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Dating someone emotionally unavailable

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UPDATED: Feb. 20, 2021 —

I’m sure we’ve all heard the term “Daddy’s Girl,” you know that “Princess” who was spoiled by her father and could do no wrong in his eyes. Most women fortunate enough to have a special relationship with their father wear that title as a badge of honor. But for others who weren’t as fortunate, they carry a different label that often reads: “Daddy Issues.”

Surprisingly, “‘daddy issues’ is not an official medical diagnosis or condition,” says Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist and founder of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services in New York City. “Daddy issues is a term that has developed into a weapon to knock women down for expressing their needs in a relationship or to explain virtually anything she chooses to do or not to do sexually or romantically. The root of this is Freudian, as in this line of theory, children develop a “father complex” and attraction to the parent of the opposite sex.”

What is really happening is that as a child, we need parental guidance, and when we don’t get that, or we get too much of it, it can lead to the formation of behaviors of attachment or avoidance that are generally considered to be daddy issues. “These styles of attachment are categorized into secure or insecure subsets, with people with “daddy issues” usually falling into insecure patterns,” says Dr. Hafeez.

And don’t just think being emotionally unavailable only applies to women. Both men and women can develop insecure social and romantic behaviors, and the root is not exclusive to a child’s relationship with their father, says Dr. Hafeez.  It can also be related to a mother or other relative.

So what are the signs?

1. Anxiety about being abandoned

“This refers to people who may be constantly marred by anxiety when they don’t get the closeness they require leading to the concern of a break-up or of not being loved,” says Dr. Hafeez.

2. Avoids emotional closeness

“On the other side of the spectrum, there can be people who avoid emotional bonding at all costs for fear of being hurt,” says Dr. Hafeez. “These people lack trust in relationships and in their own validity to be loved or the validity of a romantic relationship to outlast trials and tribulations.”

3. Constant Need for Reassurance

Even if you come from a loving household, it’s possible to still felt unloved growing up. If you constantly question your partner’s feelings for you, it might be good to evaluate your anxieties around it.

“While it is important to communicate with your partner and celebrate the health of your relationship, people that need constant reassurance that the relationship is okay may fall under that anxiety category as they feel insecure about their relationship’s footing even when things are okay,” says Dr. Hafeez.

4. A Serial Dater/Monogamist

Some women can’t remain single because they’re constantly seeking the love their fathers never gave them. They move from partner to partner because being alone and feeling unloved is their greatest fear. It’s important for these women to recognize this pattern and learn to take time for themselves in between relationships. This is the best way to not only learn from the past relationship but also be sure they are with the next person because of what they bring to their lives and not simply because they don’t want to be by themselves.

Here’s how to deal with it

First, communicating your support and desire to address this issue is important. “Your partner will have to realize this is an issue that is affecting the relationship and commit to working through unresolved experiences in order to develop healthier patterns and coping mechanisms,” says Dr. Hafeez.

Therapy or counseling is also helpful as a professional will be able to help a patient navigate through their past and current anxieties and attachment issues in order to establish greater trust and security in themselves and in their relationships, says Dr. Hafeez.

The important thing is that you make the step to consult with a counselor or therapist. This can be through your insurance, out of pocket, or through a community clinic or support group.

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