How do you make an "emotionally-detached" person receptive to a relationship?

There’s this guy I’ve been getting to know over the past month or so (we have a whole bunch of mutual friends, but didn’t meet until recently). We’ve met up a few times, both alone with each other and with other people around, and I do like what I see …

except for one thing - he is very used to the idea of being alone, and being “emotionally detached” from others (that’s the term that he used to describe himself). He leads a very independent life and doesn’t really rely on anyone, although he does appreciate his close friends quite a bit. From what I gather, he got badly burned in a past relationship, but I’m not sure how long ago that was.

He is sweet and funny - conversation flows pretty well between us, something unusual since he can be quite introverted and I’m more outgoing. He did tell me that hanging out with me “energises” him, and he’s usually intrigued by the new things I’ve been showing him. But it looks like he doesn’t need anyone in his life.

So where do I go from here? I’ve been the one initiating most of our meetups so far, and I would really like to take things a leeeetle further, but it really sounds like the idea of a relationship (with me, or with anyone else) is so out of his current realm of thinking. How can I tell if I’m just a cool friend to hang out with and to confide in, or whether there is room for more? And of course, I would hate to make things awkward between us and lose the friendship. We’re both 26, by the way.

Argh … this whole dating and relationships thing is so TOUGH!! :o But I don’t want to kick myself years down the road for missing out on an opportunity …

Any thoughts from you, wise and all-knowing Dopers? bows in homage to the collective wisdom and useful insight of Dopers :wink:

He’s not interested in a relationship with you right now. If he claims to be emotionally detatched and you’re the one initiating most of the contact, then that’s the obvious conclusion. The only other possiblity that I can see is that he wants you to “rescue” him from his isolation–but if that’s true, then he’s a headcase and you want to stay far far away.

But he does seem to like you as a friend. That’s a good thing. Maybe he’s just going through a weird phase right now. If you make a move on him, you’re probably sabotaging any chance you might have in the future. I’d say just hang out with him occasionally and look for other guys to date. He might well make a move on you, or start sending you more encouraging signals. You can decide what to do then.

Well… in my book “emotionally detached” is a borderline pathological state and a whole different kettle of fish than just being a bit of a loner. I’m a bit of a loner by nature in that I really appreciate having time and space to myself, and I suspect many other SDMBers are as well.

Assuming it’s more of a “loner” thing than some asocial anomie, you really need to decide what it is exactly you want from him and the relationship, because his personality in this regard is unlikely to change. If a prospective relationship is going to be based on him being “not a loner” you are likely to be in for some wasted time or some heartbreak. Healthy, committed, loving relationships can be had with loners but you have to be relaxed and realistic about their need for space. If you need a lot of “together time” to be happy you had best move on.

Keep finding excuses to go out with him , either solo or group. Right now he is going with the devil you know vs the one you dont. Its a mindset that takes as long as he wants to get over the previous relationship.

If you can get detached , you can get re-attached , he just needs something and some one to live for, but in time he will get used to the Idea of we , instead of me.


This sounds very much like me, except that at 37 I’ve never been in a relationship - nary so much as a kiss - to my deep disappointment. I’ve simply grown used to living alone. I’m not a nutter - I reckon I haven’t tried hard enough and, well, it’s a bit late now.

I’m going to assume that he’s an ex-pat westerner - I wouldn’t presume to comment on someone from other cultures.

As a start, try a good old hug. Are you any good at massage? If he compains of an ache or stress, offer him one - neck and shoulders only!

Good luck. You’re a good person. Even if you don’t win him for yourself, you’ll build a base on which another woman will build.

As a loner myself and one who is not interested in having a relationship, I would suggest for now you just concentrate on being friends with this guy, don’t push for anything else. Something will either develop or it wont.

I guess taking things slowly and just as friends is the most sensible thing to do. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best? :wink: Now if only they made a pill that made sensible things the easiest to do as well. :smiley:

Oh, and he isn’t an expat westerner. We’re from pretty similar backgrounds, actually. He has mentioned kids and family when he talked about where he wanted to be in 15 years’ time, so I guess it’s not that he wants to be alone for the rest of his life.

Thanks for the input, guys. Let me know where to send the bill for the therapy to! :wink:

How about trying communication? You know: “I am interested in pursuing a deeper relationship with you, but I have concerns about whether you reciprocate that interest or not. Can we talk about it?”

What a lovely thought! If I weren’t on the left side of the pond (and El Hubbo said it was okay) I’d kiss you!

Purplycow: Boy, you seem to have a good head on your shoulders! All therapy here can be paid for by sending chocolate to Lynn Bodoni.

I was considering relating this story last night, but I was rather sleepy. So here it is:

When I met my husband, I wasn’t interested in dating. In fact, I was feeling rather like I didn’t want to be touched at all. And he knew it. He pursued friendship with me, while at the same time letting me know he was interested in something more. He asked if he could give me a hug. I was uncomfortable, but said yes, and soon decided that him I could deal with being touched by.

I think your situation is a bit different, in that I didn’t necessarily declare myself emotionally detached. Though I did declare that I didn’t like to be touched. (It was true, but I only said it because I was trying to get out of having my back rubbed by another guy.) Also, this all happened over only about two weeks, but given the circumstances, we saw a lot of each other in that time. But when I said that he might be in a “weird phase,” I was speaking from experience, as I was certainly in one myself when I met Mr. Bean. And I’m glad he was willing to try with me anyway.

Anyway, good luck.

p.s. I knew a Malaysian guy in college. I think he wanted to marry me and whisk me away to Malaysia. I was actually sort of tempted. :slight_smile: But he did tell me a lot about how beautiful and wonderful Malaysia is, and I hope to visit someday soon.

I agree, nice thought. :slight_smile:

Yep, something to consider once I get the guts to do it. :wink: Gotta play it by ear. A terrible fear of rejection is something I picked up from my last relationship.

If you (and all other Dopers!) are planning a trip here, please please let me know! Malaysia is especially good if you love food :smiley: I would love to show y’all around!

I am somewhat emotionally detached from people, as it is, to me, the best form of self-protection. I am, however, in a fantastic relationship now, where I am trying to break down those barriers. From my perspective, it takes a lot of time to build up trust for people, particularly in a relationship, but also in a friendship, but I have found that helping my partner to understand this has really helped. I can tell that as I am starting to trust him more and more, the emotional detachment is eroding. It’s a complex dynamic, though, and communication is really key.

purplycow, it would definitely concern me that it’s you who are always setting up the meetings. Right now it’s worth it to you because you’re excited about the prospect of a future with him. However you have to work on the assumption that this is the “real” him and he isn’t going to change. While he likes being around you and you feel a connection, it doesn’t sound to me like he’s reciprocating much. Assuming he DOES want a relationship at all (which is a big assumption), are you the type of personality who can maintain a relationship with someone who doesn’t reciprocate much?

In college I dated a guy, M, on and off for 2 years who was not emotionally-detached as much as he was emotionally indifferent. When I was around him, it was awesome. He was so incredibly witty and charismatic and attractive that I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else. However, once the night was over I soon learned that it would be days, even weeks, before he’d call me again. When I finally was at the brink of giving up entirely, he’d call again and the cycle would begin again.

It was on one of those “off” periods that I went to a party and met my future husband. While I can’t say my husband was (or is) as charismatic or “fun” as M, he reciprocated my feelings immediately. He paid attention to me. And let me tell you, after two years of indifference, I was starved for attention and didn’t even know it. It immediately felt right. I no longer incessantly questioned my friends, “So do you think he’ll ever want to get married?” because I knew the answer.

Relationships are ultimately about finding the right chemistry and balance in personalities. This guy may provide the right chemistry, but it sounds to me like the balance may be out of whack. If he doesn’t start reciprocating soon, and starting to take the initiative to see YOU, then I’d move on. Relationships should be emotionally fortifying not emotionally depleting.

Good luck.

Maybe you should just enjoy the friendship instead of making it a romance. You can’t make a person do anything. People will change when they want to change, but until then, you’re standing around waiting for them to realize that change is even necessary.

The whole ‘making him/her change’ thing kinda bothers me. How would you feel if someone was trying to change you? Barring self-destructive behavior, I’d be pretty darn annoyed if some one was trying to figure out what needed to be fixed about me.

(and don’t worry about missing an opportunity. If you think about it, you could be missing one right now if you decide to try to change this guy.)

You could always just kiss him and see what happens. :smiley:

Sorry, sorry, been watching too much Dawson’s Creek.

I understand your point about self-protection - I think it’s similar to the state he is in. I’ve been there, done that too, and got out of it for most areas except for the whole dating and relationships thing. Which is why I’m preventing myself from getting too excited over this, and I’m leading a perfectly normal life in the meantime. :cool:

**PunditLisa ** - he does indicate that he wants to do stuff, but leaves the details of when, where etc to me. And you are right that relationships shouldn’t be emotionally depleting … precisely why I got out of my last relationship, I just became tired of trying so hard. Life has been looking sunny since healing from that!

Thanks for the well-wishes, everyone!

What **miamouse ** said!

Don’t make him a “project.”

And that’s okay with you? Seriously. If he’s not motivated to do any of the work involved in making plans now, will it get any better? And is this something you can live with long term?

Sure. Lots of people have relationships with truly wonderful, exciting, loving, caring, warm, charming, fun men (or women) who aren’t good at arranging plans. I have just such a husband and I wouldn’t trade him for anything in the world.

Best of luck, purplycow! You’ll have to keep us posted on how it’s going.

Shayna, that’s wonderful for you, but purplycow needs to do some soul searching to determine if his personality type is a good match for her. Some people can live quite happily with a man who is emotionally “detached.” Others cannot. I know two women (my sister and my sister-in-law) who left their spouses whose number one complaint was that he was emotionally distant. These are women who are nurterers - they are always calling and sending cards and care packages and leaving little love notes. When their husbands did not reciprocate (though one reciprocated before they were married, then did a complete about face once the wedding was over), it left them feeling unloved, then depressed, then finally angry. I have no doubt in either situation that their husbands did love them but the women’s personalities could not deal with a man who didn’t express it.

So I’m not giving advice one way or another, except that she should understand: a) he probably won’t change; and b) if that’s the case, is this a personality type she thinks she can ultimately find happiness with?

PunditLisa, that’s all well and good, but that’s not what you asked. You asked if she could live with someone who wasn’t into the details of making plans, which is an entirely different can of worms than someone who doesn’t reciprocate kindness, thoughtfulness and romantic gestures. My husband isn’t a plan-maker, but he’s extraordinarly romantic and nurturing.

Frankly, I’m steering away from giving her advice, either, because my first reaction upon reading only the thread title was to say, “You don’t [make an “emotionally-detached” person receptive to a relationship], you find a grownup who’s ready for one and willing and interested in doing the work it takes to make one successful.” But then I read where other people have had success either winning someone over or being won over, themselves. So I must admit that it’s not impossible, just not something I’d be willing to do if it were me.

So yeah, we’re probably on the same page with regard to the overall theme of the thread, but with regard to the one issue you brought up that I responded to, we’ll probably have to agree to disagree, as I just don’t think of men as big social planners to begin with, so the fact that this one isn’t doesn’t seem like a big concern to me.