He’s a hunk, fun, nice, and treats you like a queen. As long as things between you are light and easy-going, life is good. When you need intimacy, he finds other places to be and things to do. Sound familiar?
The problem is classic: he’s emotionally unavailable for you when you need him the most. Fortunately, we know the cause of the problem and how to fix it. Many men are emotionally unavailable to women because they have been trained to be that way. At age two, the human brain starts developing its emotional centers. Thus, the “terrible twos” are all about experiencing raw emotions of all kinds.
However, culture throws a huge mud pie into the process. That mud pie is called emotional invalidation. Instead of allowing a little boy to experience and master his emotions, he is told "You're OK," “Don’t cry,” “Don’t be a baby “Don’t be a sissy,” and so on. Each of these statements is hurtful and devastating to the little boy. He is being told to deny what he feels. This programming continues in school as little boys find plenty of reasons to bully, tease, and coerce each other into compliance with the unwritten culture rule: Show no pain.
By the time you meet your hunk he has no clue how to be in touch with his own emotions. Your job is to re-program him - that might sound like a negative thing, but it's not. If you succeed, the relationship will flourish. If you don’t succeed or don’t try, the relationship could experience issues when it comes to emotional connection. Here’s how to do it effectively.
Don’t Expect to Get Your Needs Met Until You Meet His: Of the two of you, you are more in touch with your emotions than he is. As desperately as you want emotional connection, you have to nurture his emotional life, that will help him see how it's done. Not to say that it's "all about him," but in this very specific situation, consider trying this.
Stop Emotionally Invalidating Him: If you attack, criticize, or judge him because he is not always there for you, you simply reinforce all of the training he has experienced since he was a little boy. You now know more about why he finds it hard to be there for you emotionally than he does. Criticizing or attacking won't help him or you, so treat him how you want to be treated. Just like the Golden Rule.
Listen to His Emotions: When he is angry, frustrated, or upset, pay attention. I call it “reading the emotional data field.” What is he experiencing right now in the moment and why? Guess at it if you have to because it will be OK if you are wrong.
Reflect Back His Emotions to Him: All you say is “You’re angry and frustrated.” Don’t ask what he is feeling and don’t ever use an “I” statement (e.g., “What I hear you saying is that you are angry and frustrated.”). Brain studies show that the only thing that works is the direct “You” statement. Continue reflecting until you get a head nod and a verbal response like, "Yeah, yeah.”
Teach Him to Do the Same for You: After a couple of weeks or months of reflecting his emotions (called “affect labeling”), he will be ready to learn how to do the same for you. Ask him if he would be willing to try a simple experiment. Tell him you will pretend to have an emotion. Ask him to guess at it and reflect it back to you. Let him practice this and encourage him. Most important, it’s OK if he guesses wrong. Improvement will come rapidly. Just be patient and kind with him.
Finally, Ask Him to Listen to Your Emotions: When you next have need for him to be emotionally present for you, ask him to listen and reflect your emotions. “I don’t need to be fixed right now. Could you please just listen and reflect my emotions.” If he does this, he will be amazed at the change in you, which will reinforce the practice. If he says “No” or withdraws, go back to Step 3.
This is not to say that you coddle or cater to his emotions for an infinite amount of time. You are doing this to help him learn how to do this for you. Show him how it's done and then then let him know what you need.
This is an extraordinary, life-changing skill. If you take the time to master it and teach it to your boyfriend or husband, you will experience the connection you yearn for. But then again, this is just one man's opinion. What do you think?