There are all kinds of diseases you worry about catching when you get close to someone, mostly the STD variety. But did you know that there are worse things you can catch from a former partner? The affliction I am referring to has a similarly devastating effect on you and your future (attempted) romantic connections. I’m talking about emotional unavailability.
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you are aware that my romantic past is rather messy and hurtful. I was in a 9-year relationship that unceremoniously crashed and burned about two and a half years ago. I attempted to begin dating again in early 2014, a precarious online dating experiment via Plenty of Fish. After wading through literally hundreds of creepy messages, a few dates that didn’t make it far, and one ultra-douchebag who literally ghosted on my birthday, I met one man who I really liked. From our first conversation, I felt like he was the real deal…honest, humble, and unassuming. Unfortunately, he had also been through some rough times and was just about as damaged as me. Always trying to be the optimist, I didn’t let that scare me off. I thought that, just maybe, my love could fix him. I had to try. We dated for about 4 months, and I fell in love with him hard, but he never came around. He was completely emotionally unavailable, and every attempt to show him love felt unappreciated. I didn’t understand. I mean, who doesn’t want to be loved? Well, I do understand now…and it’s because of him. I understand because I’m damaged again and I don’t know if I can be fixed this time.
After the split with this special man, I was in a really bad place. It was the first time I had allowed myself to be vulnerable in years. The pain in my chest became a daily reminder of why I should always keep my walls up and not let anyone in, especially men. Except I didn’t really believe that’s what I was doing, until recently.
I’m the type of woman who has to always at least maintain a facade of strength. I don’t have anyone else to be strong for me, so I have no choice but to muster that strength from within every day, even if I feel depleted and I’m really just faking it. Throughout the months following the split, I threw myself into my career, my friendships, and my writing. Day by day, the tears of pain mellowed into a dull ache that just never goes away. Eventually, the dull ache subsided to a feeling of numbness and apathy. The strangest part is that I never stopped caring about him. Truthfully, the apathy was a result of giving up on what I really wanted.
Very recently, I decided I might be ready to try again. I was wrong. I went out with a girlfriend and met someone who was nice, romantic, and actually expressed interest in dating me for real. It should have been perfect…except it wasn’t…because all of a sudden I knew what it felt like to be a commitment-phobic dude. The next day, I just felt like I needed space to veg out on my couch, sip beer, and watch my flat screen in peace. In the few days since then, I’ve been perfectly content coming home to my empty apartment. I haven’t called or texted the guy because that just feels too stressful. To be fair, he hasn’t called or texted me either, so I’m not a terrible person. But I am definitely emotionally unavailable at this time and I don’t know how long this will last.
Life is a constant lesson. I thought I knew myself, the loving romantic woman who would literally do anything for anybody I care about and was always open to meeting The One. It turns out that I didn’t know myself as well as I thought I did. There’s this whole other side of me that is baffling, scary, and not at all what I want to be in the long run. But I’ve determined that this is a phase I can’t avoid, just like I can’t make myself stop thinking about the man who brought me into this phase. I still think about him every day, I still kinda love him, and I sincerely hope he’s doing alright. Lesson learned.