I still don’t understand how to stop picking unavailable men who trigger my insecurities. My current boyfriend is a hundred times better than the last ones but he is still not giving enough emotion. He does give affection and commitment and he is consistent, but he can’t express emotion and gets defensive and feels like I’m attacking him when I ask him for more. He thinks I’m too needy. I have walked away in the past from people who were obviously bad. I recognized that they only used me for sex. I was able to go cold turkey with the others because I didn’t have to see them. But I work with my boyfriend. And he does seem to genuinely love me. I just can’t seem to feel it. He likes his space and doesn’t like me hanging around as much as I would like.
I read all your blog and can relate except this man is relatively healthy and does provide the basics just not as much as I want. I just keep thinking I should fix my neediness rather than leave. Then it would work; but, I can’t seem to do it. I feel like I’m repulsive to him when he says he needs space. In the beginning he wanted me around a lot and laughed at my occasionally clingy behavior. This whole thing kicked off because I asked him to say I love you more. He agreed to try, but I then asked him to make his whatsapp pic us and he got super defensive and said it was childish and that I always want something more. He said every text of mine is loaded with ways he could improve and digs at how he isn’t enough.
I suppose if I felt I was healthy then I would be able to justify walking away much more easily, but because I know I have issues I worry that if I were healthy this relationship would be fine. As in, I am the one with the problem that needs fixing because of my neediness. If I am unhealthy then no one will want me like this. Also if I always seek out this type of person then how will I learn not to? How do I make myself find someone more suitable as I tend to run away from the type that would be good for me? If I become healthier and learn to love myself will I then see more clearly and be able to do something about this more easily?
In Love with Mr. Unavailable
Dear In Love With Mr. Unavailable,
In The Break-Up Journal this was my struggle. I was with a guy that said he loved me and most likely did love me, to his capacity at least, but it was never enough for me. He was a classic avoidant, always wanted space and “me time” and eventually made less and less time for me until, poof! he disappeared like a magical fairy whose whimsical mission was accomplished. The struggle is real. On both ends. Because, while he felt smothered by my neediness, I felt abandoned by his aloofness. You’d think we would have both figured out fairly early on that our relationship was doomed but we didn’t. There was passion, there was friendship. People stay together long past the point of dignity for many reasons. Eventually, we split. And guess what? No one was to blame. I wasn’t as needy as I originally thought and he wasn’t as avoidant as he originally thought (well, maybe he’s still an avoidant. Who knows.). My point is, that becoming healthy for me was NEVER about me stifling my neediness for someone. It was about recognizing that certain types of people would never be able to meet my needs. Period. I still need a man to pay attention to me. I still need a man to make his Facebook profile pic “us” (at least once in a while). I still need a man to be emotionally available to me. I never changed. And I don’t think you need to either.
Are you a reader? If so, read The Dance of Intimacy. It talks about how your need for closeness and intimacy is pretty much set in stone, and so is everyone else’s. It goes on to say that, neither right nor wrong, your need for closeness should match up with your partner’s, otherwise, there will be conflict. Two people can love each other, but possess completely different levels of closeness. I have two sons. One gives me massive bear hugs and loves physical affection, the other one, if I try to hug him or kiss him, he gets all squirmy and runs away. It’s not because he doesn’t love me. I know he loves me dearly. It’s that he was born like. He was like that since he was an infant. People just have differences in the way they express their space, time and closeness. Some need a lot of it. Others don’t. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum.
That being said, on the one hand, you have to respect his space and his lack of emotion. If, as you say, he loves you, that is how he communicates his space, time and closeness. And that’s most likely set in stone and not going to change no matter how much you guilt, beg or shame him into changing. On the other hand, if his expression of space, time and closeness bothers you, if it makes you feel cold or abandoned or unloved, then, by staying with him, you are not respecting your own personal expression and need for space, time and closeness. Because guess what? You can’t change that much either. And, no matter how much you try suppress your need for love and closeness, it just won’t work.
Here’s the other thing, no matter how much you both love each other, love alone doesn’t always make for a healthy relationship. You need more than just love. You need compatibility. You need shared values. If his need for space triggers you too much, then, it may be time to look for a more appropriate partner. Right now, it seems to me you are forcing yourself to eat blueberries, when, what you really want is a banana. You’re just not a blueberry person. You’re a banana person.
Got a question? Need advice? Ask Lovely @ firstname.lastname@example.org
*I get many letters every month asking for my personal advice. I thought I’d start sharing them, with the writer’s permission, of course. Disclaimer: I’m not a therapist. I have no professional titles. But I do have one thing a lot of pros don’t. At least 10,000 hours devoted to really bad relationships that I somehow learned to stop having.