You’ve got the ring, you’ve said the vows; in your mind, that means you two are bonded… physically, sexually and emotionally. So why do you still feel alone?
Even though it seems like an oxymoron, you could be married to an emotionally unavailable man. “These types of men are generally immature — sort of stuck in high school,” says Bryn Collins, MA, LP, a licensed psychologist and author of Emotional Unavailability. “In the relationship, you become mom of an adult teenager and are put in the position of having to provide the structure in the relationship while he pouts or pulls away or acts completely put out by the smallest request.”
So how does this happen (i.e., if he’s so emotionally stunted, how did he end up married in the first place?). “Often it has to do with social expectations…he wants the facade of marriage but has no idea what the reality of day-to-day relationship maintenance involved with actual relationships entails,” says Collins. “He wants the social front — and the regular access to sex — without any of the responsibility necessary.”
Other possibilities could include pressure from his family of origin (especially to have kids), or even the age-old excuse of being “pushed into it” by the woman. Whatever the reason he got the ring, the reality is, it takes two people invested in a relationship to make it work.
Here are some signs that your guy may not be emotionally available despite snoring by your side every night.
1. He prefers to hang out with his younger, single friends — without you
Does your guy like to do a lot of “guy things” like bowling and softball but makes it clear you’re not invited? Is he spending more time with his buds than his bride? Take this a step further, is he wearing his wedding ring — or taking it off — when he’s with friends?
The problem with this behavior is that your man is acting like someone who isn’t committed and instead wants to keep his options open. Plus, he’s consorting with other fellas (single or married) who are behaving the same way. “They may even try to break up your marriage or introduce him to single women because they want him to stay free,” says Collins. “A lot of his single friends might also encourage him to drink or do drugs with them and he will because that makes him feel unencumbered.” If he becomes an addict, his focus will be primarily on getting and using his drug of choice, dropping you even further down his list of priorities.
More: The warning sign that could mean he’s violent
The emotionally unavailable husband is also probably resistant to doing “couple” things with other duos when you suggest it and may make you miserable if you do get him to go by pouting or generally acting like a jerk at the event (which will serve to ensure that you don’t try to do anything like that again).
“These can all be part of commitment-phobia” says Collins. “It means he hasn’t let go of his single life and doesn’t see you as part of his social set.”
2. He talks about “I” and “my” — house, money, car, life — rather than “we” and “our”
While actions usually speak louder than words, his vernacular is once again making it clear that he has not left his single mind behind; he is very self-indulgent and often very attached to possessions. “He’s in competition with his friends to have the most toys and doesn’t want to hear about your financial concerns,” says Collins. “His focus is on ‘winning’ life and showing his friends he’s a success.”
He’s also probably resistant to using terms like “us” in front of his friends or other pretty women and it’s possible he’ll be a relentless flirt, even right in front of you. “At the same time, he is very possessive of you and will overreact if someone flirts with you,” says Collins. “He ‘owns’ you, in his mind, just like he ‘owns’ the house, car, truck, kids, dog, etc.” It’s easier for him to feel less emotional vulnerability if you’re equated to property rather than humanity.
3. He’s more a member of his family of origin and values their input much more than yours
OK, so sure the in-laws can sometimes feel overbearing, but if your mate puts more stock into what they think than what is best for you as a couple, then it could be an issue. He is indicating that to him “family” is still Mom and Dad, and he’s not as interested in your family of creation, i.e., the two of you.
“The emotionally unavailable man values the company of and relationship with his family of origin because they either treat him like he’s still a child and lavish gifts on him, or they blame you when he tells them about all the demands you make on him which draws them closer to him and farther from you,” says Collins. “Just like his single friends, his family of origin might also try to break you up.”
Remember that this type is typically still behaving with the mental development of a teenager.
4. He is more attached to his smartphone, computer, videogames or TV than you
Hello avoidance! Yes, we live in a tech-centric society but the guy who is more involved with his tech toys than living, breathing you is giving off clear signals that he doesn’t want to be that close. He has also figured out he can use his gadgets as a barrier to avoid any emotionally intimate conversations with you. “With this type, when you’re home together, he isolates with his phone, videogames, sports, TV, computer, and acts frustrated or petulant if you try to talk to him,” says Collins. “This is a clear sign he isn’t seeing you as his partner in life, he’s seeing you as part of the package he acquired at the altar.”
This isn’t to say that he must spend every waking moment connecting with you… that is also out of balance. Everyone needs their alone and decompression time. But if you can’t ever pry him away from his tech stuff, he’s likely hiding behind it.
Interestingly, Collins says that on the flip side if he approaches you sexually and you refuse for any reason — including your own tech time — this type will get very angry (most emotionally unavailable men equate sex with connection).
5. He maintains inappropriate, secret relationships with women you don’t know
Oh Ashley… as in Madison. Chances are that a bevy of the recently exposed subscribers to the cheating website were also emotionally unavailable men. “This is a huge red flag,” says Collins. “It happens because he hasn’t made the mental shift to commitment, or because he might be wanting to have a backup plan just in case you don’t work out.”
Other signs? He may have secret emails, social media accounts or carry on text/sext conversations to which you are not privy (and actually believe this is not cheating). He also likely keeps his phone locked with a code you don’t know. Elaborate communications with exes is another clue, as well as inside jokes with female co-workers. We aren’t mentioning this to make you insanely jealous and of course some interaction with other females is totally normal. What makes it odd when dealing with someone who is emotionally unavailable is the secrecy that goes with it. “He has poor to no boundaries,” says Collins. “He doesn’t treat you with respect.”
6. He is very defensive when you try to talk about issues
Sometimes things come up, and in a “normal” couple it’s important to have open communication. But when you’re dealing with an emotionally unavailable man, he will get defensive if you try to calmly discuss issues and also probably accuse you of attacking him or trying to make his life miserable. “Now not only will he see you as the mom of his teenage self, but he’ll think you’re nagging him,” says Collins. “He has no idea how to handle your concerns and may ‘attack’ you back by pointing out your perceived flaws.”
Whatever the response, what will not happen is any acceptance of responsibility or attempt to change the behavior. “He is comfortable where he is and people have to be uncomfortable to change,” says Collins. “As long as he can blame you — or his friends, family, co-workers — for his behavior, he won’t be uncomfortable.”
The bottom line
…with any of these signs is that alone they’re probably not a definitive sign that you married an emotionally unavailable man (hey, none of us are perfect), but they do probably need to be addressed. If you are dealing with relationship issues, however, and many of these seem to apply to your mate, you really could be experiencing an “it’s not me, it’s you” sort of situation. Blaming is never the way to go, but trying to get some counseling and being careful to use “I feel” statements when broaching the subject may get your further.
“The more of these behaviors he manifests, the more emotionally unavailable he is,” says Collins. “Remember, you can’t fix him but you can work on your relationship.”