your inner guidance and come up with a plan of action.
1. Do bring up the issue in a calm and confident manner
a. If you come across as needy and weak, your man is going to sense it and respond accordingly. You are the prize and you need to remember that. You are amazing and any guy would be lucky to make a commitment to you.
2. Don’t place a lot of expectations on it
a. But don’t place too many expectations on the one in front of you. You can have high expectations for the man you ultimately end up with but it is going to take some time to weed out men who are not serious about you or serious about having a relationship. If you jump in with two feet right away it doesn’t allow for things to unfold and develop as they should.
3. Do ask for what you want
a. If you have been seeing a guy for more than six months and you aren’t official and you want to be boyfriend and girlfriend, ask for it. Let him know what you want. If you have only been dating one month, it might be wise for you to give it a little longer to see how things go.
4. Don’t settle for less than what you deserve
a. If you really want to have a boyfriend, then have a boyfriend. If the man in front of you is not making you his girlfriend and you’ve hit most of the appropriate milestones, it’s time to reevaluate if this relationship is going to work for you.
5. Do hear about his point of view
a. If you do talk to him about it, listen to what he has to say and take it at face value. When a man wants for you to be his girlfriend, he will make you his girlfriend. It might take some time but there will be signs there for you to see that he is serious about you.
6. Don’t focus on only meeting your needs
a. If there are some needs he has in the relationship that you aren’t meeting, you may want to consider ways you can meet them. This is where open communication becomes paramount in a relationship. Couples work best when both partners are assessing each other’s needs and actively working on meeting them.
7. Do evaluate where you both stand in the relationship
a. If you have a light and breezy talk about this subject, gauge where he stands and take it at face value. If he tells you he doesn’t see you as a girlfriend yet, don’t think that means he absolutely sees you as a girlfriend in the future. Look to see if you are both on the same page today.
8. Don’t be passive-aggressive around this topic
a. Don’t make snide comments about “girlfriend” or drop hints about things. Be upfront with him and have a decision. The decision doesn’t need to be very serious but it does need to occur, especially if you find yourself being passive aggressive.
9. Do ask for clarification
a. If you talk about your status, ask for clarification about what things mean to him. He might say he doesn’t want to be boyfriend and girlfriend right now but that also might mean he wants to see other people. Or it might mean he wants to continue to only see you and see where things go. You deserve to have answer and clarity when it comes to relationships.
10. Don’t assume things
a. This goes along with what was written in the paragraph above. If he says one thing, you can’t assume things unless you ask about it and get clarity. Remember the old adage about assuming.
If you are with a guy who is on the same page as you are, then this talk might feel a little awkward but in the end everything will work out. If you are dreading having this talk or feel very anxious about it, you might need to look deeper into where you are at in the relationship and how things have progressed for answers.
Amanda Patterson, LMHC – www.amandapattersonlmhc.com