Dating an emotionally unavailable person is often a frustrating and emotionally damaging experience, especially when it involves chasing after someone who is already committed to another person. When two emotionally unavailable people date each other, the relationship can either help foster mutual understanding or be painful for both of them.
Just Plain Unavailable
A lot of people use the phrase "emotionally unavailable" as a euphemism when what they really mean is that the person they're seeing is already involved with someone else. Such a person may indeed be emotionally unavailable, but the real problem is that they are just plain unavailable. Neil Rosenthal, writing for the Denver Post, lists emotional distance, low self-worth, substance abuse and infidelity as the characteristics of an emotionally unavailable person. If two people with these types of problems try to date each other, the result is likely to be equally unsatisfying for both of them.
Thinkers and Stoics
Some cultures have traditionally encouraged people, and especially men, to cultivate a stoic demeanor and not express strong emotions too readily. Other people are naturally thinkers more than feelers. It's not that they don't have powerful emotions, but that they usually operate from their heads instead of their hearts. Both thinkers and stoics may seem emotionally unavailable to others, but that doesn't mean they are habitually unfaithful or have the other self-destructive habits often associated with emotional unavailability. If two people like this start dating, they may find that they understand each other in ways other people may find difficult.
People who suffered traumatic experiences in childhood sometimes have lifelong problems with emotional openness and intimacy. They may seem distant, alienated from their own emotions or unaware of what they are feeling in different situations. People like this are often unable to easily understand or empathize with the emotions of others. A person like this can be a very frustrating romantic partner, but if two people with these characteristics become involved in a relationship, they may be able to help each other through mutual support and compassion.
Being romantically involved with an emotionally unavailable person can feel like a repeated series of emotionally damaging rejections. However, the emotionally unavailable person can't help being who he is and acting the way he does just by deciding to change. Only a serious effort over a long period of time can overcome the internal boundaries and defenses that make intimacy so difficult for this type of person. If two emotionally unavailable people get involved with each other romantically, they start the relationship with one advantage. They both know what it's like and how hard it really is. If they can turn this shared understanding into unconditional support and acceptance for each other, they may be able to overcome the difficulties and be happy together.
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Scott Thompson has been writing professionally since 1990, beginning with the "Pequawket Valley News." He is the author of nine published books on topics such as history, martial arts, poetry and fantasy fiction. His work has also appeared in "Talebones" magazine and the "Strange Pleasures" anthology.