Are you looking for a serious relationship, or even marriage, but just can't seem to find the right person? Every time you think you've found someone to be with for the long term, they wind up either leaving or driving you away?

It could be that you've had bad luck picking prospective mates--there are a lot of people out there who seem like they would make a good partner until you actually try to have a relationship with them. It could be that you're too focused on your career to handle a serious relationship right now.

But it could also be that the problem is that you yourself are emotionally unavailable. While you may desperately want to be in a relationship, and you may believe that you're ready to make a commitment if you can only find the right person, the truth might be that you're unconsciously sabotaging the relationships that you're in.

In a blog post for Psychology Today, marriage and family therapist Darlene Lancer explore the warning signs that can tell you when someone you're dating is emotionally unavailable. But she also suggests some simple and insightful questions to ask yourself so you can determine if you're emotionally unavailable as well. You can find the post, and the full list of questions here. These are some of the best:

1. Do you often make jokes about the opposite sex?

Sure, we all do it sometimes. But if you frequently say mocking or negative things about the other gender, or if you often find yourself lamenting that you "can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em," it may be time to take a closer look at your own hidden feelings. If so, Lancer writes, "You may need to heal from past wounds before you're comfortable getting close to someone." Incidentally, this same question applies to the same sex, if that's who you're attracted to do.

2. Are you always waiting for the other shoe to drop?

If you're having a good time with someone you really like, are you constantly waiting for something to go wrong? Do you expect the other person to suddenly stop liking you, or take up with someone else, or leave you without explanation? Sometimes we get so fixated on the bad things that could happen, or have happened to us that we have a hard time enjoying the good times with someone we care for, or believing that person will stick around. If we've been hurt in the past, we may be mistrustful. That mistrust can lead us to push our partner away without even realizing it.

3. Do you have trouble just doing nothing with another person?

If you feel compelled to fill your time together with distractions--you're always watching a television program or reading, or working out, or going out somewhere--it may be that you're uncomfortable simply stopping and listening to them. Or to yourself. 

Intimacy arises in the quiet, unstructured moments we have with others people, and if your instinct is never to let that happen because you or they might get bored, you're depriving the other person and yourself of that potential intimacy. Here's a suggestion: Go for a long walk. I find I very commonly get into intimate conversations with friends or partners when we go walking together. And if you find that difficult, that's a good clue that you may be the unavailable one.

4. Do you want to keep your options open?

"What if I commit to this person and then someone better comes along?" If you're asking yourself this question, there's something deeper going on preventing you from making a real connection.

Choosing a partner isn't like ordering the fish in a fancy restaurant and then wishing you'd ordered the steak instead. If you're in a relationship where you feel half-hearted, where you aren't sure you're in love with the other person, then you should probably end that relationship to give both yourself and them the chance to find a more solid partnership.

If you really are in love, the prospect of someone better coming along becomes irrelevant. Someone else might turn up who's smarter, richer, more attractive, or more successful, but they won't actually be better because you love your partner and won't want to damage your partnership. So if you're holding back out of this concern, it's time to take a long hard look at why that is.

5. Do you worry that a serious relationship would mean giving up your independence?

Any committed relationship means you'll be less independent than you were when you were single. You can't make plans to hang out with your friends on a Saturday night or go off on a weekend trip without checking with your partner first. But every relationship has its own ground rules and negotiations and if, say, spending time with your friends is important to you, that can be something that you and your partner discuss and agree about. 

But if giving up any shred of independence seems unacceptable to you, then you have to ask yourself why. Could it be a way to keep the other person at a distance and make sure no one ever expects too much of you? If so, are you really as ready for a serious relationship as you think?

Published on: Jul 24, 2018
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