Once upon a time, many years ago, I met a man. He appeared interested in me but I didn’t know if I was interested in him. We hung out. We talked. We shared stories. There was something there but I didn’t know what it was and I was having a difficult time reading what this man wanted. This is the story of how I realised, and then unhooked from, this emotionally unavailable (potential) partner.
My focus in a relationship is honest communication. It’s been a learning curve for me—once upon a time, I didn’t even know what I was really thinking and feeling, let alone how to communicate that with others. Over time and with practice, I became better at figuring out my own feelings and thoughts, and learning how to communicate them to the people I’m relating with.
I saw this experience, many years ago, as an opportunity to practice being clear and open.
I asked him: What’s going on?
This took courage—to be so upfront and clear—and I was too proud of myself to notice the quality and nature of his response.
He was unclear and cloudy but with just enough encouragement to keep me engaged.
Many deep conversations later, I found myself beginning to get interested in this man. I love men, always have. I love relationships too. I love being in relationships. Now here was a man I could potentially love and be in relationship with.
I opened up. I told him exactly what I was feeling. I felt brave, and vulnerable, and successful. I was getting good at this clear communication gig.
He invited me to a wedding, as his date. It seemed a clear signal that he was interested in pursing something. I still didn’t know for sure.
We went to the wedding. We watched this couple get married. We made small talk and ate canapes and drank wine and sat across the table from each other for dinner and listened to speeches. I still didn’t know about this man though. I knew I enjoyed his company. I loved our conversations. We had compatible interests.
We’d both had our share of difficult times, we’d known the darker side of life, we’d discovered yoga, we understood patterns and triggers and the ego and shadows.
We discussed what we wanted out of relationship. We were on the same page, the same line, the same letter.
I sat in the unknown, staying open and present, seeing what might arise.
After dinner, he kissed me.
It was shockingly intimate. I was taken back. So that is what was there. My heart melted open and we kissed some more. All of my desires and longings rose up and poured into those kisses. I felt a degree of intimacy and oneness I hadn’t experienced in years. I didn’t expect this—there had been no hint when I first met this man, no lust, no desire, no wanting—just uncertainty and the unknown.
It made it all the more sweet.
The Monday after the wedding, I woke up feeling intense vulnerability. I felt shaky and freaked out and desperately wanted to grab out for something and hold on tight. Those kisses at the wedding had blown me open and I could feel the tenderness of my exposed heart. It was freaking me out.
But this was exactly what I’d asked for: a heart-centred experience. So I breathed, and called a girlfriend, and settled into feeling the vulnerability without closing down.
I even let him know, straight up and honest, what I was feeling. That’s good right?
He texted back: It means your heart is opening.
He lived four hours from me and we’d already planned to spend the next weekend together. It felt like the beginning of something that could be incredible and I was excited, nervous, vulnerable and open.
The weekend came, and it was glorious.
It was heart-breaking.
Everything I suspected could be there, was—we were connected on so many levels and in so many ways. Yet…
I could also see, clearly and plain as day, like the nose on my face, that this man was not ready and not available for any kind of real relationship. He was emotionally unavailable.
He was absent when presence was called for. Occupied when I was in the same room. Distant unless I reached out and called him forth.
He was where he was. I wanted what I wanted. The two things were not on the same page, nor in the same book or even hanging out in the same library. No amount of wanting it to be different could change what was. And at this point in my relationship curve, I was finally willing to face this truth upfront.
I said goodbye, got in my car, and drove away with tears streaming down my face. We’d only shared a weekend, yet the heartache was intense. All that potential and possibility, crushed by the reality of the situation.
He’d reached out to engage me, and hook me in, but once I was there, drew back and disappeared.
Continuing with my practice of clear and heart-felt communication, I sent a text sharing how I felt. There was no response at all. A few days later, I wrote an email, detailing it out. I received a short facebook message applauding my writing and ignoring the content.
So it was to go for the next two weeks or so with this emotionally unavailable not-my-partner after all. My heart-felt, open communication led the way, and I eagerly inhaled any crumbs of response.
I already knew the truth but it’s hard to let go of a dream. Finally, I shook myself awake, and stopped communicating, curious to see what would happen if I didn’t lead the charge. Nothing happened. Communication stalled. Not a single peep. No text. no Facebook, no phone call. I resigned myself to reality.
It was but a three or four week blip, yet the feelings were as intense as if it had been a three year relationship—just condensed into a smaller time frame. The heart-break only lasted two days instead of two weeks.
I felt like a fool because I’d ignored key clues in the first week or so as to the availability and nature of this man. Yet I also felt proud of myself for being heart-open and clear all the way through. I had felt the truth, and while it had taken me a week or so to truly take it on board, I hadn’t denied or avoided it.
Because we know—we always know in our heart of hearts—what the reality is of the relationship we’re experiencing. Hope keeps us dangling. Desire. Wanting. Longing. Yearning. These things make suckers of us all.
Once upon a time, I’d experienced this same kind of intense connection and ultimate unavailability. Only back then, I held tightly to my dream of connected, heart-centred relationship and I’d pushed to make it so.
Instead of acknowledging the reality of the situation as it arose within the first three weeks, I stayed and stayed and stayed and had my heart broken month after month after year with the constant emotional unavailability of my partner.
This seems to be the nature of life.
The same patterns present themselves again and again and again. We’re given the opportunity to see what this pattern is and choose how to respond to it. We’re given the opportunity to become more and more aware… leaning into change, until one day, that pattern doesn’t even arise.
If we ignore the pattern, if we hold fast to our assumptions and projections and desires, we find ourselves back in the same situations again and again and again and we wonder how on earth we got there.
This time around, I felt everything as it arose, I sensed the truth of the situation, and I let it go. I determined that I wasn’t going to play this game.
I noted too that even though I was working on honest, clear communication I was still choosing written methods rather than picking up the phone and just talking to this man. But I cut myself some slack. I’m still a work in progress as we all are.
And of course, I questioned myself.
What in me attracted this experience and this man? Why do I attract men who are emotionally unavailable? Am I really emotionally available? Or is there other learning I’m going through?
My parents were both emotionally unavailable when I was growing up. No surprise there and it’s something more to explore. How do I make the leap from this kind of experience to intimacy with an emotionally available person? What do I need to do?
Relationships are the main way I learn about myself and how I relate to the world and other people. But then, how could it be any other way? How else do we learn to relate, but in relationships?
When I ceased all communication except to respond, nothing happened with this man, many years ago. It’s likely all my ideas about a possible relationship were assumptions and projections spun from my own desires and fantasies. Yet this man played a part—he intimated and suggested that he was interested. He pursued me initially, until I became interested, and then drifted off into his own world, content to let me pursue him.
In the meantime, I’ve unhooked, let go and gotten clear, once again, always again, about what it is I want to experience. Now, added to something heart-centered, I’m also adding emotionally available. After all, it seems I keep getting exactly what I ask for.
And every time I learn something new.
That time around, I learned that I had what it takes to be honest and clear about my experience—but that is not enough.
I learned that I also had to expect that of the person I am engaging with.
I can’t always lead the charge. I can’t hold myself to one standard and be forgiving, understanding, appeasing and accommodating when the other doesn’t respond in kind. I have high standards of my own behaviour and my own ability to grow and respond. Why don’t I hold the other to those same standards?
Because I’m afraid they won’t live up to them? It seems so—there’s a core belief that was revealed in this relating. This insight arose as I left after the weekend, sobbing behind my sunglasses, blinking away the tears so I could focus on driving.
I’ll never meet a man who fully meets me.
Wait a second. I caught myself. Where does that come from? Is that true?
I took the revelation of that core belief and turned it around. I asked myself: Do I fully meet myself? Do I fully meet life? How do I meet myself fully? How do I meet life fully?
Because there is a man out there capable of fully meeting me, when I am no longer afraid to fully meet myself, and my life. Such is the nature of our experience—always mirroring back to us that which we need to identify and heal within ourselves.
Such is the dance of life.
Such is the dance of relating.
PS: Almost two years ago now, I did meet a man who was emotionally available, and was capable of meeting me. Avoidance has been one of his patterns in the past, but like me, he was aware and willing to lean in and change. Together, we meet each other, and what a delight that is.