Why Dating Unavailable People Can Mess With Your Mind, From A Psychotherapist
There are plenty of signs to watch out for if you're worried the person you've been seeing is emotionally unavailable: They don't communicate, they don't want to label your relationship, everything seems to be on their terms, and so on.
These dating scenarios can feel draining, exhausting, and negatively affect feelings of self-worth and well-being. Here, psychotherapist and relationship expert Ken Page, LCSW, explains why dating an unavailable person can be triggering for many, and what to do about it.
The problem with dating unavailable people.
What often happens when dating unavailable people, according to Page, is that the person's unavailability or lack of desire to commit to us is front and center in our mind. "It triggers earlier rejections," he explains. "Even worse, it triggers feelings of our own unworthiness."
This causes an issue in which we place too much importance on how that person feels about us, treats us, and loves us. Or, as Page puts it, it sparks a "fierce desire to get the other person to love and accept us—and that's kind of the path to pain."
Because once we've got our heart set on someone who's proved to be emotionally unavailable, "our definition of love becomes this person's commitment to us," Page adds. "Our definition of our own self-worth becomes this person's willingness to see us as precious and worthy."
What can be done about it?
First and foremost, we have to start noticing the stories we tell ourselves that keep us from healthy love—"the story we tell ourselves about what's lacking in us or what's lacking in others [that we believe is making it so] we can't be loved the way we want to be loved," Page says. In reality, there's nothing lacking in you that's "causing" the person to be unavailable. Know that you're worthy and enough, just as you are.
As Margaret Paul, Ph.D., explains on the mbg podcast, many times we actually attract these kinds of relationships into our lives. "So often, we attract people who are treating us the way we're treating ourselves. And that's the 'wrong people.' So, if people are rejecting themselves with their various forms of self-abandonment, judging themselves, and not listening to themselves," she says, "they're going to attract people who also treat them that way."
Recognizing those patterns, working to overcome them, and focusing on strengthening your own sense of self-worth is key, along with knowing what you deserve and knowing when to walk away.
"We can remember all of the reasons why we decided not to be with this person," Page notes. "Those moments of insecurity and craving can be times when we go through the list of why we decided to not be with this person or why they have clearly let us know that they are not available."
The bottom line.
Unavailable people are going to show up in your life—maybe just once or maybe repeatedly. But it's up to you if you want to let them stick around. Ask yourself what you're willing to stand for in relationships.
"At a certain point, we make a decision," Page says. "We are only going to choose to be with someone who inspires us with their goodness, decency, generosity, and availability." Because it's not fun to second-guess your worth, and relationships should make you feel loved and secure—anything less is less than you deserve.
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