It’s a whole different level of logic …
Damaged, emotionally unavailable people arrive primed for pain. Some may even tell you they can’t fall in love with you because of it.
They’ll go to great lengths to avoid emotional pain in relationships and dating, but they expect to be hurt in love. Through this expectation, they cause enough pain to keep themselves busy for a lifetime.
If you were in a relationship with an emotionally damaged man who dumped you and said he can’t love anyone, how can you fix things and make him feel safe enough to fall in love?
The short answer to this is: nothing. You do absolutely nothing.
You don’t call, text, write or send him smoke signals or missives by carrier pigeon. You do absolutely nothing, if you want to fix your relationship at all.
Instead, let him go do his thing in misery-land while you make yourself as genuinely and ridiculously happy as humanly possible.
When you fall in love with an emotionally unavailable or damaged man, you can act all sweet and reassuring at the beginning, which is awesome. But, unfortunately, after a while, their stubborn self-loathing creeps back in and they cannot absorb your love and care.
They start feeling like they haven’t earned it so they become disrespectful and distrusting towards you and start pulling away.
No matter what they do, they feel like a crappy person on the inside and, therefore, unworthy of love. And if you try to love someone who feels unworthy of it, they’ll just wonder what on earth is wrong with you.
They might feel temporarily flattered that you admire their messy self but, unless they do something to clean up their own self-image, they will eventually decide that the problem is you because you must be mistaken about their desirability and have awful taste.
So, they go to great lengths to make sure you eventually believe that they really are awful, too.
When you’re in a relationship with a guy like this, you can almost feel him thinking, “There must be a catch here somewhere,” or, “This is so wonderful that I’m worried the other shoe is going to drop.”
Then, maddeningly — in spite of what would actually lead to a happy life for all involved — your emotionally damaged man either pulls away, cheats, or does something awful like break up with you.
He might say something along the lines of, “I can’t feel love” or “I’m just going to hurt you.”
But, both are shorthand for: “If you see who I really am — you’re going to leave me for certain because … again … underneath my outer shell, I’m totally unlovable and unworthy, so we might as well cut ties now.”
Either way, he is essentially telling you that he’s going to emotionally devastate you, the person he says he wants to love but can’t.
Then, in this emotional whiplash dance that only humans in love are capable of doing, these sentiments further encourage you to patiently accept whatever awful treatment he’s dishing out (he must need more love to heal).
You reassure him of your feelings (because, as the Beatles put it, “All you need is love”, right?!).
In the face of this kind of self-hatred, you may try to save your relationship by sticking around to provide him with consistent care and reassurance.
In actions and words, you essentially say, “Oh no, no, I really do love you. I mean it. This relationship is different because I know I’m safe for you and look how good we are together— why would you want to give up on us when we’re so good together?”
It makes logical sense but, sadly, this sincere and kind approach to keeping any relationship alive by showing more love and reassurance to a broken shell of a loved one is utterly ineffective.
From your perspective, you know how much you love him, trust yourself to be consistent and want to hang out on a porch swing together when you’re both 97 years old.
The problem is that damaged, emotionally unavailable people don’t hear what you’re saying in a logical way.
Especially when emotions around words that begin with “L” start running high.
When you reassure them of your love and express your totally reasonable pain over their hurtful and rejecting withdrawal (no shame here), they think, “See? I am toxic and unworthy. Look how much I’m hurting her. Plus, how could anyone love me when I’m acting like this? She’s obviously not as good as I originally thought. This isn’t safe for anyone. I had better cut this off now.”
See how the disrespect twists over from themselves to you?
It’s the old Groucho Marx quote quote played out in real time: “I wouldn’t want to be part of any club that would have me as a member.”
He feels completely unlovable and ironically, because you love him, your loving care eventually makes you look like a total fool to him.
This is why emotionally unavailable men pull away when women fall in love, why they do insane things like kill great relationships for “no reason” and cheat, abuse and hurt loyal partners who truly do love them.
An emotionally damaged man’s self-hatred cannot be overcome with tender loving care from the outside.
When a bump in the road like this happens, emotionally healthy people usually think, “Oh, this is like me when I’m afraid and need reassurance. I’ll provide reassurance of how much I love them and that will do the trick.”
On the surface, “I can’t love” sounds like it’s totally curable and with enough time and loving care from someone — maybe a truly good woman like you — he’ll eventually be able to get comfortable and trust you.
However, that process of change and healing those old wounds is not a superpower anyone on the outside possesses.
There is exactly one person who has that ability — and that is him.
The treatment he thinks he deserves right now is for you to agree he’s awful and leave him in the dust since he hasn’t earned anything else. If you don’t mirror his reality while he’s walking out the door, he will only continue to systematically devalue you.
That’s why all love and care coming from you and any effort to “fix the relationship” has to stop. You can’t reassure him that he’s lovable or be the good woman who finally helps him change like in the movies.
Someone so determined to sabotage your relationship will accomplish it without serious introspection, emotional work, and therapy.
Instead of taking responsibility for his “inability to feel love,” (for heaven’s sake … why not cut out the drama and give love a try instead?) he’s chosen the nuclear option — a breakup, which is a great way for him to experience more self-pity and self-hatred.
Self-hatred breeds more self-hatred and causes him to separate himself emotionally from someone who has the genuine capacity to love and care about him.
That’s why you can’t and shouldn’t do anything else to make an emotionally unavailable man fall in love, except make yourself incredibly happy.
Unfortunately, right now, every second that you plead, beg, and negotiate with him in an effort to save your relationship is simply another opportunity for him to devalue your feelings and see you as a wimp who doesn’t think she deserves anything better.
But, this is not true because you’re not a wimp.
Quite the opposite — you’re a woman in love and there is not a thing in the world wrong with that. Being head-over-heels for someone is one of the sweetest and best parts of life.
And because he probably won’t and can’t say it clearly right now: Thank you for loving him deeply.
Doing nothing may sound harsh, but it actually works when you want to fix your relationship with a damaged, emotionally unavailable man who is self-hating.
You don’t have to stop loving and caring for him. Just make yourself happy from a distance until he’s ready to dig in and work on things between you.
By Elizabeth Stone for yourtango