A few weeks ago I was chatting online with a west coast acquaintance. She told me she had given up on dating, and had decided to just do hookup sex. She had met a guy, and they started sleeping together. The sex was great and they both seemed to be enjoying themselves. Then, out of the blue, he told her that he had realized he couldn’t do casual sex, and that while she was his type, he wasn’t in a position to be dating her at the moment, and so he was breaking things off. It could be that he truly felt that way, or it could be that he felt like she was starting to get attached to him and didn’t want to lead her on, or that he was starting to fall for her. (Hard to know when I’m only getting one side of the story.)
She was more than a little devastated.
I have so many women friends who are attracted to emotionally unavailable men, and I get it. I was one of those women for years. After doing a huge chunk of healing work, I found that my perception had shifted, and I was no longer interested in these commitment-phobic guys. My first relationship after that transition turned into a marriage; strangely, it was with a man who a friend had tried to hook me up with several months before. I had rejected him because I thought he was probably boring (read: emotionally available). After my marriage ended, I started dating my current partner, whose heart is wide open to me.
As you can probably guess, things roll a bit differently with him than with guys I’ve fallen for in the past. I realized, too, that if you haven’t experienced being on the receiving end of deep love, you might not know what that looks and feels like. Below you will find some of the ways that I know that he is telling me what’s in his heart…and how I can trust him with mine:
He is supportive: as evidenced by this popular video a while back, many men tend to be problem-solvers and don’t know how to be empathetic. I’m more than welcome to cry on my guy’s shoulder when I need it, and it doesn’t make him uncomfortable.
He is self-reflective: My guy is very willing to examine his feelings, and works to resolve the disagreements that come up. Not only do we deal with issues we have as a couple, he also constantly works to self-improve. He is capable of receiving feedback and criticism…and acting on the same. Neither of us is perfect, but we try not to blame each other. When you put our collective emotional baggage together, we have a rather nice collection of luggage.
He’s not afraid to tell me how he feels: The other day, I got a couple of text messages from him. “I’m so in love with you it scares me sometimes” and “BTW…don’t think I told you today how absolutely fucking beautiful and smart you are.” This is standard for him, both in text messages and in person. He makes sure to tell me that he appreciates me, and acknowledges that he thinks I’m beautiful. He’s not afraid to make himself vulnerable to me, nor does he try to suppress his feelings about me.
He allows me to be childlike: I do a lot of scientific research, pay my mortgage on time and love a good debate. I also jump up and down, clap my hands and say “yay!” when he comes in after work, and run around pretending I’m an otter cracking abalone on my belly. Not only does he find these younger parts of myself delightful, he often lets his young self come out and play with me. To him, silliness is a source of fun and creativity, not shame and embarrassment.
He loves having missionary position sex: The other night we were getting ready to have sex and debating whether to do it doggy style or face-to-face. The latter won out, as it frequently has in recent months. Having our hearts next to each other amplifies the connection in our genitals. The result is some of the best sex either of us has ever had.
He is devoted: While porn bores me, my boyfriend enjoys watching it. A couple times a month, he will show up with a story of getting hit on by a girl at the grocery or a restaurant. (Great sex and deep love will make a person attractive, so it makes sense.) I don’t feel threatened or jealous in the least; I know he’s not going anywhere. And if he were to develop a crush on someone, he would feel comfortable with telling me about it.
He loves my girlfriends: While my female friends aren’t romantically involved with my boyfriend, they are very comfortable coming to him for snuggles, love advice and emotional support. He is loving and kind, and treats them with respect and affection to the point where they often ask if he has a brother (yeah, he does, but you wouldn’t want to date him).
He does all kinds of nice things for me: Even when he works all day, he’s always willing to take out the trash, feed the cats, or cook dinner. As I’ve told him numerous times, I can carry my own damn groceries, but it’s still nice to have someone who likes to make your life easier. He gets pleasure from taking care of me, and so I let him do it.
He is careful with my feelings: While he can be maddeningly logical and literal in disagreements, he never belittles my perspective or feelings, and rarely raises his voice. He is great at seeing cause and effect, and does his damnedest to avoid causing problems. He recognizes that my love for him gives him great power over me, and he strives to not take advantage of that power.
Of course, there is a downside to this emotional availability. His past includes physical abuse, molestation, bullying, depression, a dysfunctional marriage, several suicide attempts, cutting and a family history of alcoholism. As a sensitive person, the only way he could cope was to shut off his emotions entirely. When he turned them back on, they came out in a flood, and now he feels all the things. Along with intense love and joy, he often feels deep sorrow and pain. Still, it’s better than the alternative, and I wouldn’t trade him in for a shinier, newer model if you paid me….
And finally, a Piffy axiom to keep in mind: It’s easier to teach an emotionally available man to rock climb than it is to teach a rock climber to be emotionally available. Look for the heart when evaluating potential partners. After all, you’re here for the love, not the pain.