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  #1  
Old 11-07-2010, 03:48 PM
even sven even sven is offline
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What does it mean to be "emotionally unavailable?"

I guess I am emotionally unavailable, since that's what people keep saying about me. I just got called that again, buy the billionth guy. But I don't really understand what this means.

I spent plenty of time with my SO and keep in good contact. Indeed, I have to work a bit to keep myself from being too available. I'll gladly talk about my childhood, things that I'm passionate about, and other close-to-home topics. I don't like to have too much mushy "let's talk about our feelings" time, but I am very affectionate. I'm an actions-speak-louder-than-words type. I'm fine with long-term relationships, although I do find they tend to fizzle out.

So what does it really mean? How can I make myself more "emotionally available?" Is that even a good thing? Don't we need to hold something back for ourselves?
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  #2  
Old 11-07-2010, 03:51 PM
MsWhatsit MsWhatsit is offline
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Well, to me, being emotionally available means that you are available and responsive to the other person's emotional needs. In the OP, you mentioned a lot of things that you do to share yourself with the other person, but are you also finding that he shares himself with you? (On an emotional basis, I mean.)

If I told someone that they weren't emotionally available, I think I would mean that at times that I needed emotional support or someone to listen to me and care about my feelings, the other person seemed cold or uninterested. Or at least less interested than I would like. That's just my interpretation, though.

PS: I'm just going to nerd out a little here and say that when you went through your list of things you do to be a decent girlfriend, it really reminded me of the Star Trek: the Next Generation episode where Data is going out with a woman, and they're having the break-up conversation, and he lists a bunch of stuff he has done that most people would consider to be good boyfriend behavior, and says, emotionlessly, "Am I not a solicitous mate?" This is probably unhelpful but I'm sharing it anyway.

Last edited by MsWhatsit; 11-07-2010 at 03:53 PM..
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  #3  
Old 11-07-2010, 03:54 PM
Skald the Rhymer Skald the Rhymer is offline
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Originally Posted by MsWhatsit View Post
Well, to me, being emotionally available means that you are available and responsive to the other person's emotional needs.
That's what I would mean. But I was once accused of being emotionally unavailable by someone who said that, though I would listen to HER problems, I wouldn't share MINE; to her, that bespoke a lack of trust.
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  #4  
Old 11-07-2010, 05:33 PM
Sattua Sattua is offline
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When a man is called emotionally unavailable, I know exactly what it means; when a woman is called that, I just don't know.

A man who is emotionally unavailable will want to continue dating other women months and months into the dating, instead of either committing or moving on. He won't make an effort to contact a woman unless it's convenient for his schedule... he won't put himself out and he isn't driven to spend time with her. He doesn't care if she's seeing other men. He won't do any of the thousand and one things that say "we're a couple". He refuses to talk about long term plans, especially ones that might interfere with other things in his life... oh, basically just watch the first couple seasons of Sex and the City. Mr. Big is emotionally unavailable. He's fun and romantic only when it suits him.
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  #5  
Old 11-07-2010, 05:40 PM
IvoryTowerDenizen IvoryTowerDenizen is offline
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Emotionally unavailable can mean that you're not attending to the others persons needs in a way that is meaningful to them. Your comment "I'm an action speaks louder than words" person hit home. My husband is a action speaks louder than words- flowers, cups of tea, small gifts- all quite lovely. But y'know what? I'm a words person- I want to hear the words I'm sorry or I love you or you matter to me or whatever. So I work really hard make sure I see the love and affection in his actions and he meets me halfway by remembering to say what I need as well.

My point is, someone who gives to the other person in away that isn't meaningful to them may come off as emotionally unavailable, because despite your efforts that person's needs aren't being met.

Last edited by IvoryTowerDenizen; 11-07-2010 at 05:41 PM..
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  #6  
Old 11-07-2010, 07:00 PM
monstro monstro is offline
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Could it mean you're there, but not really there?

Like, are you the type who reads and text-messages all the time, such as when you're on a date?

Do you find yourself answering more questions than asking them?

You say you're affectionate. What does this mean? Are the guys you are with into PDA while you are not?

Do you come across as an empathetic listener? I have a hard time with this myself. I can act appropriately in most interpersonal interactions, but the moment someone has a problem, I just don't know how to handle it. I'll say "I'm sorry" a million times and then try to get the hell away as fast as possible. The other day a coworker who likes to spill her beans to me said, very casually, that she had miscarried over the weekend. Uh...um...I just felt like I wanted to bust out of there. But she was in my office! So I just said, stone-faced no doubt, "Oh, that sounds so bad. I'm so sorry." Fortunately she knows I'm not very emotional so she probably didn't expect much more than that. But I know if I had been like one of her friends, I would have been more expressive and shown more sorrow than I did. "Sorrow" just isn't something I can simulate very well. Could you be the same way?
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  #7  
Old 11-07-2010, 07:17 PM
Evil Captor Evil Captor is offline
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Could it mean you aren't responding properly to his attempts to emotionally manipulate you?
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  #8  
Old 11-07-2010, 08:12 PM
Ludovic Ludovic is offline
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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
Like, are you the type who reads and text-messages all the time, such as when you're on a date?

Do you find yourself answering more questions than asking them?

You say you're affectionate. What does this mean? Are the guys you are with into PDA while you are not?
So what you're saying is, more PDA, less PDA?
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  #9  
Old 11-07-2010, 09:07 PM
FuzzyOgre FuzzyOgre is offline
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Sounds like passive aggressive terminology to me.

They are basically saying you dont dig them the way they want to be. They cant push your buttons like they desire. And they arent fulfilled by your emotional independence. Tough for them.

That sort of person wants an irrational emoter. Thats not you, right? So its your fault? Ha! Ditch em.
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  #10  
Old 11-07-2010, 09:10 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Originally Posted by Evil Captor View Post
Could it mean you aren't responding properly to his attempts to emotionally manipulate you?
To put in more stark terms -- is it possible they mean you won't fuck them when they are going for a sympathy fuck?

Do they get all whiny and sobby and try to hug you, and then try to push the hug..., er, beyond a hug?
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  #11  
Old 11-07-2010, 09:11 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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How often do you use the phrases, "Stop your whining", or "Walk it off"?
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  #12  
Old 11-07-2010, 09:12 PM
WhyNot WhyNot is offline
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Some people like drama. Most of us spend our 20's either being that person or dating that person (or both). We tend to grow out of it in our 30's. I think perhaps you're just a bit accelerated in your learning.
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  #13  
Old 11-07-2010, 09:24 PM
Koxinga Koxinga is offline
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In her face I notice a terrible beauty. Like the terrible beauty of nature itself. It reveals to me two facts. One: she loves me deeply. Two: she is completely indifferent as to whether she ever sees me again.
-- Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction
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  #14  
Old 11-07-2010, 10:10 PM
even sven even sven is offline
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Originally Posted by Sattua View Post
When a man is called emotionally unavailable, I know exactly what it means; when a woman is called that, I just don't know.
Why does genitalia matter when it comes to being evasive and noncommittal?

Actually, I think your definition is probably the most applicable one. I am hesitant to use words like boyfriend and girlfriend (seems so middle school) and do get pretty freaked out when talking about the future. I'll fully admit that I tend to avoid big questions, like to take things as they come, and am not ready to shove whatever it is that I have with someone into some kind of mold of a "relationship."

This particular guy is not saying it in a bad way, and he admits to being pretty much the same. I think he feels like he met his emotionally unavailable soulmate. Maybe not a great foundation for a relationship, but us emotionally unavailable people gotta be with someone, why not each other? What struck me, though, is that I've heard variations on this theme through my entire dating life, and I'm just now realizing everyone has said pretty much the same thing about me. I think it must be at least partially true.
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  #15  
Old 11-07-2010, 10:35 PM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
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It means you don't put out.


I'm emotionally available. Anger and rage are emotions.
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  #16  
Old 11-07-2010, 11:57 PM
even sven even sven is offline
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What's with all the accusations of holding out on sex? What would that have to do with "emotional unavailability?" Is this coming from a general perspective that any trouble a guy has with a girl must be actually a lack of sex?

Trust me, that's one form of closeness I have no problems expressing to my SO. Actually, this new guy is starting to joke about feeling like he's being used for sex or being seen as a piece of meat. I think he's joking now, but I've had guys seriously get upset about that in the past. I'm not sure how to avoid going down that road while still fulfilling my healthy enthusiasm for the practice. How do you let a guy know you value other parts of him as well?
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  #17  
Old 11-08-2010, 12:03 AM
Koxinga Koxinga is offline
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I think it's part of the general stereotype that men are less emotionally dependent and less prone to having their feelings hurt than women -- when usually the exact opposite is the case from what I can see. Guys are so ronery -- women generally don't understand how ronery men really are.

Last edited by Koxinga; 11-08-2010 at 12:04 AM..
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  #18  
Old 11-08-2010, 12:13 AM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Originally Posted by even sven View Post
What's with all the accusations of holding out on sex? What would that have to do with "emotional unavailability?" Is this coming from a general perspective that any trouble a guy has with a girl must be actually a lack of sex?...
It's not an accusation. And yes, since a lot of guys are primarily interested in sex more than any other single factor in terms of their relationships with women, any complaint from the that type of male is likely related to sex in some manner.
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  #19  
Old 11-08-2010, 12:14 AM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Ronery??
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  #20  
Old 11-08-2010, 12:17 AM
Koxinga Koxinga is offline
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I'm So Ronery.
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  #21  
Old 11-08-2010, 12:18 AM
Gestalt Gestalt is offline
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I think it either means you're a bad listener or he's a poor communicator or some combination thereof.
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  #22  
Old 11-08-2010, 12:34 AM
Promethea Promethea is offline
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Originally Posted by even sven View Post
I'll gladly talk about my childhood, things that I'm passionate about, and other close-to-home topics. I don't like to have too much mushy "let's talk about our feelings" time, but I am very affectionate. I'm an actions-speak-louder-than-words type.
(Bolding mine)

It's this bit. When people complain about someone being emotionally unavailable, in my experience, this is what they're driving at. A sense that the person is holding back from expressing how they feel about the relationship emotionally, for fear of making themselves vulnerable (or whatever the internal reason is). Also shows up in comments like "I feel I'm not really getting to know you" or "you're holding back".

As to why you think this may or may not be true or not, that's for you and your SO to decide but a good starting point might be to ask yourself WHY you feel uncomfortable talking about your feelings for each other. Some people have a deep need to hear the words, not just the actions. FWIW, if I noticed that a partner of mine was making efforts to deliberately avoid having such conversations, eventually that would get to me.
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  #23  
Old 11-08-2010, 04:57 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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Originally Posted by Promethea View Post
(Bolding mine)

It's this bit. When people complain about someone being emotionally unavailable, in my experience, this is what they're driving at. A sense that the person is holding back from expressing how they feel about the relationship emotionally, for fear of making themselves vulnerable (or whatever the internal reason is). Also shows up in comments like "I feel I'm not really getting to know you" or "you're holding back".
When actually and for many people being accused of this "holding back", what happens is that "nothing" means, exactly, "nothing". It's not that they're not sharing, say, their childhood traumas or their angst or their insecurity/jealousy about "the gang's night out", it's that there is no such thing.

Example:
A is staring out the window, thinking of nothing much, sort of half-asleep. Sun shining... nice, pleasant... green leaves... nice, pleasant... car driving by... train... train... gee, that's a long train... nice, pleasant...

and then B says "what are you thinking?"
"Uh? Nothing."
"Nothing, uh? " - and, depending on how B is, the war is on! But that "nothing" didn't mean "nothing I can tell you about" or "nothing I want to talk with you about" or "your best friend's ass" - it meant, exactly, nothing. In even sven's case, she's not sharing her plans for which curtains to buy because she has no plans on which curtains to buy.

Last edited by Nava; 11-08-2010 at 05:01 AM..
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  #24  
Old 11-08-2010, 05:11 AM
BigT BigT is online now
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That would just mean you aren't emotionally available to yourself. You have emotions of some sort. You have feelings of some sort. Maybe not at that particular time, but you do have them. There is no one with no emotions going on.

Usually, it's either a lack of perception of emotions, a lack of ability or willingness to talk about them, or something like that. And you might be less emotional than average. But, if you are told that you are emotionally unavailable, and you want to change that, the best advice I can give you is to try to communicate whatever feelings you do recognize and have.

Also, I will point out that person A is simplifying at best, and lying at worst. You already showed us that there were actual thoughts going on. Again, he just chose not to share them.
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  #25  
Old 11-08-2010, 05:11 AM
Promethea Promethea is offline
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Originally Posted by Nava View Post
When actually and for many people being accused of this "holding back", what happens is that "nothing" means, exactly, "nothing". It's not that they're not sharing, say, their childhood traumas or their angst or their insecurity/jealousy about "the gang's night out", it's that there is no such thing.

Example:
A is staring out the window, thinking of nothing much, sort of half-asleep. Sun shining... nice, pleasant... green leaves... nice, pleasant... car driving by... train... train... gee, that's a long train... nice, pleasant...

and then B says "what are you thinking?"
"Uh? Nothing."
"Nothing, uh? " - and, depending on how B is, the war is on! But that "nothing" didn't mean "nothing I can tell you about" or "nothing I want to talk with you about" or "your best friend's ass" - it meant, exactly, nothing. In even sven's case, she's not sharing her plans for which curtains to buy because she has no plans on which curtains to buy.
I knew it was a mistake to say whether this would bother me. It's not like I'm dating her, so what on earth is the relevance as to whether it would bother me or not. FWIW, I am happy to say have never in my life been on either side of the conversation (or anything approximating it) that you've outlined in your impromptu play above.

And sure, sometimes 'nothing' means nothing. And then again sometimes 'nothing' means 'I am not comfortable discussing my feelings for you'. The OP seemed to indicate she was more to the latter end of the spectrum.

Last edited by Promethea; 11-08-2010 at 05:14 AM.. Reason: Edited for (hopefully) more clarity
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  #26  
Old 11-08-2010, 05:15 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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I wasn't attacking you, take it easy, just providing an example of what happens when someone's expectations and the other party's reality don't match.

I've been A; my mother is a terrible case of the Bs; SiL was going all B on Middlebro over, you guessed it, home dcor, when they were preparing the wedding, until I pointed out that "when he has an opinion he shares it, doesn't he? So, when he says he doesn't care that's exactly what it means" (as he'd been putting it "love, I would be happy in a cardboard box, whatever you like so long as it's within budget is fine"). The problem is mismatched expectations / communication styles, nothing wrong with having one or another (we do need expectations and we do need communication styles in order to function), but the hard part is getting them to fit. Ivory Tower Denizen provided a previous example of mismatched styles and getting them to fit.

Last edited by Nava; 11-08-2010 at 05:18 AM..
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  #27  
Old 11-08-2010, 05:21 AM
Promethea Promethea is offline
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Originally Posted by Nava View Post
I wasn't attacking you, take it easy, just providing an example of what happens when someone's expectations and the other party's reality don't match.
Apologies, Nava. Poor communication on my part - one of those occassions where I've posted and then looked back to see that it does indeed reads rather angry. Not intended and I agree with your general point about both parties needing compatible sharing levels.
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  #28  
Old 11-08-2010, 07:28 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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*passes the cookies* See, we provided another example
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  #29  
Old 11-08-2010, 10:59 AM
Carol the Impaler Carol the Impaler is offline
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For me, it has to do with willingness to bond. Is your SO's emotional energy flowing towards you? Or does your SO withhold their emotional energy from you? IME, it is about you both being willing to be open and vunerable and concerned about the other person's emotional well-being as much as your own. It's about developing a sense of mutual trust so that both partners feel safe. I'd say your SO doesn't feel safe with you. Safe to be himself, to be heard, to be cared for, to be cherished, and to be mutually vulnerable with you. Do you contribute your heart and your whole self to the relationship? Or do you accept his emotional offerings but make none of your own volition? Are you connected to each other in your hearts?
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  #30  
Old 11-08-2010, 11:19 AM
Hello Again Hello Again is offline
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For some dudes it just means you don't bring the drama. Girl not freaking out over every damn thing = girl doesn't care. Girl taking guy at guy's word without trying to find subtext = girl doesn't care. Etc.

As per the above: I don't withold emotional energy. I just don't have a lot of emotional energy. Most things that seem to inspire really deep emotional feelings in others, especially other women (babies being the perfect example) I don't recoginize as emotional events at all. I just pretend so as to be socially acceptable. To a lot of people who really have an extremely deep emotional life, I'm probably emotionally unavailable. Then again, their behavior is emotionally suffocating to me, because they are too available, out of proportion and irrational (from my point of view). I'm not thinking WOW we have this amazing bond! I'm thinking, Oh jeez, calm down.

So, there's two side to the coin, but maybe you just haven't found the right person, the person you click with; whose level of emotional availabilitude is "just right."

Last edited by Hello Again; 11-08-2010 at 11:20 AM..
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  #31  
Old 11-08-2010, 12:52 PM
Mtgman Mtgman is offline
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This may be one of those things where there is an asymmetry between male and female expectations. Kind of like humor. The studies show that while humor is important to both men and women in a relationship, what they mean by humor is different. When a man says he wants a woman with a good sense of humor, it seems he means "I want a woman who enjoys my jokes and that I can make laugh." When a woman says she humor is important to her, she means "I want someone who makes me laugh." This is a pretty good match really. The asymmetry works well in this case. Both want the male to be the source of humor in the relationship. That's not as far as it goes, and the woman having a sense of humor which she employs in tough times to lift the spirits of the couple(the article says something like "usually with self-effacing humor") can cement the bond further. So in the good times, hopefully a majority, the male is expected to make the female laugh, at life, at him, at whatever. Then when times get tough, it appears to be the woman's role to make them laugh and provide the spark of, often dark/black, humor to get them through the rough times

Anecdotally, there is a similar disparity among emotional supportiveness and sharing of emotional intimacy. The woman is expected to be the vulnerable one, with the man providing her support. This is the norm. Occasionally a man may air his deep, dark demons, and then a woman being there to accept him and comfort him is a great boon to the relationship, but the norm is the other way around. If he's expecting you to have shared some deep feelings by now and you haven't, either because you've dealt with them and don't have that kind baggage to bring to the relationship, or for some other reason(aside from not wanting to share them with him, which would mean he's right about you being emotionally unavailable) then he could have this impression. If you're taking it slow then I'd just explain that to him you believe the physical aspect of the relationship can progress faster than the emotional, and you're happy with him and that time will probably bring more emotional closeness(and continued happy romping physical closeness).

Enjoy,
Steven
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  #32  
Old 11-08-2010, 01:52 PM
Vinyl Turnip Vinyl Turnip is offline
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It means you spend too damn much time on that Straight Hope message page, or whatever the hell you call it.
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  #33  
Old 11-08-2010, 05:35 PM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
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Originally Posted by even sven View Post
What's with all the accusations of holding out on sex? What would that have to do with "emotional unavailability?" Is this coming from a general perspective that any trouble a guy has with a girl must be actually a lack of sex?
It was a joke. No need to get defensive.


Quote:
Originally Posted by even sven View Post
I'm not sure how to avoid going down that road while still fulfilling my healthy enthusiasm for the practice [of sex]. How do you let a guy know you value other parts of him as well?
I recognize the words...but they sort of don't make sense to me the way you have them arranged.
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  #34  
Old 11-08-2010, 06:09 PM
IvoryTowerDenizen IvoryTowerDenizen is offline
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Have you asked him what he means by that comment?
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  #35  
Old 11-08-2010, 06:47 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Originally Posted by IvoryTowerDenizen View Post
Have you asked him what he means by that comment?
I would agree. On the other hand, somebody who is emotionally unavailable probably would not ask (or want to ask) that question directly. For me, that's part of the characterization of being emotionally unavailable--that you don't like addressing something like this in an open, honest heart-to-heart.
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  #36  
Old 11-08-2010, 07:42 PM
Koxinga Koxinga is offline
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
I would agree. On the other hand, somebody who is emotionally unavailable probably would not ask (or want to ask) that question directly. For me, that's part of the characterization of being emotionally unavailable--that you don't like addressing something like this in an open, honest heart-to-heart.
Or challenge the guy with an unsmiling demand: "You say you feel I'm emotionally unavailable. Give me a specific example of when I was emotionally unavailable. Well?" And when he backs down for the sake of avoiding an argument, or just can't think of an example at the moment, she comes away convinced that whatever he says about his feelings on this, he is wrong to feel that way.

Not saying that applies in your case, even sven, but I've seen it elsewhere FWIW.

Last edited by Koxinga; 11-08-2010 at 07:43 PM..
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  #37  
Old 11-08-2010, 09:01 PM
drachillix drachillix is offline
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My perception of "emotional availablility" is this.

You have the means, time, and desire to form an emotional bond with another person.

You are not so wrapped up in work, kids, someone else, hobbies, etc to form a relationship with another person.

Last edited by drachillix; 11-08-2010 at 09:02 PM..
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