Nobody likes to be put at arm’s length by the person who has our heart. Yet, we might find ourselves trapped in a relationship with an emotionally distant partner.
Perhaps you love someone, and you are finally willing to let your guard down and build upon your intimacy. Although that person might be romantically connected to you, you perceive some emotional walls and mental distance put up.
How can you spot an emotionally distant partner?
Emotionally distant or unavailable partners have a mysterious aura that can make them initially seem attractive. They fuel your desire to penetrate their world and understand their hidden parts. And when you finally manage to approach them by getting involved, the tension of the chase and the unpredictability of their reciprocation make your dopamine levels go all silly.
But then, they pull away. Distance grows; it can start with avoiding honest discussions and can end with ignorant behaviour, lies, or complete detachment if things go out of control. You don’t want to leave that person; you wish for intimacy and love. Still, any efforts from your side to understand what’s going on only pull that person further away.
Consequently, you start wondering what you did wrong or panicking about the future of your connection. You’re not alone. I’ve been in that position quite a handful of times, and the more I pushed for answers and unwanted closeness, the worse things got.
After all these pointless conversations, non-sense games, toxic behaviors, and vicious cycles, I tried to invent different strategies to approach my emotionally distant partner without further drama and heartache.
When used, the following approaches might help you avoid being a nervous wreck – they were incredibly efficient when I was a nervous wreck-. Before you let go of your “almost relationship,” adopt some healthy strategies to regain your emotional power and make your partner open up.
Understand whether the distance is due to attachment style or other reason
Does your partner always seem to detach when things start to be perfect and intimate? Does he usually try to keep things fuzzy or conceal his feelings towards you? Do they seem to avoid physical closeness and mention more about your imperfections than your perfections?
Then, I’m afraid your partner has an avoidant attachment style. Adults can have four attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and anxious-avoidant (or fearful-avoidant). According to your vulnerability and comfort towards rejection and intimacy, you can find yourself in one of these categories.
The above behaviours are deactivating strategies that a person with an avoidant attachment style uses to squelch intimacy and suppress his or her attachment system.
If that’s the case, and you have a deep connection with that person, you have two options; either accept and compromise with his/her need for space or completely detach (aka break up).
But, before you put any break-up thoughts in mind, identify your attachment system, and weigh the cost of leaving. If you have an anxious attachment style, chances are your needs for intimacy and closeness are opposite to your partner’s, and therefore, your attachment styles clash, bringing up the worst in each other.
It’s normal to interpret distant behaviours from your partner as the end of the world if you’re anxious and desire your partner’s emotional connection as “neediness” if you are avoidant. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you want to know more about treating an attachment style clash, you should read this book.
But if your partner is not avoidant, what can it be? Perhaps a phase, too much work, random thoughts, a coincidence, or anything else.
Let your emotionally distant partner come to you, and don’t demand the talk.
I’m not saying that you should suppress your feelings or wait pointlessly. At first, show some initial concern as an invitation to talk, instead of asking too many questions. Directly trying to get your partner to talk is not the best approach, especially if they stretch away.
When your emotionally distant partner initiates a discussion, don’t try to indicate behaviours or point out their fault. When your person is available to talk, instead of asking a string of questions or demanding explanations, express your appreciation even if she/he listens and openly shares your feelings.
Ask your partner to consider your emotions and be empathetic; even you’re afraid of rejection.
Avoid arguments at any cost.
As communication can be the most efficient element in a relationship, arguments can be the most destructive. Blaming, complaining, accusing, or doubting are behaviors that hurt and hinder any loving manner.
I understand that by controlling your needs to talk, connect, and be intimate with your partner, your resentment can build up. Instead of being preoccupied with the way your partner is treating you and make an explosion of negative feelings or intimidating them when you’re together, try to practice forgiveness, understanding, and appreciation.
Always get in touch with your emotional self and be aware of your emotions. When it’s the right time, try to open up and negotiate for what you want in a trusting manner. Believe that your partner wants the best for you. By suppressing your negative feelings, your positive emotions might be hindered, which will eventually lead to an argument or an emotionally dead relationship.
Always try to resolve your conflicts through open communication. If you’re able to understand and accept your partner’s limitations, they might be able to reassure you the way you need it.
Learn to support your emotionally distant partner without having to change you (or them)
The best way to help your partner grow and face any difficulty is to let go of trying to change him/her. If you start complaining about your partner’s need to pull away or try to indicate improvements in any way, you might build up their defensiveness. Your partner might feel criticized and unaccepted.
People need to feel appreciated and supported regardless of their imperfections. By asking too many questions or complaining when going through a phase of difficulties and upsetness, we would think that our spouse is trying to improve us or change the way we are.
That doesn’t mean you have to compromise.
Let your partner know you’re there if she needs you, honestly share feelings, and practice patience.
When you feel that your partner is pulling away, you understand that it is not the time to talk or get closer. You let them pull away, but inside, you might withdraw your love and warmth. You might start playing games, ignoring or disapproving your partner.
When your person might desire you, you reject or not allow them to touch you. You might start blaming or refuse to talk and open up. That behaviour is highly destructive to your relationship. When someone feels punished for pulling away, one can become afraid of losing you or even reach out to you because one feels unworthy of your love.
Resist protesting and using destructive and punishing behaviours. Practice effective communication instead.
Communicate effectively and ask for reassurance
There is nothing more powerful than effective communication in a relationship. Instead of accommodating your needs and compromising, be your authentic self and express your needs and expectations to your partner in a direct, non-blaming manner, without attacks or defensiveness.
Don’t bombard your partner with questions about his feelings and reasons for his distant behaviour. Spell out your needs assertively, and talk about your emotions. If your partner knows that reassurance is what you need when she pulls away, she will consider your well-being and let you know about the space she needs and that it has nothing to do with you.
In the book “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,” John Gray introduces us to Love Letters’ power. The love letter technique is one of the best ways to release negativity and then communicate more lovingly by writing your feelings in a particular way.
You can either write a letter expressing your anger, sadness, fear, regret, and love, write a response saying what you want to hear from your partner, and then share both with your partner. The technique is quite flexible, meaning you can do all three steps or do one or two of them.
Either way, by writing out your feelings in that manner, the negative emotions automatically lessen, and you are less overwhelmed with resentment or blame. You have a clear picture of what you’re feeling, and you can see and state your needs objectively.
Become more independent
The truth is, it puts too much pressure on people to make them the only source of love and support. Although it is entirely healthy to expect your partner to be close and intimate, always asking for reassurance and attention can be suffocating for some people.
Take advantage of your “me-time” to take better care of yourself, do the things you’ve always wanted to do, such as go to the spa, go shopping, watch football, go on solo trips, among others. If your partner wants to join, he or she is welcome to do so.
Learning to do fun things alone or with your friends without your partner is healthy and admirable. There’s nothing wrong with having a complete life and not depend on your partner’s mood.
Encourage your emotionally distant partner to talk by showing appreciation for the little things.
Make an appreciation list for all the things your partner is offering you or has provided you so far. Your spouse might be going through a phase or a difficult time, but the important thing is that you’re still there, without wanting to improve or change her.
When you lovingly appreciate your partner without trying to manipulate or alter his behaviours, it’s much easier for your person to feel accepted and therefore open up, talk, and listen to your feelings.
Conclusion: 8 healthy ways to approach an emotionally distant partner
To recap, those are the eight healthy ways to approach an emotionally distant or unavailable partner:
- Understand whether the distance is due to attachment style or other reason
- Let your emotionally distant partner come to you, and don’t demand the talk.
- Avoid arguments at any cost.
- Learn to support your emotionally distant partner without having to change you (or them)
- Don’t punish
- Communicate effectively and ask for reassurance
- Become more independent
- Encourage your emotionally distant partner to talk by showing appreciation for the little things.
Guest Author Byline & Photo
Maria is a Greek girl with a passion for travelling, self-development, and everything digital. She has been living worldwide for the last three years and shares her thoughts & pieces of advice on personal growth, travel & wellness at triggeryourtrip.com.