How familiar are you with this scenario: You meet someone, you click, your relationship is going smoothly, and then, suddenly, it isn't? You can't quite put your finger on it, but things just seem off. Your partner isn't as affectionate, as responsive, or as present as they were when you first fell in love (or even like) with each other. According to Holly Parker, PhD and author of If We're Together, Why Do I Feel So Alone? (due to hit shelves January 2017), this is a common problem, but that doesn't mean it's easy to figure out.
Emotional unavailability is "the inability or lack of readiness to build an emotional bond with another," Dr. Parker told Cosmopolitan.com. As you can imagine, this is a big red flag when it comes to relationships.
"The journey of trying to reach an emotionally unavailable partner can feel vulnerable, intimidating, and hurtful," she continued, but the key to fixing issues with an emotionally unavailable partner is to "catch it and change course." Here are six ways to spot if your partner is officially emotionally MIA.
1. They're always (I mean, always) doing their own thing.
If you're only spending one or two nights a week with your partner, and they spend the remaining time going on independent vacations or just straight-up not including you, then you might be dating what Dr. Parker calls The Iceberg. The Iceberg partner is constantly distancing themselves from the relationship, avoiding conflict, and brushing off affection.
2. They avoid all emotions.
As you may have guessed, emotionally unavailable partners aren't so good with the mushy-feely stuff. Or, any kind of feely stuff. The partner Dr. Parker describes as The Emotional Silencer doesn't just back away from their own emotions but yours as well, no matter what kind. You want to talk about your hard day at work? Your insecurities? Your relationship? Sorry, but they're not going to engage with any of that. This makes it super hard to connect, and super hard to talk about not connecting.
3. They're always looking for faults.
A negative attitude solves nothing, but it's especially toxic in a relationship. The Critic sees everything you do in a bad light. You make reservations at a restaurant but they don't like the food. You haven't responded to their text fast enough so they think you're hiding something. The apartment is messy and they blame it on you. If it seems like no matter how hard you try, you're constantly messing up, then it sounds like your partner fits the bill.
4. They're always holding up a shield.
Dr. Parker says that partners who fall under The Defender category are constantly trying to hide from any issues. Rather than shutting off full stop, they just get dodgy whenever there's a hint of conflict. When you express your worries, they're deflected by blame and criticism. If you push, it turns into yelling. Before you know it, it's a full-on argument about something that should have been a normal discussion. Communication is a huge part of a relationship, so if you're with a partner who just won't, it's no wonder things are rocky.
5. They're scared to show you who they really are.
Sometimes, it's really not you, it's them.The Fearful Fraud, Dr. Parker says, is so insecure with themselves that they can't imagine anything they have to contribute to a relationship is worthwhile. That's why you're having so much trouble breaking through the surface and seeing what's underneath. It's not because they don't like you but because they're worried about being vulnerable if you don't like them.
6. He's rarely satisfied.
If you feel yourself giving and giving but getting nothing in return, then you might be dating a Sponge. Dr. Parker says The Sponge always needs more (be it time, assurance, anything) to try and fill the emptiness. Sponges have a negative view of themselves and never feel understood. It can be exhausting to be in a relationship with someone who makes you constantly feel like you're not doing enough.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.