open sign

I’m often asked ‘How do I find someone who is emotionally available?’ and fundamentally, the job of finding someone who is emotionally present and accountable for a mutually fulfilling relationship is made a hell of a lot easier by being emotionally available yourself. It is important to remember that when you attract or are attracted to people who are emotionally (and possibly spiritually or physically) unavailable, that if you stick around in spite of this, you need to address your own unavailability.

We all experience times in our lives where we can be a bit emotionally unavailable, for instance when we experience a death or feel emotionally exhausted because of intense stress or an illness, or when we are fresh out of a relationship. However, that is very different to people who are habitually emotionally unavailable – it’s their ’emotional lifestyle choice’. If you habitually engage with emotionally unavailable people, it’s imperative that you face your own emotional unavailability if you genuinely do want to find love and a relationship.

When you’re emotionally available, you’re willing to emotionally engage on an ongoing basis. The trouble with emotionally unavailable people is that they tend to do it in short bursts or have an intense period followed by a much longer lasting stretch of lukewarm or cold followed by occasional bursts or ‘spits’ of warmth. This is why, in particular, I get a lot of women mentioning the word ‘passion’ to me because in being involved with emotionally unavailable men, they’re used to getting bursts of sexual and emotional intensity that they think equates to passion. What it equates to is that persons inability to go the distance.

Emotionally available people can cope beyond the stage of ‘newness’ and are not reliant on the sensation of drama or feeling like they are in danger of losing the relationship to feel desire. They recognise that you need to nurture a relationship and let it steadily grow, whereas relationships with emotionally unavailable people tend to come in fits and starts, come to a standstill or regress.

Emotionally available people are consistently emotionally available. They’re people who don’t just talk the talk but consistently through actions engage their emotions which is reflected in what results. It’s important also to realise that part of being emotionally available is that desire, willingness, action, and actual need to feel your emotions, not run from them. This means not just feeling the ‘good stuff’ but feeling your fears and not being restrained by them.

Emotionally unavailable people are often running from feeling. When you get too close they pull away, when you’re around someone decent, you pull away, when you’re seemingly offered what you want, you second guess it or suddenly find issues with it. You don’t know how many emails I’ve received from women who have dated men who had wives/girlfriends or were otherwise unavailable and when they became available, they panicked and were suddenly not ready or interested.

Emotionally available people don’t limit themselves. They’re actively working to ensure they don’t have limited beliefs and they don’t limit their capacity to feel and emotionally engage with other people and be truly intimate.

When you align yourself with emotionally unavailable people, you are limiting yourself by being with someone that has a limited capacity to emotionally engage, has a limited offering, and whose initial emotional persona is limited. Literally. What you get is only out for a limited time and then they’ll either slow fade out to the real emotional persona or just literally switch over and whip the proverbial rug from under your feet.

Emotionally available people don’t keep running from true intimacy. Emotionally unavailable people are afraid of the consequences of being truly intimate with someone and ‘letting them in’. They’re afraid of what they will feel if they truly put themselves out there and feel genuine intimacy and end up being vulnerable and/or the relationship doesn’t work out.

They’re afraid they’ll lose the relationship as soon as they’re vulnerable.

This is why a lot of emotionally unavailable people are afraid of abandonment/of being ‘left’ and so they don’t let themselves get intimate because they’re afraid of realising their fear. Of course, in carrying a belief that people will leave, they tend to align themselves with people who will leave and who are emotionally disconnected, or end up doing their utmost best to sabotage things so that they do realise the fear of abandonment and the self-fulfillinf prophecy is proved.

Emotionally available people don’t sabotage what results from emotionally engaging with others. They don’t create drama, disappear, sprint from the scene of the relationship, and put up walls.

Emotionally available people don’t lose themselves in relationships with emotionally unavailable people because it would feel too damn awkward for them.

Emotionally available people love themselves and don’t spend copious amounts of energy talking negatively to themselves, wallowing in blame and shame, and lacking compassion and understanding. They act with love, care, trust, and respect to themselves hence making it easier to recognise when others don’t.

Emotionally available people don’t keep looking for excuses to stay in their comfort zone because in being emotionally available, they’re intimate with the honesty of what they feel and experience. While we’re all prone to bullshitting ourselves from time to time, if I had a penny for every reader who told me how available they are, told me how much they want to change and then when presented with options of what they could do, dodged the bullet, I’d be loaded. Emotionally unavailable people either want to completely delude themselves or feed themselves honesty a chunk at a time. While for some people, they eventually get all the chunks and see a full picture, the difficulty in only wanting to be partially honest with yourself is that you’re likely to be dishonest with yourself about the very things that stand between you and your happiness.

Emotionally available people have fears like everyone does but they don’t live by their fears and they actively address them – they don’t limit themselves with limiting beliefs and catering to their fears because part of the process of being emotionally honest with yourself and allowing yourself to feel means that you take mini, medium, and sometimes big risks.

Emotionally available people don’t close off parts of themselves. There was a lot of me that used to be closed off but it meant that aside from keeping me distant in my interactions, I was actually shut off from parts of myself. The present day me has opened up

How willing are you to be consistently emotionally available? I have spoken about the importance of consistency many times on this blog and how the inconsistency that is present in emotionally unavailable relationships is a red flag in itself. What I find is that often we are all too quick to focus on the willingness of the other party to be consistently emotionally available. But what about YOU?

How willing are you to get out of your uncomfortable comfort zone and get uncomfortable in the unknown that will actually be a far healthier comfortable in the medium and long-term?

How willing are you to have an honest conversation with yourself and address any limitations that you are imposing upon yourself?

How willing are you to be open? As in, how willing are you to open up and not have aspects of yourself closed off?

How willing are you to address the fears that hold you back?

How willing are you to address any limiting beliefs that you have?

How willing are you to stop catering to the self-fulfilling prophecy?

How willing are you to walk the walk?

Being emotionally available is not just about saying ‘I’m off Mr Unavailables, so send me The Perfect Man’.

It is not the job of an emotionally available person to ‘make’ you available.

It’s not a case of ‘you show me yours and I’ll show you mine’ – if you want a healthier relationship with an emotionally available person you need to be emotionally available yourself. It means taking real risks, not calculated, self-fulfilling prophecy risks with limited people that reflect your beliefs.

If you can read this blog, the list of signs to look out for (and here) my books, my Facebook page, my posts on fears, beliefs, self-esteem and about being honest with yourself and you’re wondering how to find someone who is available, I suggest you start finding you first because you have to be willing to do everything it takes to be emotionally available, not because it ‘gets you the guy/girl’ but because you’ll be a happier, at peace person for it who can recognise a healthy relationship when it bites them in the bum.

After I realised I was emotionally unavailable and commitment resistant, I dated two more Mr Unavailables and learned some painful lessons from my ex’s. The next person I dated after that was the boyf. What was the difference? During and after being with the guys before the boyf, I was painfully honest with myself in a way that I had never been before. These situations revealed themselves to be emotionally unavailable and I didn’t succumb or hide behind their problems, nor did I tell myself umpteen stories as to why these things had happened. I got out quickly and I put myself out there to try again. When I met the boyf, I was more emotionally available than I’d ever been but the honesty and peace of the relationship also made me consistently seek to be open with my emotions. There were a couple of occasions where my old fears could’ve derailed things, till I gave myself a good boot up the backside!

Being emotionally available also means admitting that sometimes you’re scared and that some of those times it’s for crazy reasons but you’re not gonna let those drag you down because you realise that to love and be emotionally available means to risk yourself (not in an unhealthy way by the way) and be vulnerable.

You cannot be emotionally available and experience true intimacy if you are not willing to feel and experience the vulnerability that it brings.

If you’re still afraid of being vulnerable, afraid of trusting, afraid the last person was your last chance saloon, afraid you’re destined to be alone, afraid of trying again, afraid of making a mistake, afraid of admitting you were wrong, of seeing the truth, of making changes, of being uncomfortable, of stretching yourself, of bucking your own trend, you’re not ready to be emotionally available in a relationship…yet. But you will be, if you keep being honest with yourself, are willing to be patient, are willing to face your fears both acknowledged and secretive, and address your beliefs so that you don’t limit yourself and end up in limited relationships with limited capacity with limited people wondering why it’s limited.

Be patient and compassionate with yourself. Considering how many of you have been over patient and too compassionate with others, it is about time you directed some of that to yourself. If you feel like time is running out, I suggest you start doing whatever it takes, the necessary to be emotionally available and get uncomfortable fast. No if’s, but’s, maybe’s, not hiding behind your fears.

There is no short cut. All those times when you banked on someone else making you feel everything and making you want to stop being afraid of being vulnerable? Yeah…you remember where that got you. Don’t try to take short cuts through other people or expect that life should throw you a bone and an emotionally available somebody should fall out the sky because you feel like you’ve cut your teeth on enough assclowns and unavailables. There is no magic dating site, bar, or club although staying at home or doing the same stuff day in day out won’t help your cause. You can’t avoid what you need to do and be.

It starts with you.

Your thoughts?

Check out my ebooks the No Contact Rule and Mr Unavailable & The Fallback Girl and more in my bookshop.

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61 Responses to Do you want to be with an emotionally available person? Be emotionally available YOURSELF

  1. FeistyWoman says:

    Emotional availability is KEY to any successful romantic relationship. It is the only way to ensure that people feel safe and secure in allowing themselves to be vulnerable and to be able to experience true intimacy.

    What a lot of emotionally unavailable people don’t understand is that when they put up a defensive wall or shut themselves off from other peoples’ feelings, they themselves are almost entirely responsible for the failure in their relationships.

    Before I met my husband, I was the same way because like you Natalie, I went through many bad relationships. And now, like you again, I’ve learned how to master being in control of my emotions enough to be giving without fear of getting hurt. And once you let go of your past issues, you can be give of yourself 100%.

    It was a very slow process for me that essentially took years. But I wouldn’t be where I am today had it not been for my resolve to work on my emotional snags.

  2. sule says:

    What a wake up call! After a lifetime of focusing on others, letting “him” decide how, when and if the relationship would progress and claiming to the moon that I was available and ready, if only he would be, I can finally, honestly say that I am emotionally unavailable, though I am definitely getting better and am trying hard to learn and grow. I could see instantly what was wrong with him, like commitment phobia or assclownism, but always thought my need for the relationship, my desire to be committed right this second meant that I was “available”. If I really was, why was I wasting my time with clowns and losers and guys that would not, could not give me what I professed I wanted. I sat on the couch in a state of hibernation, just waiting for the next one to come and give me a life. The first guy that showed interest, I latched on and hung on for dear life. I never stopped to question whether I liked, respected or trusted them. It was enough that they wanted me, or at least sort of did in the beginning.

    I have had enough of my state of suspended animation. I have realized the extent to which I had even shut off my feelings. There was a month recently in which I noticed that I didn’t feel anything – happy, sad, mad. Nothing. For the past week I have been crying a great deal, feeling all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. The last AC, who I see at work sometimes, now just looks like the loser jerk he is. I am thrilled to say he no longer holds any interest for me. So, progress is happening and I am thrilled. I feel calmer, more peaceful. More like me. I am starting to discover what I like to do, instead of waiting for him to decide what we will do.

    Getting out of the comfort zone is the hardest part, but is so necessary. It’s easy to sit on the sofa, watch TV, talk to friends and live a sheltered, safe life in which the only drama is provided by the occassional assclown. No wonder I burned up so much mental energy trying to figure them out – it was the only exciting thing in my life. It’s not surprising I tried to make each guy the center of my life and not at all surprising that they all ran for the hills.

    I think emotional availability also means empathy. Genuinely caring about others and connecting with good people,not just wasting time and energy on assclowns. When I am not losing sleep or my mind over some guy, I quickly noticed that the world is filled with interesting people. They may not be romantic potential,but they care about me, offer true friendship, companionship and don’t run hot and cold. Consistency is the key. When someone’s behaviour changes from moment to moment, beware. Anyone with a true sense of self doesn’t need to be so reactive.

    Your posts are getting better and better Natalie. As your understanding deepens and grows, you are able to move beyond the dating tips and “get away from assclown” posts and really help people see that time spent getting to know yourself is more valuable than time wasted trying to analyze some basket case guy or pouring emotion into a black hole of an EUM.

    One of the biggest revelations I have had from this site is that I am emotionally unavailable (or was…and getting better). It isn’t just about him. If I was attracting them, and keeping time (or trying to), I was one too. Like attracts like. Water seeks its own level.

    • Robin says:

      I agree about the genuine empathy part. I used to feel like I wasn’t able to connect with my ex because I felt that he seemed to lack a degree of empathy. It was great that he remembered superficial details, but I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing from the picture. I guess some people have empathy and others don’t/don’t care. For us, it’s now a matter of whether we can handle a person without empathy, and I believe the common response would be no.

      • Findingmyself says:

        Amen Robin! Same here!

      • Fearless says:

        No-ne should have to handle a grown adult with no empathy. The answer should be no, I agree.

        Most people have developed a sense of empathy (if childish empathy) before they are five years old!… my daughter showed clear empathy for other children from a very young age – 3 or 4 yrs. (and… I re-call having to turn off the film ‘Bambie’ cos she was so distressed for th baby deer when his (her?) mother died!!… and… as for that Dumbo, the baby elephant! When his mother was locked up in that cage!!.. my wee one wept for the plight of poor Dumbo with all her little heart!)… sorry… blabbing off topic…

  3. Jasmine says:

    Thanks for the insightful article. After my last break-up with an emotionally unavailable man, I decided to take a year off of dating (I’m thirty five and hadn’t been single for more than two months since I was 17). I having been doing alot of work on myself and realize that I myself was emotionally unavailable and not ready to commit. I was hiding my issues behind thier more obvious ones. I would date alot of fixer uppers, be the “perfect” girlfriend for them, but then not be able to commit because on some level I didn’t trust them (one was vey emotionally damaged, another a gambling addict). In those relationships, I was running from them. With my last boyfriend, it was the other way around, I wanted to commit and stabilize and emotionally unstable man, and he was the one who was running from commitment. I realize now that in both cases I was choosing partners that guaranteed I would not be engaged in a healthy committed relationship, soemone would always be running away. I was so unaware all of this! I also look back and see that there were emotionally available and healthy men who were interested in a relationship with me, and I would pass them by because they “lacked passion” in my limited point of view. I just wasn’t ready for that.
    Alhough I am not dating, I do get approached when I go out with my friends. The charming, arrogant, smooth-talkers no longer hold any appeal for me, and I am hoping that’s a good sign that things will work out in a much healthier way when I decide to date again.

  4. Annie says:

    I’m going to have to re-read this. About 500 times!

  5. Belle says:

    I’m 21 and super confused. Met a guy while he was backpacking and ended up where I live. It was whirlwind, and he said “I love you” very quickly. I ignored the very visible ex lurking in the background because I figured it wasn’t going anywhere. Then he quit his travels to come and be with me for a fortnight, at the end of which he told me he wanted to quite his travels completely and be with me until he had to go back home, ie 3 months with me in my city. We moved in to a lovely little apartment together. But things were not idyllic. I had loads of family issues, and we fought. Not enough, according to me, to end the relationship, but he stopped putting energy into it. When the time came for him to leave, I asked him if he was going to follow through with all the promises he had made in the beginning, of lasting out the 8 months apart and moving to the same place. He said he wasn’t sure and we ended it because I need a relationship with both feet in for both of us, and this was a LDR! A month of total and complete NC, and I was trying to move on, when he popped back into my life. This was about 5 days ago. He told me how much he loved me, missed me 24/7, couldn’t live without me, wanted me back, etc. I told him I need lots of time to myself and that he couldn’t just walk back in any time he wanted to. He said to take all the time I need and that he’d wait for as long as it took. The next night I was really depressed, cried on the phone for him for 2 hours. Yeah, not smart. And now, we’re on each other’s chat lists, and haven’t said anything to each other for 4 days. This is a crucial time in my life — I’m a student, I’m making applications for my next degree and sitting for exams for my current one, and my family situation was in tatters, am slowly rebuilding things. I don’t understand why I’m so caught up in this short term long distance thing, where the guy already left the building. He’s now come back, and I’m super confused! Why would he ignore me consistently for 4 days if he was so eager about coming back? The phone call we had was v serious, I’ve been v depressed lately which I shared with him. And now I don’t understand what I’m doing or why I’m doing it! I was fine NC but now I’m so confused. I need to be given a good hard shake and may be some of it will start making sense.

    • Niki says:

      I know the feel of confusion. It sweeps away your certainty whenever you hear ‘that’ person’s voice or see their face or come into contact with them. That lull in contact that you’re experiencing now, after he came on so strong, is what I believe Natalie refers to as blowing hot and cold. He wants you till he gets you and getting you, my dear, is further proof that you’re not deserving of much because he knows that ‘not much’ is exactly what he’s offering.

      Consistency is key and if someone can’t give LCTF (love/care/trust/respect) on a consistent basis, that’s a red flag. I can be sure of this because I’ve lived it. I saw the signs & thought I could deal with them, even though I knew it only signaled that worse was to come.

      I read the other day “I Love You has 8 letters…but then again, so does Bullshit”. This is so true when it comes to males such as these. They bullshit you, use your emtions, your need against you. And we allow it. We’re not always blind to the truth, but we simply defer the pain till we can’t take it anymore. Read this site’s articles, all of them, and you’ll understand the kind of man you’re dealing with. Restarting contact is often more about ego and getting back into good graces and sadly, less about you.
      Resume no contact, it’ll save your sanity and then start to analyze who you are and what you deserve. I’ve come to realize that I’ve sold myself short for a very long time, compromized when and where I shouldn’t have. This is your life, control it and make it about YOU.

      • Fearless says:


        what you say “We’re not always blind to the truth, but we simply defer the pain till we can’t take it anymore.”

        That’s me. That was my problem succinctlyput. That is one of the major reasons I trundled along so long with my what Iwill now refer to as my EX (for the sake of clarity) – I have an extraordinary capacity for tolerating less than I deserve or need – I have been at the back of every queue! I have been tolerating ‘less’ in one way or another all of my life, so it was not news to me! Neither, though, was I blind to the truth (I may not have had the language for it but I saw it); I simply deferred on the pain… and deferred… and deferred… Procrastination is my middle name. But even for me, it all became too monkey fudge (too f’n much).

  6. Movedup says:

    AMEN! I love love! Its the best feeling ever and I can get anytime I want – from ME! Being vulnerable and putting yourself out there is sooooo worth it. The conference/workshop I presented at last weekend was the Bang! So many eyes full of hope – writing notes – just like I did the first time I went through that workshop. But this time I was the speaker. So the student becomes the teacher and the teacher learns even more from her students. Very validating – went beautifully – so many people thanking me for sharing my experience – no notes – straight from the heart and I meant every word. Whatever it is you are afraid of DO IT. I now have a bucket list of fears to tackle and I am armed! Best you’ve written Nat. I am in awe of your wisdom.

  7. Robin says:

    Wow at the timing of this article…. just last night I had a dream that a guy was trying to woo me. He’d asked me out and I told him flat-out, “I’m not emotionally available right now. Please go away!”

    • Movedup says:

      Maybe you could put that as your voice mail message – sorry I am not emotionally available right now so if you leave a message maybe I’ll get back to you when I am. LOL sorry couldn’t resist.

  8. Findingmyself says:

    So much great advise Natalie! For me personally, I was emotionally available-to a fault. Since I had never experienced this type of relationship before, I had no idea what was going on with him. I was listening to his words, since I am upfront and honest I assumed he was as well, especially when he told he was being open with me.

    This may sound stupid, I had no idea what was going on. I had the red flag moments through the relationship…I just didn’t know what “it” was. Now I know! I had never experienced the term “emotionally unavailable” before. Natalie wrote, “with emotionally unavailable people tend to come in fits and starts, come to a standstill or regress”. —again something I didn’t know anything about. It was confusing and hurtful to say the least.

    Yes, it has taken me a while to bounce back from the shock of this relationship, the hurt, the pain, but it did not take away my ability to be emotionally available.

    I have done a lot of looking at myself, and the many mistakes I made/allowed in my past relationship. I have accepted where I allowed a lot of bad conduct and boundary line crossing–I should have walked away a long time ago. My fault for staying! My responsibility for excepting words vs actions. I assume my faults and recognize them for what they were. I learned a lot from that relationship–the lesson was painful–but it didn’t kill me and I believe it has made me a better and stronger person for having gone through it. I believe each experience in life will make us stronger and better, if we let it. Some lessons are painful, if we learn something and can better ourselves, then maybe the pain one day will make the journey worth while.

  9. CC says:

    These posts seem to travel the exact path that I’ve been on these past 7 months. Thank you for all the excellent posts. This one imparticular I had just spoken to my therapist about yesterday. I had become especially aware of my own personal unavailablity this month when I signed up for an online dating site because I felt I was “ready” to get out there and date again with my newfound self love. But in actuality I realized after being on it for one month that I hadn’t actually gone out on one single date. Then it dawned on me, I was hiding behind the “eh, these guys aren’t attractive enough”, etc so that I would actually not have to REALLY put myself out there. I also realized that this is why I also clung to talking about the ex EUM… its like loving the devil you know and not really having to walk the walk, really let go, and be emotionally available myself. Thanks for one day later writing it out so succintly Natalie. I am so truly thankful for this site forcing me to look in the mirror everyday and be better!!

    • Fearless says:

      A great blog! Thanks. Reading it through, all I was thinking was: yes that’s me, yes that’s him, yes me again, yes him again.

      I do now recognise my own emotional unavailability; which I think / hope (as a single mum – now daughter is 21yrs) was largely circumstantial – I was defensive of my child, my situation, and also believed that I was limited in what I could offer a man / a relationship, so being with Mr Unavailable put no pressure on me. Prior to my single-mum-ness I had a perfectly good and healthy relationship for six years and we did remain friends for many years afterwards with no problem.

      Now that my child is grown I should (theoretically) have no issues, and I do suspect that I actually did come to want to commit to my Mr EU….. but he is Mr EU… I had made this bad choice in him too many years before… and when I was good and ready and freed-up – with my daughter all grown up- all I had was this Mr EU!! Who had been around and thereabouts for years.

      Maybe that is partly why I am now seeing so clearly that he is not what I want to spend any more of my time on – as in this does not suit me any more; it’s just not enough. I want real or nothing – if I am not too old to find it!

      I am aware of and thinking much more now about how emotionally available I actually am. I know I need to think seriously about that… but let me get rid of my Mr EU baggage first and then reclaim my own emotional bags! I am not rushing inot the arms of any other man – not right now; I would only make another very bad choice! (and,anyway, last time I looked there was no queue lining up at my door!!)

      And yes!!! I really connect with what you say that Mr EU has bursts or spits of intense emotions and then goes lukewarm – mine should have his photo attached to this part! He is text book (avoidant) EU… this behaviour is so confusing – until you read the stuff! Then it all comes together. I could now write the bloody script for this guy. In fact, although when you are in the relationship they seem annoyingly ‘unpredictable’, when you know what you are dealing with – when you read the stuff – they are actually tediously, predictable.

      Thanks for making sense of it all! It helps such a lot – and I agree wth a previous – you keep out-doing yourself – your style, clarity and depth gets better with every new blog. This one’s a cracker.. thing I like best is that your blogs are so accessible, have a touch of humour but are not full of pretentious, attention grabbing or patronising bollocks – the all no style and no substance like so much that I googled and then un-googled – fast. Your blogs actually do what it says on the tin. They help. Thanks.

      • Lesley Binnie says:

        @Lesley Binnie/ Hi Fearless,just back on re-reading blog comments and wanted to comment on yours. What you say about having had perfectly adult,consistent relationships in your past is also true for me. I was married for thirteen years to a stable,honourable guy and am still very good friends with him…As I am with a couple of earlier boyfriends.
        Like you however, this did not make me immune to the transient charms of the EUM/AC but it did eventually make me make the sad but inevitable comparison between EUM behaviour and the approach/dating/ relationship behaviour of decent guys.
        Reading Natalie’s article has helped me feel confident and secure in making this comparison. You sound on solid ground too…
        My recent guy ticked nearly all of the boxes of an emotionally unavailable man and I spotted him early because of work I had done on myself, inevitably eventually reflecting on other men I had known and this site … it’s great articles and blogs(your’s included).
        One of the lines within the article really rings bells for me and that’s
        ‘ What you get from these guys(EUMS) is really only out for a limited amount of time and then they revert back to their real emotional persona’
        Impossible for them to sustain the act.
        -therein lies any residual anger or disappointment that I still feel.
        I was investing and indeed being asked to invest in something false. I was being told lies to perpetuate company,sex,verbal reassurance,ego boost,assuaging of loneliness. He was managing me for his own needs, in terms of his own timing, at his own pace.
        In short I was what the Doctor ordered for a while….
        I also wanted to say that your ‘predictable’ comment has helped me find great clarity too…you are dead right there! They are so..oo predictable.. I would get a ‘good’ day then expect a distancing,a bit of curtness,then a lovely comment/pleasant evening…then a put down… At first I gave the benefit of stress,
        (He was so stressed out,on constant alert…no wonder…he was never himself,continual risk of mask slippage!) then allowed that he had experienced relationship problems in the past,then I blamed myself…then I wised up….
        I think sadly, he is a serial offender. I wanted to say, and did say,’get off roundabout, step away from it…’ No attempt from him to understand,perhaps no capacity.
        Thanks again for the honesty and depth of your blogs. I ‘m away to get off ‘the garden path’for a little while too. Feel a lot wiser,cheers Fearless xxx

        • Fearless says:

          @Leslie – thanks for your kind and encouraging post. I know you will be just fine – you are clever and have a good self-reflective approach. All the best to you too! x F

  10. jennynic says:

    Someone asked me once if I was afraid of commitment. I said, “No, but I am afraid of men who are afraid of commitment.” Looking deeper into this answer I gave, and into my relationship history, I realize that I am afraid of trusting that a commitment is real. I want it, really do, but think I have always waited to see if they would commit first before I would let down my guard. I was always available with my time and didn’t disappear on him (the AC), was loving and craved being with him, but part of me held back trying to protect myself. So, trying to figure all this crap out, I know I want a committed guy, but just have no faith and don’t trust that it’ll happen so my walls are thick and high, although I try to disguise it and wait for them to show that it is safe first. I guess it isn’t as disguised as I thought if I keep ending up with EUMs and AC’s. Funny, after things started going south with the AC, I remember saying during an argument over his bad behavior, that I thought he had been interested in me because in the beginning he saw me as someone who wouldn’t need or want a commitment. Wow, talk about naming it without even knowing it. He DID see me as no risk, someone to just hang with, because I portrayed myself that way without realizing it! I’m talking about my tall walls that I have in place to protect myself. They didn’t, I got my heart trampled on anyway. I have been called guarded many times over the years and am just starting to realize that being this way has not kept me from getting hurt but probably scared off good guys with working antennae. I too, have had good guys interested in me but found them boring and too nice. I found myself being irritated and a little mean to them. I was being an EUW!!!! A girlfriend told me my “picker ” was broken. So, the point here is, he was an AC and did horrible stuff, but I stuck it out with a guy who I knew wasn’t capable of being there for me. We displayed our emotional unavailability in different ways, him by managing down my expectations and me by staying with him when I knew he was no good. That shows I was looking for validation by wanting to be the exception, as Natalie says. The more I learn about all of this and search my soul, the more the pieces of this puzzle are coming together.

  11. Lesley Binnie says:

    Wonderful how this article is so succinct and juxtaposes the EUMS from the EAM’S!(and Women) I now fully understand how I actually almost fell in love with the guy I was dating recently for a few months. Natalie explains the short burst of passion,the intensity of feeling so well. They are ‘The cheetahs of the dating game’,declare themselves quickly,act entranced but as I experienced the relationship can go from hot to cold within the space of days.He just could not sustain the intimacy with a woman. Petrified..For me to stay/For me to go!
    If I tried to raise an issue, it would appear he had genuinely taken it on board,’ I wan’t you to stay with me’ he would assure me.Tactile,cuddles,future scenarios…’ I want you to meet my kids etc etc but then he would go off again….distancing me,not giving me any place in his life…demeaning me by how he referred to me(or didn’t refer to me). On the night it ended he couldn’t even put his arms round me when I became upset. I knew then that I wasn’t dealing with an honest human being. Noone changes like that.
    I now realise wholly how trapped this guy was. It was actually affecting his health to be this way but he was caught in a cycle that had been going on for years and years,practically his whole romantic life….
    He said he’disappointed women continually’…Dead Giveaway!!!
    (He inferred it was something outwith his control.) Then he began the cycle again…. New woman,same moves…
    What I also realise through this article is how ‘well’ I have become emotionally. I didn’t have a relationship for two years before I ventured out dating again and had developed keen, secure boundaries…sites like this one helped enormously.
    I am in no doubt however, that two years ago, if I had met this EUM, I would still be putting up with the hot and cold showers and thinking I shouldn’t rock the boat. I would hear the ‘ I love you’s and ignore the chilling distancing…
    I felt many emotions reading this article tonight. Great sorrow for him but…and again this site has helped with this…I cannot fix someone who is not willing to look at their life and move towards change.
    I cannot fix anyone but myself.
    I hope somehow he becomes wiser and hope that any wisdom gained is not at the expense of his high stress levels or mounting high blood pressure. Staying as a EUM is so so dangerous….
    I had to leave the relationship because I am an open,genuine person with a desire to be in a commited,consistent,emotionally honest relationship. I do not want or need material wealth,sex gods,status or fireworks.
    I do want someone to come home to,who loves me for what I am and who will not make me scale the emotional alps each time I see him. It feels really good to say that. Thanks Natalie xxx

    • Fearless says:

      Good post. Enjoyed it. Your last paragraph or so sums it up perfectly.
      “…who will not make me scale the emotional alps each time I see him”. Fab. I am so with you on that.

  12. Tulip says:

    Have you ever had the experience when reading something that it pi*ses you off so much that you know it’s true? That’s the experience I’m having right now!

    I’m getting really defensive and unformfortable and inwardly growling – at myself! I know i’m a commitment phobe, I know that I like my comfort zone and have been gently pushing all the boundaries for sometime. I know that I limit myself through my limiting beliefs, but i’d never had a name for it before. Somehow, knowing that i’m emotionally unavailable most of the time, is strangely comforting as I now understand it!

    There’s a quote that goes something like “Whatever you want to do the least is the thing that you need to do the most, so start it now”


    So now I just have to work out the small niggling detail of how to change!

    Nice post Natalie, the best I’ve read for a while:-)

  13. Rebecca says:

    Great post. I have done a lot of soul work this year so that I would be able to have a healthy relationship with someone who is emotionally available. It’s taken me many years, to realize until I fix those things in myself, I will continue to pick the emotionally unavailable man. You can’t ask for (nor would you recognize) something you don’t know. Perhaps now, I won’t be attracted to the dysfunction that I myself possessed.

  14. Ange Fonce says:

    I LOVE THIS “Walking the walk”………………..I find so many people both Men and Women are great at “talking the talk” but when it comes to the real deal of “Walking the walk” very few do it.

    Are “Authentic” and the real deal. But this is an Issue that goes beyond relationships between partners. And I include same sex relationships in this.

    This is actually how we are as Human Beings. And how we are conditioned.

    We as Human Beings are conditioned from a very early age into fear and through various means have those fears played on and magnified.

    And in the case of emotions Men are subjected to a far more deeper conditioning of emotions than women.

    Men do have feelings. Men do have emotions. But from childhood in so many ways are conditioned into not expressing them. Because the social norm for Men is that if You are emotional. You are weak. But that is a total paradox.
    Because of that social conditioning You are weak and not strong.

    Emotionally In-mature!

    And there is also a further twist in this paradox…….Especially for Men.

    Who in the formative years of childhood where the imprinting is done and lays the foundation for how You will be in Adulthood. has the most emotional input?

    The Mother………..The Mother lays the foundations for a Man as to how he will relate to women as an adult when he has reached sexual maturity.

    And it is visa versa for Father- Daughter relationships. We get the emotional foundations from our parents.

    And you have to consider something else………..Culture, environment and experience will have a great effect in the conditioning as to how emotionally free we are.

    Another very good article. But I must comment here. I always hear women complaining about the men in their lives being emotionally un-available.
    Consider this…………from a very early age boys hear this……..”Big boys don’t cry.”

    Men get conditioned into fearing their own feelings. To be emotionally aware, to be emotionally expressive, is to be weak. So how many men get to grow and be emotionally “Mature and aware?”

    And here is another twist to this paradox. Those men who are emotionally aware and Mature and have no problems with their feelings. Can find themselves in a very strange place. being cast as “Gay” or in turn they themselves considered weak.

    Women on the whole can have emotional freedom. It is not so conditioned out of Woman.

    However, Men under go deep conditioning when it comes to their natural feelings. So it takes a lot more work fro a Man to overcome and remove those blocks to gain emotional maturity and be expressive in His Masculine Essence and be vulnerable. Which is not a weakness but a “Great Strength!”

    He has to re-learn to Trust His Masculinity and not be afraid when so many of the messages he receives is telling him it is wrong to be Masculine!

    Enough said or I will end up writing a book. Which I am going to do next year.

    As ever Natalie………..Cool Article

    Ange Fonce

    • grace says:

      I’m not sure women do have emotional freedom. We don’t feel the freedom to be angry, ambitious, aloof or just in a bad mood (esp at work).
      A lot of the depression, self-doubt and confusion on this site is, I think, to do with unexpressed anger. No matter how outrageous the man’s behaviour we keep turning it on ourselves and we are not comprehending that we have been mistreated.
      Boys are told not to cry. Girls are told to play nice.

      • Elle says:

        Yeah, AF and Grace, the relationship between emotional availability and gender/conditioning is an interesting one. In some ways, what the “problem” with the AC was that he would bottle up and then “emote” in an allegedly female way (i.e. high drama, a lot of detail, clear signs of hurt etc), but without the responsibility of a female to clean it up, qualify, apologise, turn it into a solution, make sure the community is back in order (ie that the group/the relationship has not been disrupted).

        Women do this all the time in female friendships – we’ve learned to be open, but we have all these subtle and not-so-subtle ways of smoothing over the effects of our sharing and make it workable. Whereas, I have a hunch that men are being encouraged (by “society”) to share, but they haven’t learned the rest of it! They offload and run (and feel entitled to have said what they did because it’s “the truth”…and don’t we all want them just to be honest?).

        Then, as a converse, I agree with Grace, that women, on the whole, are not able to simply express emotions and then shirk the rest of it (i.e. the social appeasing). It’s far less acceptable for women just to express something – especially anger, disdain, remoteness, competitiveness etc – without the classic qualifiers, jokes or more tender gestures and concessions.

        I had reflect on this because I couldn’t work out why I found the LONG break-up email (apart from the obvious – it being an email) so offensive and hurtful. I truly believe that he thought this honesty was finally him being emotionally available and responsible, when, in fact, it was an accusatory barrage, an extremely worded stress-relief, without any sense of me, the recipient, ‘the other’. A woman, typically, on the other hand, is programmed to think of ‘the other’ – this is both a wonderful thing and a handicap, depending on the context. But my crude feeling is that men are not only encouraged not to express, they’re also encouraged to express in a less than responsible way.

        • grace says:


          I know what you mean re the email. I’m very wary now of emails, texting, facebooking, IMs etc. I used to think it was a bit of fun or just an alternative way to communicate but, ultimately, WHERE IS HE? He’s not with you. Instead he is choosing to emote into a phone or computer! Blah to that!

        • debra says:

          Elle – Beautifully put and thoughtful. I like what you said about the appearance of emotional availability because he has learned to name his emotions (good boy!) but has no responsibility to clean it up after. It keeps coming back to true empathy. It’s the difference between “I didn’t mean to hurt you”, which is an AC’s version of empathy and “I didn’t mean to hurt you and I am sorry that I did”, which is a mature person’s notion of making amends. In AC world, “I didn’ mean to hurt you” sounds like empathy, but what’s the end of that sentence? “but I didn’t mean not to”? “but I don’t care that I did”? “But it wasn’t my fault”? It’s whether or not you give yourself license to hurt someone. I have been having to face this through my mediation with the guy at work. He was trying to turn a personal attack into a professional affront. That he had every right to feel attacked by me was valid – in my”debrief” of him, I felt entitled to tell him my truth and it was a brutal, personal attack on him and his character. But in male world, a personal attack is not something you can get sympathy or attention for, so it became a professional affront, to be countered with an even more devastating professional attack on me. I recognized I could have escalated it endless but to what end? There was never going to be a winner, just more losing and professional damage done.

          How we clean up our emotional messes is a statement of who we are as people and how healthy or mature we are. I had to admit that I still had some growing up to do in that area and have learned many painful and valuable lessons as a result. I will do better next time and have been willing to do the work this time to try and fix this mess I helped create. I also have come to learn that there is nothing I can do about what he is going to do about it. It is not my job to fix him, teach him or change him. Like Natalie’s last post about “telling them their crimes”, it served no purpose and my attempts to do so were disrespectful and hurtful. That he hurt me was not license to hurt back. Lesson learned.

          I hope you find the lesson in your interaction with your AC and why the email is proving hard to move away from. Usually when something sticks around long term or keeps bothering us, there is still a lesson to be learned there. I hope you find it. Best wishes.

          • Elle says:

            Thanks Debra (and to Natalie, again, for the space to reflect on these things). I really appreciate your comments (it makes me feel like we’re all on this mission together) – and I agree about the (email-related) lessons still there to be internalised properly. In fact, I had to apologise to someone yesterday for something I did that hurt them – it was not on the scale of AC stuff, just something I did that indirectly and unknowingly hurt their feelings. The experience of the AC has made me better at taking responsibility for things. I’ve never been terrible at it (after years of training by my parents who were very keen to instill this ability), but instead of saying ‘Sorry I did this, you must feel like this, but there were all these mitigating factors etc etc and I’ve said sorry’ (so hurry up and forgive me), I was far more willing just to face it and let someone feel and express hurt, and really feel that with them. Of course, at some point I said to him that these were his reactions, but I didn’t for a moment make him feel crazy for having them and while it was uncomfortable, I didn’t try to resist the fact that I had done something careless. This is AC learning in action!

          • Aimee says:

            “It’s the difference between “I didn’t mean to hurt you”, which is an AC’s version of empathy and “I didn’t mean to hurt you and I am sorry that I did”, which is a mature person’s notion of making amends” Not mine – and don’t forget – when it is mature and they truely are sorry – THEY QUIT DOING IT!!! That is a true ammend.

            I remember a few things my AC would say to me (the girl who thinks and talks too much) when I told him that he keeps hurting me and that I can not keep doing this (which I kept doing-ughh):

            No I don’t!
            I did not hurt you!
            I am not doing it intentionally!

            When I finally got his sorry 2 years later for his tremendous hurtful behavior with 2 girls – it was “I am sorry about the Dana thing and the Kathy thing”. WOW. My reply was please do say thing, that only trivializes it. It was not a TRUE apology (just finally sorry he got busted), plus in hindsight, these girls/interaction with girls were called “things”. Maybe a little insight as to what he “thinks” of women/people – THINGS!

          • Aimee says:


            I just heard someone say the other day “Brutal honesty is just cruelty in disguise”. Which I have been guilty of for a long time – not just with men, but my friends and family as well. Who died and left me GOD!

            Wanted to tell you that I am so proud of you, hearing how you have and are growing through all this. Go girl Go girl!

      • jennynic says:

        So true Grace. I have always been outspoken and challenged people on things instead of being quiet and “playing stupid”…,one day a man says to me that I am like a wild horse that needs to be tamed. Women are expected to hold back those assertive actions and play nice, and not “be a bitch”. Did you ever notice that strong assertive women are called difficult and aggressive? Not that it excuses us, but it is no wonder women are afraid to stand up for themselves, we were conditioned as children too. You have all heard the sayings: You____like a girl, and He cried like a little girl. What a message for young people….men are supposed to be stong and not show emotion and women are supposed to be weak and cry babies. EUM and Fallback. Wow.

      • Lesley Binnie says:

        Thanks Grace for that…you just reminded me that the EUM I had been seeing would actually use the phrase ‘play nice Les’ when I got justifiably pissed off about something. Drip…drip..drip… interesting choice of words he used to give feedback!
        He definitely had rigid internalised roles for men and women and re my blog above,being the strong,resilient capable guy is costing him his health big time.

  15. BreatheAgain says:

    Goodness – I signed up to this site only a month or so ago and while I have done a lot of work on myself (and entered really great therapy for grief in general) it has given me back my sanity and self-respect in a way none of the books (and trust me I have read so many) have.

    This article (and in fact all of them) are like healing pearls of wisdom, sanity and hope! I was widowed at 33 (about 5 years ago) and it was incredibly traumatic – I’d been with my loving, emotionally available, devoted and ‘grown up’ husband for 13 years (no children) and so when I ventured into dating for the first time about 20 months ago – I was full of hope that my life of loneliness and grief could start to heal again.
    I was introduced to a classic EUM (not that i knew that at all when we met) – we got on brilliantly and hit it off – then, when we finally had sex, he froze on me almost instantly and didn’t call me the next day (three months into the relationship – seeing each other at least once a week, laughing and enjoying ourselves dating).
    I was bewildered – shocked and so hurt. I felt a complete idiot – I had been totally used. I am no dummy so to speak but I had completely fallen for him and was so eaten up by the rejection and angry at being treated so shoddily – not a great experience for a young widow.
    I stupidly contacted him and he avoided me but eventually agreed to meet up. Guess what? He acted as if NOTHING had ever happened! he refused to kiss on the cheek etc when we met up – (he did have a thing about “no hugging, I don’t do hugs” – classic EUM red flag when we first met) and chatted to me as if I was his neighbour – no acknowledgment of the fact we’d dated and had sex the last time we met!
    I met him a few times more afterwards – no physical contact at all (which is actually a good thing now I realise). But then, another red flag – when he was driving me home from a gig (concert). He dropped his cigarette as he drove and shouted: “bitch!!” – it was said with such venom – it was shocking – it was not directed at me but why use that word and not a regular curse? I recall sensing that it was directed at someone from his past – as if he had a lot of repressed anger.
    It unsettled me enough (to my own amazement – I adored him) to just distance myself a bit – I knew something was ‘wrong’ with this man and yet I sooo wanted some sort of future with him – I stupidly considered us a great match and convinced myself I could ‘reach’ the nice side of him and ‘fix’ him. I know now I just wanted my grief for my husband to finally move on from missing my old happy fulfilling life and to love again and be loved. How sad is that (it makes me cry to even type these words now – I was clearly very, very vulnerable).
    Despite my emerging epiphany (it took a few months!), he would be texting me constantly, telling me I was so great, so amazing (blah) so ‘sexy’. This guy was handsome, educated, from a classic middle-class British family (and yet had shocking low self esteem I was gradually recognising). When he went on a holiday with family (his mother’s 70th birthday in Italy) -he would be texting me night and day, continuing sending me gifts in the post – I was so confused – it was classic hot and cold behaviour.
    I’ve since heard from another woman who dated him briefly that this is his pattern. This same woman luckily contacted me while he was on this holiday as she heard through a friend that I had been widowed (in horrendous circumstances) and that this EUM was messing me about. She felt guilty knowing that he was misleading me and phoned me – she warned me that while charming, brilliant and funny (and successful) – he was a ‘head-wrecker’ (and possibly mentally disturbed/sexually dysfunctional) and to proceed with caution. Her words, as much as I was bit suspicious of her, did hit home and knew there was truth in her warning.
    When he got back he texted (yes, TEXTED.. his favourite form of communication – classic!) to say he was back and that he wanted to take me to his parents’ country pad in Wales for a weekend. Part of me was overjoyed – that woman was wrong! He did love me, I told myself. We agreed to keep the next weekend free and speak on the Friday. I called him as I had not heard from him by Friday lunchtime – he didn’t answer but texted to say he’d gone to Ireland to play golf with his friend!! It was the last straw. I phoned him the following week (my hands were shaking and my voice trembling at times) and I confronted him on his game-playing and “apalling” behaviour – I demanded an apology (he did) and told him to never call me again.
    I calmly put down the phone – cried for about 5 seconds and then smiled – he really had been shocked.
    I have not seen him since (I did miss him, I will not deny it – it killed me to not see him again – seriously – I obsessed about him for months – little does he know – I had sleepless nights – I thought I was going mad at one point – it literally made me ill – churning the memories of the relationship over and over again – and we only really knew each other for less than six months! it just shows you how deeply these relationships can affect you).
    He did contact me not long after asking me to join him at a concert he knew I would love but I said ‘no thanks’ and nothing more.
    other times he texted and I ignored it – it KILLED me.
    I knew that for me the responsibility lay in taking good care of myself and I went back to see the psychotherapist who had helped me through the initial trauma of the death of my husband. it really helped me understand why I had got myself so swallowed up in what was not a healthy, adult, caring relationship but an ‘invented’ one that gave me the crumbs of love I so craved – any love, even bad love, would do for me then – but never again!
    Goodness, this is a long entry – I have wanted to write something on here for ages and so enjoy reading everyone’s entries.
    NML is providing a truly essential space for us all here – her articles and info is excellent and informed – a life saver for those of us who have had the misfortune to become entangled in dysfunctional pairings with damaged men (and women).
    I got an email from this chap recently (before I discovered this site and the NC rules) – small talk but wanting to know how I am doing – I realise now I should not have replied but i was polite and even cracked a joke but I have not heard back – i think he picked up on the fact that I have moved on.
    I am still single – I stayed single for the past year -but just recently went on a couple of dates with a sweet man – am going to take it slowwwww – I wonder what advice you have for us in our recovery on conducting ourselves in new, healthier relationships??
    Thanks a million Nat and all of you – we will survive!! and live and love again xxx

    • Lesley Binnie says:

      Good for you for not giving into him, the cycle would have begun again and you spotted it!
      It is incredible how these guys can hook you to them and even if the relationship is for a few months the pain can still be so bad because….you’ve believed what you heard,seen,were shown.
      He was trying to manage your relationship,bigtime- wasn’t he, to suit his needs?
      It was important for me,and I ‘ve been blogging on the site for a few months now to feel entitled to my feelings,whilst still trying to admit the part I play in the relationship. You seem in a much better place,glad to read your words tonight. Wish you Love Lesx

    • Happy Soul says:

      @BreathAgain, I am really sorry about your Husband…
      Your experience with AC is the same as mine! But it took me almost THREE years to realize that I loved a guy, who never wanted to have a relationship with me. You had a lucky escape, I wish you all the best!!!
      @Natalie, thank you again for the great post, I would not survive without BR!

    • snowboard says:

      @ BreatheAgain-

      I’m sorry to hear about your husband. But I do think you handled your situation with the EUM wonderfully – you’re an inspiration to fallback girls everywhere!!!! How many of us would have continued to chase that jerk around for years?

      May I say that: what I don’t understand is why he only slept w/you once… I would be interested in understanding this sort of thing better: men who manipulate women to make them think there is a potential relationship, but then don’t even cash in on the possibility for sex, etc. I can understand men who manipulate women for sex, but struggle to understand why they even bother if they don’t even want the sex.

      • Aimee says:

        @Snowboard & Nat

        “I can understand men who manipulate women for sex, but struggle to understand why they even bother if they don’t even want the sex.”

        I stuggle with this one as well. My exAC told me in the beginning that girls usually wanted him for his money or his great sex. Granted he had chronic pain, we had sex approx 10x in the first year and NONE the next 1 1/2 yrs.

    • Blaise Parker says:

      Absolutely beautiful post. I would not be surprised if Natalie’s words have actually saved someone’s life, stopped them from taking those pills because “he” did not love them anymore…

  16. elvirago says:

    Great post. I think that is the most positive expression of your basic philosophy, from what I’ve read of this site. Something for us all to aspire to.

  17. junuka says:

    wonderful article.
    i realised that getting rid of the old habits is like a re-birth.
    its like learning to swim.initially u r not used to keeping your spine straight in water, the spine feels tensed. but once u get used to it, its a euphoric float! changing your own beliefs about relationships is a similar liberating experience.
    and only way to change is to constantly remind oneself. and when the spine is straight, it isn’t very difficult!

    • Used says:

      Excellent analogy.

      Funny, lately I have been trying to keep my spine straight–literally–b/c I have gottn into the bad habit of slouching (for many reasons, yes, one of them being that I wasn’t feel great about myself).

      The act of standing (or sitting) straight ALONE makes me feel a lot better.

      A friend once told me, “What do you have to feel ashamed/guilty/bad about? Have you committed a crime?” One of the best things I have ever heard.

  18. debra says:

    Another thought provoking post, Natalie. I have been examining the ideas of validation and emotional need alot lately. I have begun to see that my very real need for “him” to apologize or acknowledge my hurt was really just my way of avoiding feeling it. Rejection hurts, particularly if, like me, you use it to internalize a bad message – that he doesn’t care for me therefore I am unlovable or there is something wrong with me. So, in the end, I was literally desperate for him to show, in some way, that he had cared, even a little. Otherwise, I was going to have to accept that the whole relationship really was only about getting an ego stroke for him. He really liked the way I liked him so much, but in the end, it was very clear he hadn’t actually liked or cared for me. That was an incredibly painful bullet to take and I am now embarrassed to realize how far I went to avoid it. How hard I tried to get others to validate my feelings, in the hope of not actually having to acknowledge and feel them myself. When I finally faced it, felt it and released it, the relief was unimaginable. He had lost all power over me, I no longer needed anything from him and my peace of mind had returned.

    I now know that fighting my emotions is a waste of time and energy. All emotions, particularly pain and the more difficult ones, have to go somewhere. When I ignore or try and repress them, they pop up in chlldish and almost uncontrollable behaviour, which I usually end up regretting or feeling embarrassed about after some reflection. The good news is that I am learning to trust my feelings and just let them be. I am not trying to control them or make them go away. Feelings are just information, my mind and bodiy’s way of telling me something I need to know. If I listen, my life is easier and less painful. It is when I fight it that the problems start, like with my last pseudo-relationship. Rather than accept the obvious but painful reality, I fought hard and clung to illusions and the fall out has been devasting, personally and professionally.

    Time to begin my life as an emotionally available and mature person. Time to stop trying to control what I feel and just use what I feel to guide me. I was creating drama and havoc in lieu of just dealing with my emotions properly. Time to stop reacting (and overreacting) to every little incident.and just feel things – good and bad. The good news is that my joy has returned. I used to think it was tied to the idea of “him” – if only he could get his act together and be with me, we would be happy. Now, I’m just happy with me. Or sad, when I feel the need. Emotions are no longer so scary, no longer something that makes me weak or needy. Ignoring my emotional needs is what made me “needy” in ways that I now find embarrassing.

    Thanks, Natalie. Keep it coming. There seems to be no end to what I can learn now that I am finally paying attention.

    • sule says:

      Spot on, Debra. Trying to avoid the hurt and pain of rejection just makes it worse. In trying to get our needs met or avoiding the inevitable, we act crazy. We obsess, stalk, harass and create drama in hopes of getting their attention. We look for them to love us so we don’t need to love ourselves.

      I also think another way avoiding feeling manifests in me is by “pathologizing” him. If he is narcissistic or EUM or an AC, then it isn’t me. I can avoid the pain of the rejection a bit longer, because its not really about me being unlovable, its about his inability to love.

      After decades of avoiding all negative feelings – and in the process losing the ability to feel the good ones – it has been hard to feel again. I can tell when I am hurt now because my needs become so great, I cannot control what I do or say. I send a text when I swear that I won’t. I create a reason for contact when I know its bad. I create drama out of nothing so that I can go on about it to my friends and have what I am thinking validated by others.

      This post will stay with me for a while. It will take time to really digest and get the meaning out of it. Being emotionally available means being emotional, to start, and I never knew how much I had stopped being emotional. I don’t know whether I have shut down over the years because of all the hurt and heartache, or whether I was ever truly available to begin with. Where did we get the idea that emotions were bad or frightening? That they were something to be controlled. I know I have heard that message many times over the years: learn to control your emotions. What I think it really means is learn how to control how you react to your emotions. Its not bad to have them. In fact, its bad if you try and pretend you don’t. What is bad is using emotions as an excuse for bad behaviour – I was so mad, I was out of control kind of thing.

      Every post here is an eye opener for me these days.

      • PJ says:

        Great post Sule, absolutely true, and great of you to look at yourself honestly (-: I’m very much doing, or trying to do, the same, and that is what this post (NML’s) is all about.

        I think that the reason we’re afraid of our own feelings is because, generally, as a culture we are not adequately ‘schooled’ in feeling. It’s not really talked about. We see the behavior of others (in controlling their emotions) and we emulate it, assuming that either they don’t have the feelings that we do or to the depth that we do, and we’re all alone, or that they do have the same feelings but they’re better at handling them and…we’re all alone. It is important to society that it’s member’s control their passions to an extent, but, it is an unspoken education that can be damaging depending on the teachers. That is why I feel that once we learn – however we do it – to accept and embrace all of our feelings, we have much more respect and empathy for others – and we fear them less and can be more open because we realize the humanity and vulnerability that is at the very core of everyone. We also feel strong within ourselves and equal and equally important, which is very key to our self-esteem.

        • CE says:

          Really nicely said, that as we feel more, we empathize more and accept others, we fear others less. I see now that I controlled my feelings too much with my EUM. I tried to act like I cared less than I did and tried to be happy and fun all the time. I believed he wouldn’t accept me as I was and tried to be what he wanted. Why I did that, I am only now understanding. I didn’t like or love myself enough to think I was good enough. I thought I had to be someone else to be loved. Of course, I was trying to be loved by someone who didn’t love me, so it didn’t matter but there is no way I can say I am emotionally available if I am doing things like that. Like the previous posts say, trying to keep a lid on feelings is almost like guaranteeing they are going to get out of hand, like trying to keep a lid on a boiling pot. For all the tears and grief and pain that came with my last relationship, I guess it was nothing compared to the feelings that would come with a real one and that’s scary on some level. Maybe we are drawn to these guys because they make us seem emotional by comparison. Maybe emotionally healthy people wouldn’t give us the time of day. Maybe EUMs allow us to control our emotions, because we are not faced with dealing with the emotions of others. Its hard to figure it all out. I guess just crying alot of tears doesn’t mean I’m emotionally available, it just means I need to get out of the relationship.

  19. Sumumu says:

    Its an amazing thing to see your thoughts and feelings so clearly conceptualised and expressed by someone else…”I have begun to see that my very real need for “him” to apologize or acknowledge my hurt was really just my way of avoiding feeling it. Rejection hurts, particularly if, like me, you use it to internalize a bad message – that he doesn’t care for me therefore I am unlovable or there is something wrong with me. So, in the end, I was literally desperate for him to show, in some way, that he had cared, even a little. Otherwise, I was going to have to accept that the whole relationship really was only about getting an ego stroke for him. He really liked the way I liked him so much, but in the end, it was very clear he hadn’t actually liked or cared for me. That was an incredibly painful bullet to take and I am now embarrassed to realize how far I went to avoid it. How hard I tried to get others to validate my feelings, in the hope of not actually having to acknowledge and feel them myself. When I finally faced it, felt it and released it, the relief was unimaginable. He had lost all power over me, I no longer needed anything from him and my peace of mind had returned”.

    Just coming out of six months with an EUM/AC (and it took this relationship for me to learn the term emotionally unavailability due to my desperate searches on the internet to understand what was happening to me). This explains why the process of walking away/moving on has been so difficult and painful. I just wanted him to acknowledge that he hurt me and couldn’t believe that he simply just doesn’t give a hoot.

    Realising that it both painful but liberating.

    Thanks Natalie for your wonderful insightful guidance.

  20. Elle says:

    I just read the post again, having skimmed it last night. Such a top post! Thanks, Natalie! I love this bit: “Being emotionally available is not just about saying ‘I’m off Mr Unavailables, so send me The Perfect Man’.” I am 100% guilty of the short-cut thinking. From time to time, I fantasize about the Perfect Man as a way of making all of this self-development stuff worth it (as a prize, I guess), instead of me being more real and self-confident being the worthwhile and desired result. I am not always like this, but it’s definitely informing my thinking, and it’s when I realise I am doing this that I get irritable and frustrated with the process.

    I had a session with a therapist this week (about our fifth session, first time in my life, hence not being able to say “my” yet!) and he pointed out my “give me homework” mindset. I do keep asking him in direct and indirect ways for short-cut solutions (and I guess a relationship would offer a false way of achieving what we all want on some level: emotional containment). He also noted that I filter my emotions through an analytical frame such that I don’t actually feel them for too long, I already have a position for them in the scheme of things, I am constantly minimizing feelings in comparison to the grand problems of fictitious others. This all means that, in his view, I have defense mechanisms that mean that my emotional needs don’t come across in an effective way to others. This remark as well as the following from NML are things I will naturally chew on over the next little bit:

    “Emotionally unavailable people either want to completely delude themselves or feed themselves honesty a chunk at a time. While for some people, they eventually get all the chunks and see a full picture, the difficulty in only wanting to be partially honest with yourself is that you’re likely to be dishonest with yourself about the very things that stand between you and your happiness.”

  21. I can’t begin to espress how important and helpful this article is. Please, KEEP doing this!

  22. JJ2 says:

    I want to add that another “Red flag” to someone who may be jacking you around is…. cell phones. If he has one, ask if it’s HIS personal one or if it’s a cell phone provided by his employer. IF…. it’s a cell phone provided by his employer, RED FLAG. This means he only calls you if someone else is paying the bill. Now, some of you may disagree with me on this. For example, if someone has a cell phone provided by their employer, and SOME “personal use” is allowed, then why should they go to the expense of getting a separate cell phone? Well, it’s been my experience that someone who will only call you from an employer provided cell phone usually has other “dodgy” (Natalie likes this word) qualities, too!

  23. Astelle says:

    JJ2, good point about the cell phone. I want to add to this, yeah hindsight is 20/20: his company cell phone was for business, of course, and ME.
    His personal cell phone was for..hmmm..the other women he was trying to hook up with? Oh, wait, no of course not, he told me that number was for his children to reach him…
    Now, you say he will only call you if somebody else pays the bill (the employer in your situation) is not that true, because, I have a company phone and I am not restricted on minutes, but hell – what do I use the company cell phone for??? Stringing along guys? Hell no, for business, but I know what you mean and it is a red flag – he is saying, well, hmm, it is a company cell phone and my private minutes are limited, really?
    By the time you get a company cell phone issued, you are usually Senior Management or IT Personnel and unless you call a phone sex service, the company doesn’t care!!
    But – it is a good “excuse” isn’t it? I can’t take personal phone calls on my business phone – wait I mean I can’t take YOUR calls…
    Red flag? Yes, but do you feel you have to ask him about it? That is a red flag in itself, because if a good, decent man will contact you, he won’t be thinking about which phone to use, would he??

  24. debra says:

    @ Aimee

    “Brutal honesty is just cruelty in disguise”.

    That’s great. That is really hitting home with me. The last time my former AC was raging at me, disparaging me and accusing me of all kinds of things, I got calm and quiet and realized that just because he said it, didn’t make it true. I decide who I am as a human being and my sense of self isn’t derived from anyone else. While it’s embarrassing to admit most people probably knew this by the time they were 6, I am just learning it now and it is a true revelation. The flip side of that, of course, is that just because I think he is an AC or a narcissist or a liar doesn’t make it so either. I used to swallow so much bad behaviour and disrespect in a relationship that I felt I was entitled to let them have it at the end. Now I see that that just makes me look bad, small and out of control. It doesn’t hurt or change them, anymore than the AC’s dumping toxins on me made me think I needed to change (other than the obvious need to get away from ACs!). My wanting to finally be “honest” at the end of the relationship had more to do with what I forced myself to swallow during the relationship than any misguided desire on my part to change or fix him.

    We can’t shame, guilt or belittle anyone into change. Attempts to do so have the exact opposite affect. If we feel someone really needs to “change”, we need to walk away and ask ourselves why we put up with the behaviour in the first place. We need to talk at them alot less and learn to “vote with our feet”. Nothing sends a stronger, clearer, more mature message than just refusing to engage any longer.

    • Aimee says:


      I also heard another guy say the other day:

      When I quit lying, they quit calling me a liar.
      When I quit hurting & abusing people, they quit calling me an a**hole.

      He said a few other ones I am trying to remember because they were good. But I thought about my exAC when he said this – one time when we were arguing on the phone I told him to quit lying to me, he said oh yeah I just lie about everything, my reply was “your lips are moving”. God I am such a shit!!

  25. RES says:

    This is absolutely fabulous! You were an absolute godsend, and I’ll always be grateful to you…6 month wedding anniversary coming up soon! :-)

  26. ph2072 says:

    As someone who has dealt with abandonment issues since childhood, this was good to read. I did a lot of self-work through therapy, and from time to time the abandonment issues pop up (who knows, they may never go away). But now I’m a lot more cognizant of them and able to address them faster. In my last relationship, I forced myself past the fears and shared things with him that I never would’ve shared with other men in the past. (I always figured that men weren’t shit and would leave anyway, so if someone was gonna get hurt, it wouldn’t be me! Therefore, I tried not to share what I thought was too much of myself.) I think we both got benefits from that and we’re still cool to this day. Whenever I get into a relationship again, I know that my old fears/issues will come up again but I’m willing to push past them for a healthy relationship and person who’s worth it.

  27. Sally Jayes says:

    Sumumu You said Otherwise, I was going to have to accept
    that the whole relationship really was only about getting an ego
    stroke for him. He really liked the way I liked him so much, but in
    the end, it was very clear he hadn’t actually liked or cared for
    me. I am just getting out of a 7 year relationship with my EUM and
    have obsessed over his affair with a friend of mine. I even asked
    him what he saw in her. His reply, “She lies me, she accepts me as
    I am”. Nothing else. He couldn’t even say she was attractive. This
    may have been me just wanting to hear him say I was more attractive
    but I think it really shows how he views women. I am learning so
    much about myself, my issues and his EU through this site but I
    know I have a long way to go. Thank you everyone for sharing your
    insights. It is so much better than all those “You can save your
    marriage if you do….” web-sites I looked at for the first 6
    months. Now I feel I will break free and be whole again one

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30-Day Project: Dealing With Tricky Family Members

Tired of dealing with family drama or waiting for them to spontaneously combust in to changed people? Need to find ways to step back and take proactive steps to redefine the relationship from your end? This 30-Day project will help you do just that.