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5 Ways You Attract Emotionally Unavailable Partners - And how to find an emotionally available partner

You haven’t heard from the person you’re dating in two days. They didn’t respond to your last text, and you’re starting to feel that familiar sense of dread. You’re confused because this person was consistently in touch the whole time you were dating, texting every morning, responding promptly to your texts, not pressuring you for sex. You had a lot in common and were making exciting plans together. Then, all of a sudden, things changed. They started taking time to respond to you, their texts were short, and they stopped setting up dates. Now, you realize it’s over, but you don’t know how you got here. You’re more convinced than ever that you’re not worthy of the love and relationship you want. Why else would this keep happening? When such a cycle keeps repeating, it wears you down and lowers your self-esteem. It makes you think something must be wrong with you. But, here's the thing: You don't know what you don't know. And if you're like everyone else, there's a lot you don't know. You can't change what you don't know about. That’s why it’s essential to keep learning. There are many possible reasons you keep repeating the pattern, and none of them are related to your worth. The following is a list of reasons you attract emotionally unavailable partners and what you can do about it:

  1. You’re dating for validation, not connection. If your approach to dating is about being liked, chosen, or “getting” someone, you’re likely looking for confirmation of your worth. You seek that by being overly flirtatious and inauthentic, which makes you a magnet for love bombers and emotionally unavailable people. If you want a relationship, you must seek connection, not validation. You can’t develop a connection when you see the person you go out with as having the power to confirm or deny your worth. That puts them above you. Stop giving others the power to determine your worth. Only you should have that power. Show up to dates already knowing your worth, and seek to develop a connection instead.

  2. It feels good. Getting involved with emotionally unavailable partners feels good because you skip the uncertainty of going slowly, getting to know each other, seeing whether attraction and connection grow and whether you’re a good fit. Instead, you jump into feeling comfortable, connected, and close. Feeling liked and desired feels good. Attention feels good. Certainty feels good. The problem is that none of it is real unless there’s been enough time for the relationship to grow. You can’t really like someone until you know them. You can’t know them until you spend a lot of time with them. Until then, you like the idea of them and vice versa. Learn how to tolerate uncertainty and to go slowly with dating. That is the only way true connection and love can develop. Practice being present and do relaxation techniques to tend to your nervous system. Learn to be okay with not knowing whether someone is right or wrong for you until you have enough data (because you can't know right away anyway).

  3. Unresolved wounds. You still believe you were the reason you didn’t receive better love from your emotionally unavailable parent. Now, you’re attracted to emotionally unavailable people, and you keep hoping they’ll change so you'll finally know you're lovable. Except that’s not what happens. You continue reinforcing that you're not lovable; in fact, emotionally unavailable people don’t change unless they spend a lot of time in therapy. You weren't the reason your parent didn't do better, and you're not the reason people you date let you down, either. Teach yourself to stop seeing red flags as a challenge and, instead, see them as dangerous—and go the other way.

  4. You’re emotionally unavailable, too. If you keep attracting emotionally unavailable people, there’s a high likelihood that you are also emotionally unavailable. Otherwise, you'd see someone's inability to meet your needs as a turnoff, not a challenge. Their hot and cold behavior would be disinteresting and not exciting. Stability and kindness would feel good, not boring. If this is familiar, you have wounds to heal and could benefit from learning new relational skills: practicing vulnerability, setting boundaries, connecting with people in healthy ways. If you have access to a relational therapist, they can teach you how to be in a healthy relationship in real time.

  5. Familiarity. If you grew up with an emotionally unavailable or absent parent, that relational dynamic is familiar to you. It’s all you’ve known. Now, as an adult, you’re attracted to that familiar dynamic. Once in it, however, you want more. But, those who can offer you more–emotionally available people–are not attractive. You find them boring and don’t feel chemistry. This is often because emotionally available people are unfamiliar and you’re not used to that level of intimacy. So, you keep going for the emotionally unavailable people and you end up in the same place. You have to practice dating emotionally available people in order to get used to them. Eventually, this new relational dynamic will be more familiar, comfortable, and attractive. You have to go through the process of change, which includes discomfort and uncertainty. The reward, on the other side, is more than worth the struggle.

It’s important to realize and take ownership of your role in co-creating the repetitive cycle you’re stuck in. You’re always playing a part in your life. Once you know the part you're playing, you can stop perpetuating the same cycle. You can work to heal old wounds and learn new, healthier relational skills. You are the hero of your story. Don’t give up on the loving, healthy relationship you want and deserve. The process of change is uncomfortable and filled with uncertainty, but the reward is worth the work to get there.


This blog was originally published on Psychology Today.

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