Do Emotionally Unavailable Men Change?

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Do emotion­ally unavail­able men change? While it’s great to find a man who cares about you, in the mate­r­i­al world, there is no warm and fuzzy for your bank account.

Here are two key questions you should ask any poten­tial love inter­ests:

#1 – Is He Emotionally Available To You Now? Verbal monogamy doesn’t mean emotional monogamy. I would estimate at least 70% of married men are not emotionally available to their wives/partners. If someone can promise long-term commit­ment but cannot also offer congruent words and actions, then he’s just conning you. In this regard, an example of inconsis­ten­cy in this regard would be a man who has a girlfriend or wife but still goes out to bars and clubs, takes other women out, shows romantic inter­est to coworkers/friends, sexts with strangers, etc. Emotionally available men do not engage in such activities. (If you don’t recognize these actions as red flags, then you are more conning yourself than anyone else.) Only three of my male friends have been emotionally available over the last decade: two were monogamously married. The third was in a relationship for 10+ years and proposed marriage until he got tired of her games and left.

#2 – Can You Imagine Staying In A Relationship With Him Over The Next 25 Years? His past is a good bellwether of his future. If he’s cheated on other women in the past, is an alcoholic, has anger issues, or any number of other bad habits/addictions, then you can bet you’ll be dealing with him for many years to come. For example, I have a friend who was married for 15 years; he had cheated on all three of his wives and constantly lied during their relationship together (but never while they were in the initial courtship stage). He decided to get married again – this time engaged to someone he’d been seeing off and on for five years – but after two months decided it wasn’t working out and broke things off because she wouldn’t do what he wanted her to do. Thus far, he’s perfect for her. If it doesn’t work out this time, I’ll bet she’ll be just what he wants in another few months or so.

Why do women often settle for such men? Because no one can promise the future – not even me. But if you’re looking at men as potential life partners, then you have to consider their past behavior and how likely they are to change over the next quarter-century. People don’t usually change much after age 25, especially those with long-standing habits/addictions, belief patterns, and personality traits. If you wouldn’t trust your child’s safety to such a person behind the wheel of a car or handling tools in a workshop, why would you trust them with your heart for the next quarter-century?

If you’re considering love with an emotionally unavailable man, remember: the only way to make it work is to motivate him to change. That doesn’t mean you have to try (though a little effort never hurt anyone); rather, it means that if he’s shown no motivation and desire for this in his past, then he’ll likely not do anything about these issues until forced/pressured – usually by circumstances. That will take time and involve drama and stress that can potentially ruin your life together.

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Do you really want to invest 25+ years of your life with someone who has cheated on every girlfriend or wife? Has lied so much they’ve spun a web of untruths around themselves by now? Are you willing to deal with his negative and toxic behavior until he happens to decide to change? If so, then more power to you. I’ve been married for 13 years, so I know that it works if at least one partner is up to the challenge.

What Can You Do To Help Him Change?

You can help a man change with two things: first, by letting go of the hope that he will change for you (no one changes because someone else wants them to; they do so because they want something better – usually when they’re between relationships and no longer have an option); second, by being loving in your responses toward his actions and words instead of lashing out at him or shutting down. None of this means you should avoid emotionally unavailable men entirely. You must care for yourself too much to get involved with an emotionally unavailable man who is not already improving himself. If you stay “friends” with these men, it only makes it difficult for you to move on and meet new people.

I am not saying you should never consider a relationship with an emotionally unavailable man; I’m just suggesting you take the time to consider what matters most to you in your life and work toward that instead of settling for less. If it’s a life partner, then look only at men who are already working on themselves – whether through therapy or 12-step programs/personal development work – because they are more likely to become the person you hope he’ll be.

Obviously, no one can make someone change (not even my friend John Gray!). But when coupled with loving support, reassurances about an emotionally unavailables’ future potential (i.e., “You will do great in another relationship someday”), and effective communication skills, those attempts to change become more likely.

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Are Emotionally Unavailable Men Worth It?

The key question is whether you want to invest your time in a man that isn’t willing to invest his time in himself. I’m sure there are cases where it could work, but as with most things, the success rate for long-term change will be higher when there’s motivation and desire on both sides of the relationship.

Which Emotionally Unavailable Men Are Worth It?

Does he believe in and work toward his own personal growth?

Has he put a plan to improve himself that involves counseling, 12-step programs, or other resources?

Is he improving himself bit by bit every day — or is it all talk with no action (the definition of insanity)? Or lashing out at you when things don’t go his way, thus proving that he does not have the self-control necessary for a happy relationship.

If so, it can be worth your time because you will witness improvements over time and feel better about yourself for helping someone change. If not…probably not worth your time. Most men who are emotionally available or becoming more so will acknowledge their issues and see that they need support to change. But if he is defensive, dismissive, blames others for his problems, or claims his many faults are because of his empty childhood — those are man-child excuses and not good enough reasons to excuse bad behavior.

What About Relationship Counseling? Should You Try It With an Emotionally Unavailable Man?

Suppose you have both decided on counseling together — great! More power to you. I’m all for it as long as you know what the chances of success are. The reality is that courtship counseling isn’t really designed for this type of situation; we don’t encounter men whose goal is to mistreat women very often, so it’s not a typical issue in counseling. I have worked with some couples who have been in the divorce process, and we were able to put aside the blame game and focus on finding common ground and do-able solutions to their problems.

What If You’ve Already Been Involved With an Emotionally Unavailable Man?

If you’re already emotionally invested, know that there is no way out of your situation except through it. And if he isn’t capable or willing to work toward change, then chances are good that the relationship won’t survive; relationships don’t succeed without honesty (and vulnerability), and emotional unavailability is about as dishonest as two people can be together. Still, you must love yourself enough to know that you deserve better…and then get it.

Is There an Alternative to Relationship Counseling?

There are a few alternatives to relationship counseling, and they can all be helpful depending on your situation. In fact, you might want to try one of the first to decide whether you’re really willing to commit the time necessary for a long-term solution; if he’s not emotionally available (or even if he is), the odds are good that you won’t see much progress with therapy alone.

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If you both need help working through issues, I highly recommend seeing a trained relationship counselor/therapist together rather than just one person going on his own. Some people feel comfortable doing couples’ work with their pastor or spiritual advisor — or you can do it over the phone with a counselor. If one or both of you has an addiction, some specialized counselors work with co-addicts; they offer support groups and individual counseling.

If your finances don’t allow regular counseling sessions, then some books have been helpful to me as I’ve dealt with relationship issues: Men Who Can’t Love by Dr. Wayne Dyer (a self-help classic), How to Help Your Spouse Heal From Your Affair by Shirley Glass & Katherine Hansen (for couples), Feeling Good Together by David Schnarch (for couples), Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood, Codependent No More by Melody Beattie, and Boundaries in Dating. You might also want to talk with a therapist who can help you apply the principles of healthy relating to your situation.

What If You’ve Already Tripped Into Crazy-Making Cycle?

If you’re already in it, then I’m so sorry! By reading this article, I hope that you will recognize some patterns in what he does and see how those are contributing to your own crazymaking behavior. If not, then look for articles on my website about dealing with specific crazy-making situations (for example, the art of being alone ). I have also written a book called Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing That Ever Happened to You. These resources should help you figure out what you need to work on, then get the help you need to heal and move forward.

Conclusion: Where Do We Go From Here?

As I’ve said before, my goal is not just to give relationship advice — it’s to help you become a better person who attracts healthy relationships. In this case, that means getting into therapy (or whatever alternative appeals to you) and working through your own issues so that when someone comes along who isn’t emotionally unavailable, he won’t be able to sabotage your happiness with the same old excuses and faulty logic. And while overcoming emotional unavailability may seem like an insurmountable obstacle, please remember…it can be done! The only thing that needs changing is your attitude toward your life and the kind of person you want to be. Ultimately, it will be up to you whether or not your future relationships are healthy.

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