Hello everybody, welcome to episode 230 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is about dealing with someone who's emotionally unavailable.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
Listen to Greg narrate this post on Episode 230 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.
And today, everyone, we’ve got another question about hot romance. Our asker today isn’t sure if she should stick with her partner; someone with whom she has wonderful conversation and feels completely hooked on, but tends to come and go as they please. Let’s think today about what characteristics make for a relationship worth sticking with. But first, here’s the question…
QUESTION: “There is this special someone whom I’ve been head over heels for, for the past two years now. I’ve never been this hooked and this goes to show how special of a person they are. It’s just that much more clear to me the more we converse about topics like history, sustainability, mindset, and the list goes on and on. But unfortunately, they are always appearing and disappearing, I presume emotionally unavailable. But I keep holding on to hope, knowing that what we have is something I’ve never experienced before. What do you think is the best course of action? Should I hold on? It’s hard to let go and I don’t know what to do.”
Is It Worth Staying In This Relationship?
Mmm. Ok. Thanks for sending this in, asker. Well you’re sold on the person being special. Sometimes people are special because they truly possess qualities that others don’t (not always good ones, mind you) and sometimes people are just special to us because they possess a quality we really appreciate, maybe they’re the first person we’ve met who possesses this quality to such a degree, or maybe they’re just hard to get (something worth reflecting on).
But special people don’t always make for special relationships. They’re different things and it probably goes without saying that it’s more worth focusing on a special relationship than a special person. So let’s take time to figure out if the relationship itself is special and worth staying in.
It’s no surprise to me that you make the focal point of your relationship out to be the meaningful conversation you have. I say that because – folks, this is another person who’s submitted a question before – I know that good conversation goes a long way for you. I know that you like discussing things in depth, so it makes sense that this would be something you’d really crave in a romantic relationship more so than most others.
But you need to reflect on what you have with this person aside from similar viewpoints and rich conversation. Even if you two share this value that is a healthy one and important to both of you, there still has to be more for the relationship to be special.
It has to have balance, as do all relationships.
Balance At A Deeper Level
And when I say balance, I’m not talking about cute, trivial things like you two sharing the same diet, the same sleep schedule, the same preferences in movies or finishing each other’s sentences. Can these things be fun and helpful parts of a relationship? Absolutely they can. But the balance I’m talking about exists at a deeper level.
It’s a regular flaw for us to think a relationship is special simply because one important piece of the puzzle for us is there. It’s hard not to get excited when you have someone who likes you, has something that you really treasure, and throw into the mix the fact that we’re all enamored by the idea of finding magical Disney love.
But we can’t be fooled by this anymore than we can be fooled by putting all our eggs in one basket in any other area of life.
Example: Take a schoolboy who thinks his relationship is special because a girl likes him, oh and she happens to have the nicest butt in the class. Shallow, right? I know, but stick with me.
Take a middle aged widow who thinks her relationship is special because her new boyfriend happens to have had a wife that died young, and they share the same, unique pain.
One example is obviously more crude than the other, but that’s the only difference. Most importantly, what these two have in common is that they’ve both met someone who possesses the quality they’re most excited to find in a partner given where they are in life.
But both would be foolish to think that these relationships could thrive if their partners weren’t also emotionally supportive and emotionally available – just as you mentioned in your question. And spoiler alert, both partners have to be like this.
A Willingness to Commit
What you, the widow, and the schoolboy all need to ask yourselves is if you and your partner share a willingness to commit to one another in the same way.
Do you share a willingness to hear the other’s side of the arguments? Do you share a willingness to exhibit loving actions even when times are rough and you don’t feel like it?
These are the types of things that the most successful couples have in common. If the relationship is special enough to work right now, you need to have these types of things between you.
With that being said, your description of your partner appearing and disappearing doesn’t make me optimistic. I don’t know what other qualities they exhibit, but you choosing to disclose only that they provide good conversation and a lack of reliability is all I have to go by.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s over already. If you two haven’t yet given one another the chance to be open and accepting of what you both want in the relationship, it’s not too late to start trying.
You asked for the best course of action; this is the best course of action.
Should You Hold On?
You asked if you should hold on; that will depend on what you learn after having this type of conversation.
Without judgment, manipulation, or an effort to change your partner, find out why they appear and disappear. Find out what they want. Find out what compels them to leave and what compels them to come back again. See what they say, and proceed with caution.
What do I mean by caution? I mean to play it conservatively.
I’ll put it this way: if they resist this type of conversation or engage in it reluctantly, it’s not the right time for you two. If they say they’re ready, but they’re actions then go on to show otherwise, it’s not the right time. If they say they aren’t ready, regardless of what their actions show after that, it’s not the right time. It’s only the right time if they say they’re on the same page as you and their actions reflect that.
Otherwise, it isn’t the right time for you two. Maybe it will be some day, and maybe it will never be. But if it’s not the right time right now, it’d be very risky of you to keep trying with them.
Letting Go of Someone Who's Emotionally Unavailable: Conclusion
There are rare cases in which continuing to try when it clearly isn’t right can end up working. Sometimes someone wants to love but is so afraid of being hurt that they can’t fully give themselves over until they see someone putting in effort for them.
Not ideal, but also not necessarily a recipe for disaster should a relationship then start. But again, this type of thing is rare. You can’t control your feelings, but you can control your actions. And pursuing them the same way is usually dangerous. There’s even danger in trying to be friends or trying to do something casual.
I’ll say again, as you go through different phases together and as individuals, it’s possible that the time for a relationship could come up later, but know that making an effort with someone when you aren’t on the same wavelength usually leads to more pain, as well as more time not spent looking for a relationship that’s actually special.
Thanks again to the asker for submitting not just this question, but as I said, for being a repeat customer. Also thankful to you all for being here and hopefully walking away some new ideas about your own relationships. Be very careful to not be blinded by a single good quality in your partner, or even a single good bond between the two of you.
Attaching yourself to this is just as risky as attaching yourself to anything in life. If you rely too much on any one thing, you’re going to get hurt and your expectations will never be met. Word to the wise. Time to get out of here now though, friends. Behave yourselves out there and be sure to come on back to the next one. Until then.
Listen to Greg narrate this post on Episode 230 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.