January 4th, 2012 by Nina Atwood
Hi Nina: I am attracted to emotionally unavailable men. However I am also emotionally unavailable; I always look for an escape clause. I watched my parents, who loved each other, have a miserable marriage for over 30 yrs (they divorced when I was 26). I swore that if I cared for someone & he or I wasn’t happy I would be strong enough to leave. I was in a relationship with a man for 6 yrs & as usual I left. I believe this was the right thing to do, for both of us. Now when I meet someone I am interested in I automatically start to push them away, even before there is a chance to know if they are interested. I am very independent & have been told by my mother & others that I am too independent. My mother even went so far as to say that no man would ever want me because I would make him feel emasculated. So instead of waiting to find out if someone is interested in me I pull up my independent socks, push them away & tell myself that he wouldn’t be interested because I am too independent & I am not willing to change that part of myself. Without losing my independence how do I become emotionally available & not push people away? How do I discern between someone who likes my independence & someone who wants a caretaker? Like many others I want a fulfilling relationship with someone who I can learn from, grow with and love. – Marin
Dear Marin: You are wrestling with several issues here, so let’s separate them and look at them one at a time. First, you are trying to learn from your parents’ mistakes but I think you may have drawn the wrong conclusion about their divorce. Thirty years is a long time, and you’ve said they loved each other. Maybe they gave up too soon. Far too many couples throw in the towel these days, usually over issues that could have been addressed and healed. That would have given you the model you seek – one of love, forgiveness, and healthy re-connection.
Second, you are trying to understand when it’s appropriate to stay and when it’s appropriate to leave a relationship. I am guessing your six year relationship probably should have ended at about six months. Why? Because it is usually fundamental differences in values and lifestyle issues that cause long-term dating relationships to end. Or, it was a lack of sufficient love and commitment on one or both of your parts – you may have settled up front. Bottom line is this: date with a strong intention to meet your right partner and move forward into marriage. If the relationship doesn’t meet your basic criteria early on, move on!
Third, I think you’re confusing independence with other issues. If you are strong and you date someone who is looking for a caretaker, you have a need to be with someone who “needs” you. That can feel like false security – if he needs you, he’s less likely to leave you.
I’m reading insecurity all over your question – you are fearful of settling, fearful of rejection (for being who you are – independent), and fearful of making a big mistake. The “independent socks” you are pulling up are really the socks you put on with your running shoes. F.E.A.R. is driving you away from new men – false evidence appearing real – “he won’t like my independence” and other self-created assumptions.
The healing for you is finding the courage to stay until you really know what you have or do not have with someone. It is trusting yourself to know when something is unhealthy and to leave when it is truly appropriate, not out of the fear of rejection. Develop and trust your “inner compass” – that part of you that knows, deep down, when something is right for you, or not. Look for strong men to date, and be willing to take the risk that it might not work out. By taking the risk of dating someone who is your equal, and hanging in there, you will find your own emotional security, and that will lead you into a healthy, loving connection. Get coaching to help you make these discernments along the way and support to stay in the game.