Remember that incredible line from Gemma Chan in ‘Crazy Rich Asians’? The one that made you go DAMNNN.
“It’s not my job to make you feel like a man. I can’t make you something you’re not.”
Well, it’s so true.
This one’s for all our survivors of toxic relationships. If you’ve been there or are going through one right now, here are some truths that will speak to your soul.
You can’t change an emotionally unavailable man.
And neither is it your responsibility.
Whether he’s broken, insecure, had a difficult childhood, has anxiety, an anger problem, constant mood swings - or anything else, we often imagine that our love will be enough to fix him.
You know you have enormous amounts of love to give.
You understand what he’s going through.
You have an incredible amount of patience.
You can make it better.
And this is all so easy to control, right? Surely love can conquer all and make the pain go away?
The truth is, when you try to use our love to fix someone else, you tend to get hurt.
And here’s another hard truth: we, as women, are not ready-made therapists for our partners.
We may sit up with him all night talking about his insecurities - secretly feeling good within ourselves because he trusts us enough to open up.
We may feel ‘special’ because, whilst he is closed off to sharing his feelings with everyone else, he feels safe sharing his innermost fears with us.
It feels great at first! Helping feels incredibly natural to us.
We’re socialised to be this way after all.
However, as time goes on, a kind of feeling starts creeping in.
Something doesn’t feel right.
Then we’re struck with something upsetting that’s happened that day - and we’re a big ball of emotions, just needing to talk it out.
We naturally run to him for support - and proceed to tell him everything that happened, expecting him to be there for us like we have been there for him.
Except... he doesn’t make us feel quite safe.
Or he's not really there for us.
All we want is to feel heard; reflected back to; to be held; to be told that everything is going to be okay.
But it’s like he's not really there.
He's not truly present.
Or his words feel a bit empty.
Or maybe he encourages us for a certain amount of time, but there’s always a time limit to it - and we feel like we have to compartmentalise our pain into a short amount of time before he's mentally gone somewhere else.
This is such a big one when we start going out with someone new.
We look at the other person with rose-tinted glasses. Everything is so exciting!
We have those deep and meaningfuls until the early hours of the morning, connecting over the innermost parts of our lives.
The main thing however is that it is mostly positive or at least reflective, where our needs and boundaries haven’t had to come into play yet.
It’s not until one of us needs help for the first time (which will inevitably happen), or we have our first argument, that we really see him for who he is - and whether he can support us or not.
It reminds us of one of our mantras adapted from Marilyn Monroe: “If you can’t be there for me in the bad times, you don’t deserve me in the good”.
The thing is, men who need to be fixed often don’t have the emotional availability to take care of our feelings.
It’s never a 50/50.
And that feeling is incredibly lonely.
It’s terribly confusing, because he seemed emotionally available at first.
He was vulnerable about his insecurities, what happened with his exes in the past, his relationship with his family, everything.
But when it comes to the crunch; when we need him to be there - he doesn't properly show up.
Being there for us when we’ve got feelings that require attention and care suggests real intimacy - and the necessity to put his feelings aside, while he meets our emotional needs.
This often scares him.
He will try to create distance to avoid real connection and the feeling of being engulfed; the fear of losing their independence.
But the reality is, a healthy, nurturing relationship requires true emotional intimacy.
And if you’ve ever started to question the healthiness of your relationship, we’ve put together some other key indicators here so that you can start to form a picture of where you stand.
You both get your needs met equally
You feel comfortable communicating your needs to your partner, who does his best to meet them - and whose needs you also try to meet.
You both give and take when fitting in your relationship.
Of course, sometimes this might not always look like a straight-down-the-line 50/50 split, particularly when one of you is going through a crisis, but over time, the other person receives support and the balance is there.
You trust them
You don’t feel jumpy when they’re around other women.
They’ve always treated you with integrity and respect, seeing you as a whole person, not as an object.
Their actions match their words.
You feel safe with them physically and emotionally - and know they are reliable and that you can depend upon them.
You both have good boundaries
That said, your self-esteem is separate from how they treat you.
You know where you stop and they begin.
You are both aware of each others’ boundaries and honour these, without trying to push them.
For example, it might be early on in the relationship and you’re not ready to introduce them to your friends yet, which they understand, or they might have a particular boundary around what they are willing to explore sexually.
You are both able to resolve conflict
You both talk about your differences honestly, politely and openly.
Neither of you shows the other contempt, named one of the ‘Four Horsemen’ in relationships, which can be particularly destructive and preventative of a resolution.
It’s normal to feel frustrated or upset with each other from time-to-time and this isn’t a problem in itself.
However, it’s more important that you both find a way to talk out your problems, without judging one another harshly and by both addressing your differences with mutual respect.
If you’ve read these and feel like there’s a gap between your current relationship, please don’t worry.
By becoming aware of these, you can start to advocate for yourself and speak up about the way you want to communicate within your relationship - and what it is you truly want from each other.
And remember, you can’t fix him.
Only he can.
What you can most certainly do is support him on his journey though - while at the same time claiming responsibility for your own needs, realising that you deserve to have your needs met.
You’ve got this.
Note: in this article, we've specifically addressed emotionally unavailable men, but this may apply to partners of either gender.
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