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Emotionally Unavailable Men & Misguided Women

I love everything about Karen Foley’s writing and this is especially true when I want to argue with her. In her most recent blog she tackles more of the b.s. and manipulation of the online dating scene. Karen speculates that men who portray themselves as “wounded and emotionally unavailable” are often just looking for sex.  She encourages men to be more honest about what they want and not rely on “code” to communicate their intentions.

I’m left wondering, “Yeah, ok…but why do you suppose that line worked so well for so long?” Is it possible that men who portray themselves this way (whether they are or not) tend to elicit a vulnerable/empathic response from women that often leads to sex? Is it possible that there’s nothing more attractive than the thing/person you can’t have? Um, yeah. It’s a gross generalization of course but it reflects a set of beliefs that are relatively common.

The myths and misconceptions regarding the ability of good women to change bad men have been proven untrue for millennia and yet they are the disgustingly romantic theme of Lifetime, Oxygen, Hallmark, and Hollywood movies. Standard formula: good woman meets tragically heartbroken man who hides his vulnerability behind the facade of being an asshole. She loves him into becoming a man who is emotionally available! The thought process seems to be, “His ex was a psycho bitch and she did a number on him. He just needs a good woman. If he falls in love with me, HE WILL CHANGE. If I let him seduce me then we will date and then we will fall in love and then he will be the kind of man I want and need!”

Perhaps there is a time in our youth when we believe the fodder of chick flicks and the myth of “happily ever after.” Alanis Morrisette is singing in my head,

You live you learn You love you learn You cry you learn You lose you learn You bleed you learn You scream you learn

As a therapist, here’s what I see: the type of people we grew up with are the kind of folks we’re most familiar connecting to and we tend to gravitate toward people like them later in life because we feel comfortable relating in  well known ways. As Freudian as it may sound, a lot of us who are heterosexual gravitate toward people who are either very much like or the exact opposite of our opposite sex parent and a lot of us who are homosexual gravitate toward people like our same sex parent. This is developmentally normative in the emotional drives of children and it becomes part of what we subconsciously seek as adults.

Each of us has a story and unfortunately, many of us are seeking a different ending to a familiar tale. If we had fathers who were emotionally unavailable, we are very likely to seek out men romantically who are emotionally unavailable. In this way we unknowingly seek resolution to our emotional conflicts – we seek approval and need fulfillment from the type of man who denied us in our formative years.

Personally and professionally I have seen way too many good women be with men who are absolutely terrified of showing emotion, appearing “weak”/vulnerable and who are terrified of intimacy. This of course leads to unsatisfying relationships. The reasons why so many men are this way is a subject for another blog. Suffice to say that socialization processes that impair both men and women are alive and disgustingly well.

I’ve always hated the expression of a woman who has “daddy issues.” It’s cheap and degrading. Unfortunately, selfish men seek partners with low self esteem because they tend to be more willing to sacrifice and tolerate dumb shit. The false belief that one can change a man perpetuates patterns of unhealthy relationships.

Good men are not threatened by strong women. What does a good man want? He wants you to be yourself. Here’s the problem – you have to know who that is and be comfortable with her. Wanna know the secret to a kick ass relationship? Get two people together who genuinely like themselves and let them both commit to growing together.

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