Emotional unavailability in men stems from multiple causes and poses many issues in men’s intimate relationships. The inability or lack of willingness to be emotionally present for others can cause pain not only in the man but also to those around him. This emotional unavailability can occur because of poor role models but also because of negative responses when men show emotion. One of the first steps toward helping men with this issue is that a man needs to understand how it affects him and where this issue comes from.
Poor Role Models
When fathers are negative role models or are not present in boys' lives, the boys can become emotionally unavailable men. As people grow up, they tend to model themselves after their same-sex parent. Fathers help children develop socially and emotionally, and fathers help boys learn what it means to be an emotionally available male. Poor role models do not adequately show boys how to be emotive. When fathers are not present, boys might not learn how men handle emotions in a healthy way. Thus, these boys increase their chances of becoming emotionally unavailable later in life.
Many men find it difficult to be emotionally available because society often promotes a lack of emotionality in them. Men are socialized to be strong -- but emotional expression tends to run counter to this belief. Thus, males are rewarded for being less emotional. Many people consider it acceptable to teach boys to be hardy, to avoid their emotions because boys should demonstrate strength. This socialization does men a disservice, because it hampers men’s ability to connect with others, especially in relationships.
Negative Responses to Emotion
When society does not reward men for showing emotion, men may tend to become emotionally unavailable. Such a process can occur across a man's life span. For instance, if a boy’s parents punished him for showing his emotions, he may associate showing emotions with a negative consequence, so he will be less likely to be emotive. Men may also be emotionally unavailable, because of negative dating experiences. If a man showed a previous partner his emotions and that partner then rebuffed him, he may less likely to be emotionally available now.
Trauma has significant effects on men, especially when they are young, and can lead to emotional unavailability. Traumatic events challenge men's ability to adapt and grow from pain. When men experience these events as children, men may develop problems with emotional regulation, a reality compounded by society's pressure on boys and men to be less emotional than women. These men may develop such a sense of fear around emotion, and men may shut off their emotions and become unavailable to others.
S. Grey has a Master of Science in counseling psychology from the University of Central Arkansas. He is also pursuing a PhD and has a love for psychology, comic books and social justice. He has been published in a text on social psychology and regularly presents research at regional psychology conferences.