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How to Recognize an Emotionally Distant Partner & Deal with Them

It’s important to feel connected to your partner. But what does it feel like when they become emotionally distant? What can you do about it?

emotionally distant

In the words of the Bee Gees *or Destiny’s Child if you’re too young to remember*, “it’s just emotions, taking me over…” So, if you’re afraid of what’s happening if you feel your partner becoming emotionally distant, read on to better understand about what you can do.

The power of emotions

Emotions are powerful. And they can sometimes feel like they’re carrying you away on a wave of something you don’t quite understand. With that in mind, what are you supposed to do when those emotions turn negative? And you become confused about why your partner isn’t opening up to you.

To date, I’ve had to learn a difficult lesson, not everyone is as emotionally available and open as I am. While it has caused me confusion and pain in some ways, it has also taught me that we’re all individual and different in our own right.

When your partner isn’t as open as you are, it can cause you to feel like they don’t care about you as much as you care about them. That’s usually not the case. When a partner is quite emotionally distant and you’re the opposite, it’s difficult to deal with. [Read: These are 7 non-negotiables in love you shouldn’t compromise on]

What does “emotionally distant” mean?

Before I carry on, let’s define what emotionally distant actually means.

Emotionally distant can mean two things depending on the situation. Firstly, a person might be emotionally unavailable. That means that they simply aren’t outwardly emotional, perhaps they don’t have a great degree of empathy. In some cases that might also mean that they’re a tad bit narcissistic.

Now, just because someone doesn’t show their emotions, don’t go around calling them a narcissist! It can be a sign. Remember, it has to go hand in hand with several other signs to come to a real conclusion.

[Read: 16 characteristics of a narcissist that give them away instantly]

Secondly, emotionally distant can be a phase. If your partner is having a tough time at work or struggling with their studies, this might cause them to ‘go into themselves.’ As a result they don’t share their thoughts and feelings with as you as much. They might come across as detached and not be as chatty as they would normally be.

In this case, it’s often not a reason to worry if you can identify the case of the phase. If it goes on for a prolonged period of time, however, you might like to sit down with your partner and figure out what is going on. [Read: How to stop the negative people in your life from sapping your energy]

Why do people become emotionally distant?

I’ve touched upon one possible cause already, i.e. a temporary period of stress in someone’s life. There are other possible reasons.

To understand how emotional distance happens, turn your thoughts inward. Consider situations in your life which have caused you stress and anxiety. During those times, did you feel like being your normal self? Probably not. Did you go out as much and chat as happily as you normally would? Again, probably not. That is what your partner feels like if they are indeed going through a period such as this.

When you look at the situation that way, you can understand it and therefore deal with it much better.

There is another possible explanation to address. I don’t want to scare you, and it’s important to realize that this is the worst case scenario, i.e. not really that likely to be the cause. Something you simply need to bear in mind.

A partner can become emotionally distant when they’ve already checked out of the relationship mentally. I’ve done this before. At the time I didn’t even realize it. Perhaps if I had, I would have dealt with the situation better. [Read: Why many couples start drifting apart over time]

I realized that I didn’t feel the same about my partner. It caused me a lot of internal confusion. Why did I feel that way? Instead of sitting down and talking to them as I probably should, I became so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I didn’t even realize I was practically ignoring them. In essence, I had checked out of the relationship mentally. Now, I was trying to find a way to end it without causing too much pain.

But, I don’t want to make you think that this is happening in your relationship. It is one possible reason for someone to be emotionally distant over a period of time. That’s the key thing to remember.

For the reason to be a problem with your relationship, it has to go on for a space of time and not just  something which happens over a few days. If that’s the case, it’s far more likely to be a stressful period related to something completely different.

To illustrate some of the extremely ridiculous reasons why someone can also become emotionally distant, let me tell you a little tale.

My ex-partner was obsessed with Playstation games. He loved to play FIFA. The new FIFA game was due to be released, but he simply couldn’t wait for it. Instead of dealing with it like an adult, i.e. waiting patiently, he became extremely quiet and distant. Yes, it was all because of a video game! So, on the flip side, emotional distance doesn’t always have to be about drastic reasons! [Read: 25 topics all couples need to talk about in a happy relationship]

What to do if you notice your partner becoming distant

If you do notice that your partner seems to be a little ‘off’, there are a few ways to deal with it.

The best thing to do initially is to observe. Wait it out and see if the phase passes. We all have times when we just feel a little down or we’re stressed and need to process something going on in our lives. Ask your partner if they’re okay. If they say they’re fine, let it go. Don’t push it. That is a mistake I’ve made far too many times. Constantly asking if they’re okay gets them even more stressed with my persistence! [Read: 15 signs you’re seriously trapped in relationship anxiety]

Let them know that if they want to talk about something, you’re there. Then carry on with your life, observing. The likelihood is that eventually they’ll tell you what the problem is, or it will pass naturally and everything will return to normal.

However, if you notice that the emotional distance progresses or it turns into coldness, it’s time to sit down and chat.

Avoid placing blame and keep the conversation light. Again, ask if something is bothering them, and say that you have noticed they’ve been distant over the last few weeks. Explain that if something is wrong, you want to help. Explain how the way they are acting is concerning to you and causing you to feel neglected. [Read: 18 emotions you just shouldn’t feel in a healthy relationship]

At the end of the day, you might get the answer you want or you might not. You cannot let it go on for too long without addressing the problem. In some cases you’ll simply get another “I’m fine,” and in that case, what can you do? Reaffirm the fact that you can tell something isn’t quite right, that they know where you are if they do want to talk.

Then, make it clear that you can’t continue to be affected by their negative stance either. In that case, take your mind off things and go out and do things you enjoy. It’s quite likely that this is enough to shake them out of their funk.

[Read: These signs of a failing relationship predict the end of a love match]

When someone becomes emotionally distant, it can be hard to understand. There are so many reasons why this might be the case, so it’s important not to jump to conclusions.

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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