Loving an unavailable person

Loving an unavailable person, why do we do it?


There are many versions of this dynamic which l will attempt to list here, but the common thread that is associated with a person who is loving an unavailable person in terms of their emotional status is that they are not feeling good! Neither party will be healthy emotionally.

The unavailable person will be fixated and focused elsewhere on one of the many things listed below. The person loving them will be living on crumbs whilst fixated on how they can either make things change or be impartially involved because focusing on themselves and their true desires is historically unknown to them, and partial intimacy and connection are familiar and less risky (and so, in turn, perpetuated).

Several articles could be written on just this part of such an alliance alone.

There’s more, sadly much more - l say sadly, because so many who are drawn to unavailable people in romantic relationships spend years of their lives going after something with someone who simply cannot give them what they need. I did this for 10 years, even though l knew deep in my heart that after a short while, the commitment and marriage which was what l wanted were unlikely. Alongside his workaholism and other addictions, his “lift simply did not go to that floor”, but somehow the proving l could change it became my focus and the holy grail.

Looking back now, l can see that even if we had married and he had bought me the shiny ring l looked longingly at in a shop window, he would have been emotionally absent and our connection would merely have been legal, not actual.

We both lived without real truth and intimacy. He by avoiding it and me by allowing myself to stay, because l had put so much into our relationship l felt l couldn’t surrender to not only the truth but my truth, which was that it wasn’t either enough for me or what l truly wanted to share with someone l loved. l wanted a family life which l had lost through my own parent's acrimonious divorce. He wanted another project with a lengthy deadline. There were reasons for this of course, but the reasons never take away the hurt or give you back other lost opportunities for what you really want.

In this dynamic, neither party are ever quite “in” the relationship or where they want to be, so can either one want to be in something with someone?

Maybe that is the bigger, more scary question. So, if we take a deep dive here...

What comes under the banner of unavailable?

Here are some examples of unavailability whilst “loving”: 

  • someone who is an addict
  • someone who is an alcoholic
  • someone who has an eating disorder
  • someone who is a workaholic 
  • someone who has a gambling addiction
  • someone who has any addiction as in all of the above and others
  • someone who is married
  • someone who lives in another country
  • someone who is a dismissive avoidant 
  • someone who is a fearful avoidant 
  • someone who is incarcerated

Quite different you might think on the surface... so how is it that this dynamic can apply to all these different versions and situations?

Here is where it is the similarities, not the differences that create the huge attraction for the person who loves without the peace, or true connection to someone who is otherwise engaged, whose focus is elsewhere and or taken, and somehow prevented from having the whole true belonging thing.

And then the why - why would someone choose to invest under the banner of long term, unless of course, this is an unconscious choice made because it is all we either manage or worse, still aspire to? Is it irresistible, or an old pattern? Fundamentally both, in a sense they are binary.

As an early experience of not recognising our worthiness, a high tolerance of non-engagement and an early learned experience of receiving little, where the loving of someone in childhood was painful and unrequited which resulted in us feeling that being with someone truly present was too risky, or boring, and maybe the drama make it all more scintillating for us. More something that requires the focus we never experienced or received as children.

In either case, the early experience of less and loss might be a danger not wished to be repeated, so loving at a distance could tick the box but the never-really available lover also mirrors the familiarity of our early experiences of love (and at the same time echoes the hurt).

The role of the fixer

The fixer is the person who chooses this permanent state of waiting room status. For the fixer, the focus is always on what the other is doing or not doing. Their connection is vicarious and through someone, never with themselves.

  • Is the addict using or not using?
  • Is the alcoholic drinking or not?
  • Is the married person going to leave their husband or wife?
  • Is the long-distance person coming to live in the same country or inviting you to live in theirs? 
  • Is the workaholic ever going to finish what they are working on?
  • Is the unavailable person going to show up? (and so on).

But somehow the unavailability gives you something to strive for, something that might be achievable and therefore potentially validating enough to prove your worth after all. It is almost a project, but what upholds the desirability is the fact that it isn’t predictable or complete, just possibly achievable. The promise, the box never gets ticked and the possibility beats the acceptance of something being associated with as finite or done, or all it ever will be.

Actually, the familiar historic longing, alongside the dopamine hit that you get which is invariable as well as the prospect of always “jam tomorrow” because it might happen works for both parties, but nobody is ever really in with both feet.

Often years or decades can fly by and you have never really moved on. You can become so absorbed in getting there that the 'being there' is passed by, until after all those years later you realise that you are not going to be able to get those decades back, and you realise you made a poor investment.

This is a crushing truth. But both are equally in this dance together because, underneath the same wound is what is shared, which exists because intimacy and belonging require the risk of losing someone that neither of you wants to take, as well as having someone you belong to can also mean that in the belonging your choices are done and dusted.

For those involved with others living with addiction of any kind, where denial is the hallmark of addiction itself, your attempts to control and prevent will be futile. They will need to choose their recovery and, you yours.

I could continue writing here, but if you are reading this because you thought, "Hey this might be me," you are looking for some solutions...

Here they are. The first step: Awareness. If you are not aware of something nothing begins to change. It is always the first step to change and change doesn’t take place unless something changes.

Look into your early years if you can, either in therapy or by listening and reading, ask yourself why you might have a pattern of loving unavailable people, and explore how it truly feels. It might be familiar, but it is never going to give you a sense of belonging or peace.

Control is also a huge addiction that can also take hold over your life, and whilst you are controlling another’s behaviour you are never self-involved because there is no time or room.

Navigate your own internal territory to find out who you are and what you truly need to make you happy, we can only ever have dominion over ourselves never others.

Here, sovereignty is key to personal joy and freedom. Healthy love is not diminishing, nor does it strip us of our own identity, which is what slowly begins to happen when we love an unavailable person. This involves having a relationship with ourselves and our own true needs.

This is the basis of all my work with people, we cannot live vicariously through others, those who are equally incapable of intimacy with themselves and therefore not capable of true intimacy with others.

There is a better, richer way. One in which we may flourish, rather than having to rely upon a corrupted version of a better-than-nothing intimacy in order to prevail.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, N8
Written by Gail Berry, Emotional and Relationship Coach
London, N8

Written by Gail Berry Emotional Coach - both a therapist and an alternative medical practitioner who works with healing people’s core wounds and uses Bach Flower Remedies alongside talking and behavioural therapy to make real change and transformation possible.

07771 715072
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