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Why I No Longer Chase Emotionally Unavailable People, Hoping They’ll Change

Why I No Longer Chase Emotionally Unavailable People, Hoping They’ll Change

“Never chase love, affection, or attention. If it isn’t given freely by another person, it isn’t worth having.” ~Unknown

For our first date, we met at a bar with Skeeball. We enjoyed slushy margaritas and Skee-Ball.

She was stunning. It was obvious as soon as she walked in. I still wasn’t sure whether we’d have anything to talk about though. The messages we’d exchanged had been minimal.

We were able to do it.

Conversation flowed from one topic to the next—meandering from her passion for biology in college to how I tried to master mountain boarding at summer camp as a kid to how both of us were passionate about writing/putting words to the page.

She was funny, articulate, sociable and down to earth. Her intelligence was something I loved. Her intelligence. Her apparent earnestness and desire to explore topics such as the environmental benefits of eating insects and the sexism within the taxidermy industry.

After she left, she came to my house and I prepared dinner for her. Talk got deeper. She shared the effect her dad’s depression had on her when she was a kid; how she’d personalize his quiet moods. I shared some of the instability I’d experienced as a kid.

The night ended with a hook-up. There is nothing like a good trauma to make an aphrodisiac.

Two weeks later, we were able to arrange another date. I felt the same joy afterward. However, doubts started to creep in.rFace before our third; she was acting wistful and non-committal.

They were able to talk me out of it, but I was filled with joy seeing her. I felt buoyant throughout the week thanks to our interactions.

We kept going with the dates.

She’d bring flowers to them. She would lift me up when we kissed. I loved that. Tell me I was a “really good thing in her life.”

We rode together to the local breweries on our last day together.

The sun shone against our faces as we sipped from each other’s beers out on the back patio—having what felt like a raw conversation about intimacy patterns and fears. She told me that she was working on hers. I also acknowledged some of hers in return.

She asked me if I would like to be in a photo together. We took a selfie, then played rock paper scissors to decide which brewery we’d go to next.

I can still recall how she kissed me when she asked if I could kiss her (for the fourth day that day) while we unlocked our bikes. Wanted It made me feel.

It stayed with me the next day, and I still felt that golden effervescent feeling. It was still with me when I opened a text from her—but  shattered into spiky glass shards when I read what it said.

That she couldn’t continue seeing me. That she wasn’t in the right place emotionally.

It’s not you, it’s me.

We all know the spiel.


It wasn’t the first time I’d had my heart dropped from the Trauma Tower on top of which a woman and I had been insecurely attaching.

This woman was not the only one in a series. Trauma bonding can also be called it. Hot and cold relationships. The anxious-avoidant dance. All of these elements were present in the push-pull dynamics I experienced throughout my twenties.

One day, they would open up. We’d connect and it’d feel like I’d really seen them, and they’d seen me.

The next day they’d pull back (even in the seeming absence of overt conflict). It was very painful. The change felt abrupt.

According to Healthline It can be difficult to recognize emotional incapacity. Many emotionally unavailable people have a knack for making you feel great about yourself and hopeful about the future of your relationship.”

It would break me every time these relationships fell apart. Feelings I’d hoped to have buried for good would resurrect—among them, doubt that anyone would ever choose to see and accept me fully.

And yet the “connections” felt so hard to disentangle from once formed. The woman and I had strong chemistry, at least from my perspective. It was easy to find words. While we talked about some of the more difficult aspects of life, we were able to laugh at and appreciate the lighter parts. They were my kind of people. I was drawn to them by the strength of their connection and decided to stay.


It took me a while to realize that every relationship of this nature that I was in spoke to unhealed parts within me.

The role I played in the events over the years was an important part of the healing that I achieved. It involved realizing that I too contributed to the cycle—by continuing to give chances to a person who couldn’t (or didn’t want to) help meet my needs.

I contributed by staying put and hoping that the situation would change. They would see that the clouds were not obstructing them from their full attention and invest more. That they’d depart to reveal the sun that was waiting all along to wrap its powerful rays around my heart.

I didn’t set boundaries. For instance, in one situationship I felt as if I’d become the woman’s therapist, there to reassure her when self-doubts overtook her; to validate her following any perceived rejection by strangers; to coddle her ego when she felt unattractive in the eyes of the male barista who’d just served us our coffee.

I could have put a limit on how much she confided in me or leant on me. I could’ve communicated that if we were just friends with occasional benefits, then I only had so much bandwidth. That it didn’t feel reciprocal to be her on-call therapist.

I could have also left at any given moment. Despite the signs, I chose to stay. Maybe those signs were too vague to be negotiable. Or maybe I was giving the benefit the doubt.

I also chose to see the women as I saw them, not just for what they were, but who they could be. Could Be somewhere along the line and who they are Sometimes were—rather than seeing them for who they fully were The whole Present moment.

WWhen we see people for their potential, even if we are innocent or well-meaning, it is a cost.


Unavailability and inconsistency are less appealing to me as I age and learn from past traumas. Game-playing has even begun to repel me in a way it didn’t used to. My interest in a person starts to fade when they show signs of it.

In contrast, traits like determination, consistency, and earnestness are becoming more attractive. These qualities are vitalizing and ambivalence and mixed emotions drain my energy.

I don’t find the emotional rollercoaster ride of an anxious-avoiding dynamic in my thirties sustainable. I desire something more calm. A relationship where all of me is accepted and cherished—just as I hope to provide the same in return.

I hope for a connection that takes a load off—not one that adds more stress to a world already saddled with the weight of so much of it. One wherein we’re both safe spaces for the other. This is what I believe we all deserve, provided that we are willing to work hard.

In general, having a choosier mentality means you may stay single for more years than you imagined—because it’s true that the dating pool bubbles with people whose traumas and defenses are incompatible with our own. It may always be, I believe.

Still, when I picture all the heart pain spared, it’s an approach that feels right. Now, I imagine being pulled back. To Another cycle of fleeting hope, optimism punctured blindsiding shards disappointment disturbs me more than the idea of remaining indefinitely single.

This not only makes it sad, but also for me. This sadness is felt for everyone who has been caught up in the same emotional cycle. I can’t help but think it’s such a tremendous drain of energy. It could be used to revitalize our lives and the wider world.


No more will I follow the Hansel and Gretel path to another person’s heart when it takes me so far from the integrity of my own.

And anyone who’s been through similar experiences—I encourage you to remain hopeful that one day, a person who’s deserving of your love will step into your life and onto your path. Keep in mind that you already have everything you need. Treasure yourself, treat yourself well, and realize you’re worth more than chasing. You deserve to put your feet up and let someone chase you—or better still, come meet you in the middle.

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Eleni Stephanides

Eleni is a freelance writer and Spanish interpreter. She was born in California and currently lives in the Bay Area. Her work has appeared in Them and LGBTQ Nation Tiny Buddha as well as The Mighty, Elephant Journal and Introvert Dear. She currently writes the monthly column “Queer Girl Q&A” for Out Front Magazine. You can find her on IG @eleni_steph_writer as well as on Medium.

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