The Allure of the Emotionally Unavailable

August 4, 2010

People often tell you to follow your heart or your gut. Or one of those internal organs. But what if your heart tells you to find emotionally unavailable lovers? What if you confuse the thrill of the chase with love? And what if you do find someone who wants to be with you, but your first instinct is to sabotage the relationship and run for the hills?

Enter Abandoholics Anonymous, a recovery program for people who are afraid of abandonment. Abandoholism is the addiction to emotionally unavailable lovers. It is driven by both the fear of abandonment and the fear of engulfment. Here’s a quote from their site:

If you are a hard-core abandoholic, you’re drawn to a kind of love that is highly combustible. The hottest sex is when you’re trying to seduce a hard-to-get lover. Insecurity becomes your favorite aphrodisiac. These intoxicated states are produced when you sense emotional danger – the danger of your lover’s propensity to abandon you the minute you get attached.

At the other end of the seesaw, you turn off and shut down when you happen to successfully win someone’s love. If your lover succumbs to your charms – heaven forbid – you suddenly feel too comfortable, too sure of him to stay interested. There’s not enough challenge to sustain your sexual energy. You interpret your turn-off as his not being right for you.

This is also known as the engulfment/abandonment swing. The truth is that usually both parties are emotionally unavailable to some degree. Birds of a feather flock together. It then becomes a dysfunctional dance, each person alternately pursuing intimacy while the other is avoiding it. Eventually, the stakes become too high and the fear of abandonment becomes too much for one of them and he/she jumps off the swing. Only to jump onto another swing, never addressing the insecurities and self-esteem issues that created the swing in the first place.

As the author explains:

Enrich your mind. Follow your wisdom. But until you overcome your abandonment compulsion, don’t follow your gut – it will only get you into trouble – because your gut tells you that unavailable people are attractive.

For more on abandonment compulsion.

2 Responses to “The Allure of the Emotionally Unavailable”

  1. […] would repeat in her own relationships or the type of behavior she would look for in partners. Andrea had a taste for emotionally unavailable/abusive lovers, and would run away from ones who were too attentive. It is common for borderlines to replay the […]

  2. […] Savage Woman. (2010). The Allure of the Emotionally Unavailable.  […]

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