I was once in a relationship with a guy who was a stone. Don’t get me wrong, he was super-attractive stone…and deep down lovely, but let’s just say he was emotionally unavailable.
If you’ve ever been in an emotionally distant relationship, you know the trouble it brings. The other person can’t fulfil your needs, and you know you’re bound for a world of pain. But for whatever reason, you’re addicted to staying connected to your ‘stone’ and peg your hopes on the love dream coming true.
Sometimes we get hooked on the idea that we will be the special one that transforms him from dead to devoted. Then one day, we wake up and realise the limitations are unsustainable. We know it’s not working, and it’s not going to transform anytime soon. At this point, if we’re logical, we’ll say, ‘Okay, it’s not working, let’s move on’.
But we don’t do that.
We’ve nailed ourselves to the idea that this man must give us what we want, and then…uh oh, now we’re all hooked up to Mr Wrong. But because we’re obsessed, we continue to ask for the emotional distance to be fixed. At this point, he either refuses, tells us we’re just silly or outright states, ‘This is all I’ve got honey, deal with it’.
But hey…at least we tried….right?
Often, Mr Stone will still want to stay in the relationship because enough of his needs are being met, so all is hunky-dory. The sticky place is a commitment-phobe sometimes gives just enough to keep us there, but there’s a big gap that opens when our needs are denied. This is where the pain lives.
Of course, keeping space around ourselves is healthy, even in an intimate relationship. Space is where true love grows; it allows two people to dance and play together. A gap is different. A gap is where our current needs live; it’s where we’re vulnerable and seek connection.
When anyone is ignored, it’s painful. We naturally start to problem solve on how to bring about change. Our logical mind tries to wrestle the problem to the ground; this usually involves manipulation:
‘I’ll play it cool, and he’ll give in’.
‘I’ll scream until I get what I want’.
‘I’ll make him jealous, and he’ll want me’.
It often works. Sometimes Mr Stone will indeed give us what we want, and we’re contented; for a while. However, before long, we usually end up with a half-baked solution or him reverting to type. Often we’re left with no choice but to settle, give constant ultimatums or keep dangling the threat carrot, ‘Shape up, or I’m leaving’.
Deep down, we know we’re selling ourselves short, and our nervous system keeps on twisting.
Now we’re ignoring ourselves.
Now we sideline our own needs.
Now we agree to deny our truth.
Now we’re colluding with being ignored.
And to make matters worse, not only are we betraying ourselves; NOW…we’re less attractive. We start acting out of pain. Maybe we get demanding; maybe we keep forcing the issue; perhaps we start chasing or begging. So now Mr Emotionally Unavailable loses respect and pulls further away. He can’t help but register the fact we’re still hanging around, even though we’ve told him he’s not meeting our needs.
Then our pain is worse because we’re feeling humiliated, but we’re still scared to let go.
So, what do we do?
Well, it really requires strategic levels of problem-solving because the real battle is not ‘out there’…the real struggle is with ourselves. Deep down, we know we should part ways, but the problem of leaving will be the experience of the gap. Now we have a dilemma because the feeling of staying is also intolerable; our self-belief is eroding. To stay in this so-called ‘relationship will break us.
It seems we cannot solve the challenge, but there comes a time we have to say, ‘That’s it, I’m out’. So, where will our courage come from? How will we suffer the pain of separation?
Well, it can be plenty scary. But we have to stand by our values. We have to remember the gap can be FIXED, so future relationships run more smoothly. We don’t need a man to make us whole; we can heal and free ourselves from our emotional hooks and snags. If we don’t find another relationship right away, we can surround ourselves with others who nurture us, listen to us and value us. We can fill a whole lot of our needs with our external and internal resources. Of course, therapy can be necessary for some people, especially if there are past attachment injuries. However, if we feel our requests are reasonable (e.g. affection, attention, respect and feeling valued), then let’s agree it’s never a good idea to dumb down our needs and have to plead for the basics.
Leaving someone we care for is hard, but it hurts far more when we’re trying to get blood out of a stone. It aches too much when we are separated from our self-worth and standards. We can’t continue to tolerate being ignored or being told we’re too demanding or that, ‘Hey babe, your insecurity is so off-putting’. We want to honour our heart and not deny our reasonable desire for commitment.
If the person you’re with is consistently refusing to meet your relationship requirements, then it might be time to move on, especially if you’ve been asking for change for some time. It doesn’t mean the separation will be permanent, but the best chance of them having a change of heart is to live in the world without you. Distance often allows people to figure out their priorities, and if it’s not you…then what’s the point?
There are several billion men on the planet; one of them is your match. Realising this truth will keep you on track to getting the love you desire and deserve, and that is a great idea.
Because you’ll never find love in a fantasy relationship with an empty man.
If you want to know whether you should stay or go, then I offer a free 30-Min ‘Relationship Assessment’ where you have space to talk through your dilemma and see if my work can help you move on, with or without the man you like or love.
Wishing you all the love you deserve.
Linda Bebbington is a Relationship Therapist & Dating Coach, helping you to find love, save your relationship and overcome heartbreak. She’s the author of ‘The Ex Files’ and the creator of ‘Texting Secrets For Women’ and ‘The Boyfriend Blueprint’. You can contact her below for 1-1 coaching or to book a free consultation.