Do you feel like you’ve spent days, weeks or even months just trying to get close to your man?
If you are reading this, you are probably suspecting your boyfriend of being slightly distant, vague, evasive and sometimes critical of your relationship or perhaps even your feelings!
But don’t fall into despair just yet!
Like many women, you might be dealing with an emotionally unavailable man. A term so common, it became an acronym – ‘EUM’.
The good news is:
The fact that many (poor!) women have successfully dealt with their EUMs means there are ways to change your situation too!
The not so good news is:
To get closer to the mind and heart of your EUM, break that invisible distance between you and to ultimately change your relationship for the better will take some (quite determined) work.
Are you ready for it?
Let’s see what can be done.
Quick, before he pulls away!
Before stepping into deep waters of fixing your relationship with a guy who seems to have commitment issues, or just doesn’t feel that present in your relationship, let’s go through a checklist of signs of a relationship with an emotionally unavailable man.
Let’s start by asking these questions.
If so, he might be in denial about his own behavior and the reasons for his breakups or poor quality relationships.
In this day and age of advance psychology advise, we can try to tackle this kind of EUM issue with you.
Check out the list of further questions, you might need to ask him, before deciding on whether to move forward.
This could be because he could not establish an appropriate level of intimacy before. Could this be because he:
• Refused to do so on purpose due to his immaturity (hopeless case!)
• Didn’t know what genuine relationships can offer (do you want to show him?)
• Has not yet learned how to let a girlfriend in (do you want to teach him?)
If so, you might be dealing with a man who just isn’t interested in a long-term relationship.
If you feel you have done all you can to get close to him, but he just isn’t showing any signs of love for you, try a self-test using this article. See if it helps!
He might be a seducer or feel he lacks other qualities to share with you. In either case there are ways to improve the situation.
Next time, plan a date in a place where intimacy is out of the question. Invite your friends to have people around. Let him see you as part of something bigger, brighter and more important than just a few moments of physical pleasure.
Help him ‘put you in a context’ of your life and interests. As a bonus, this might show you some sides of him you are yet to discover!
Apart from a sign of a potentially repressed anger, expressing contempt with strangers could mean that he’s demanding and could end up being emotionally abusive.
But if you suspect that this is not the case, it could also be a sign that he finds it hard to relate to people quickly (they are strangers after all!).
To help him, try spending more time around his and your friends. Perhaps even book a big group get-away break. Encourage him to be friendly and interested in your friends. Genuinely. He might be positively surprised by what they have to offer!
Most of us have a certain degree of self-interest. In mild doses, it’s healthy and gives us the ability to focus on what we need to achieve our goals in life. But as we develop, our focus outgrow ourselves helping us to build meaningful relationships.
His bragging might be a sign of his low self-esteem and lack of emotional maturity. To reach these he would need to do some homework on personal development. It should grow his confidence and help him get truly intimate with you and committed despite his flaws.
But increasing his self-esteem is his job, right?
Yes, but you can help him on this journey.
Start with saying nice things about his best qualities and recent achievement on a phone to your friend or at a dinner party with others.
For example, if you planned an all-inclusive holiday together but ended up having a staycation in a caravan, celebrate the heck out of the fact that you managed to get away instead of beating yourselves up for not getting that super deal!
If you’ve tried your best, but you can’t see him taming his ego yet, it might be time to put the responsibility back in his court.
Try sharing this practical and highly recommended book or Kindle edition:
Keep your own self-esteem in check.
Self-care is one of the vital ingredients of a good and happy relationship. You need to care for yourself just as much as you care of your loved ones.
Perfectionism is a common trait in EOMs. But apart from being one of the reasons your boyfriend is seeing flaws in everything (including in your relationship!), perfectionism can also signal low self-esteem, self-criticism and chronic fear of failure.
Try using the same steps as above.
Try not to let him set an agenda for your relationship, control it, or alter it to fit around his plans or routines. He might be afraid of the commitment in general. But do you know if he is afraid of commitment with you?
To learn this, you would need to test his ability to compromise.
There is a very helpful article in Psychology Today with the list of steps to turn your boyfriend into a compromise hero.
But here is one quick tip applicable almost to any situation where your opinions and desires differ:
Try an approach of ‘If you do this for me, I’ll do that for you’.
For example, if he doesn’t take his eyes of his phone when you are sharing a big mistake or an achievement of your lifetime with him, request that he alters or eliminates this annoying behavior and, as a thank you, you’ll be willing to change one of your own that he finds irritating.
Unfortunately, here is little that can be done. He refuses to spend time with you. Painful may it be, he just isn’t worth your time.
Thankfully, no man is born an EUM. Many experiences and events in his life caused this kind of behavior.
In psychology, emotional unavailability in men is usually referred to as a defense mechanism, developed through past mistakes and pains. This defense is what is stopping both of you from achieving real intimacy.
Let’s look at two most common causes.
How well do you know his parents and/or elder siblings?
Men are socialized to be powerful, strong, even inaccessible.
If he grew up in a home where communicating emotions wasn’t encouraged, or considered a weakness, your man was left to deal with serious emotional issues by himself. He unconsciously learned negative behavior from the adults in his household.
Through support and gentle encouragement, you could show him the right way to go about his feelings.
Why are we surprised to see emotionally unavailable men, if we constantly tell them that showing their emotions signals weakness?
Because of societal stereotypes about men, they often see opening up negatively.
Relationship negativity can also stem from (or be reinforced by) experiencing various awful dating episodes. If he loved somebody before, but was rejected, he might have chosen to completely pack his romantic feeling away. Add years of practice of such practice, and voilà – you have a solid EUM.
The more or less positive lesson here is that:
You might not be the only one hurting in your relationship.
Men usually act distant and aloof to avoid getting burned again. To fight this, your man might need to feel safe to fall in love with you or be open about his feelings for you.
1. Why do you find myself with a guy with intimacy and/or commitment issues?
2. Have you found that you’ve been ‘editing’ yourself, your bahavior / interests / around him?
3. Do you want to commit to a man who doesn’t seem to want to commit?
4. Do you feel you are always going an extra mile to please him?
5. Why do you value this relationship and this guy so much?
6. Do you have more happy or unhappy days with him?
Childhood difficulties, like poverty, manipulation, insecure relationships, neglect, and more could damage any person.
This might have affected his ability to trust and let people in too closely.
This is not just about your relationship with him. He might be acting this way around his friends and family also. Talk to them, if you feel comfortable. They might have developed helpful strategies that they could share with you.
It is clearly hard for him to establish meaningful connections, so if he imagines that being close to you means moving further away from his friends, there is a lot that can be done to persuade him otherwise.
With Tinder, and other quick fix dating apps, he might have trained himself to focus on negative traits in his girlfriends. He could be looking for something that just doesn’t fit, instead of making effort to see the best sides of his partner.
Yet, a lot depends on his opinion of himself, his relationship track record and his relationship skills. He might still need to work on them all. Try helping him see the positive and take him away from the negative in your personality.
He might worry about his skills as a good boyfriend. He may have experienced disappointments and has come to see himself as a failure in general, and acting arrogant could be a subtle sign of it. It’s a strategy he developed do deal with his fear. This may have led to his fear of commitment.
He might have had bad breakups in the past, or his parents were divorced and he experienced the worse of it.
He might have had one or a number of failed relationships. Or, if his parents were more or less apathetic about what he wanted and needed, and punished him left right and center, you can imagine how hard it could be for him to drop the fear being rejected again.
As mentioned in the section above, he might lack self-esteem and have low self-confidence. It is likely he finds it difficult to make decisions just about anything, let alone serious relationships. This causes significant and constant stress. And the more stressed he is, the harder it is to think clearly.
Stemming from his low-self esteem, he imagines that you (or any girlfriend) would want him to change too much.
To summarise, becoming a better boyfriend, less distant and more interested in you, is ultimately his job.
But here is the thing:
There is a lot that you can do to help him see your relationship in a positive light.
BA, MA Psychology (and Conflict Resolution), University of Cambridge (2007). With a decade of trial and error in psychology and 33 years of navigating my own complex (that's one word for it!) relationships with family, friends, co-workers and men, I hope I have some useful knowledge and skills to share with my readers about making sense of relationships and trying to become a better person every day.