I’ve always been one of those people who complains about being attracted to emotionally unavailable guys, while also being emotionally unavailable myself.
For four years now I’ve been single, and the only solid commitment I’ve had has been with Tinder and white wine. In moments of weakness (or shall I say “when tipsy and horny”), I would slide my way through the dating app — which, though it promotes its purpose as helping users ‘find love and long-term relationships’, is where we all go to find a quick fuck.
I would sit with a group of friends and each and of us would put on a comedy show, with our dating lives being the main joke. We’d share stories on our most memorable and terrible dates, shaming and judging the people we’d been out with. We then would move on to the second act, where we’d demonise the guys who had ghosted us — calling them “fuckboys” and assuring one another that they were not worth it.
Yet, later that same night, at least one of us would go and visit our so-called fuckboy.
The popular term “ghosted” is used to describe a scenario where someone cuts off all communication with a love interest with zero warning, avoiding all communications via social media or in person.
I’ve been ghosted a handful of times, and it’s not a nice feeling. It sucks being left on read and not really knowing why that connection dissipated. You’re left wondering, running through a series of “what if?” scenarios and questioning your own worth, putting yourself in this dynamic where you’re chasing after someone who clearly does not want any type of committed relationship, let alone open communication.
It was this dynamic that first alerted me to my lack of emotional availability: I was chasing people who mirrored my lack of feeling, and running away from those who wanted to show me genuine intimacy.
Along this process, I saw how depriving myself from real and deep connection was essentially a way of self-harming. I realised I’d spent my entire life avoiding my emotions, trapped in a cycle of projecting hate, shame, rejection and judgment, all the while burying myself in casual and meaningless sex, substance abuse and partying.
After I told my therapist that I never go on second dates or get to the point of knowing someone’s last name (and sometimes not even their first name), she called me the Master Ghoster. I was willing to show someone my naked body, yet the thought of them seeing my wounds terrified me. To me, spreading my legs was easier than being emotionally vulnerable and showing someone the real me.
It wasn’t because I lacked self-respect that I was opening myself to all these sexual partners. It was because I was following this narrative that I wasn’t worthy of feeling safe or valued. Instead of dealing with the reasons why I felt this way, or looking deeper into that narrative of why I was behaving like this,
I’d repress everything and continue swiping.
It wasn’t until I had a relapse with my mental health that I was finally forced to examine myself and admit that I didn’t feel worthy. Being put in a position to look within and seek solitude was a blessing in disguise. This was when I had an ‘aah’ moment.
I’ve learned that our brains prioritise survival over happiness or joy. We’re built to remember and focus on negatives, which then creates a pattern where – if we’re faced with a similar experience to one we have categorised as negative – our brains will keep us from going forward. This is a way of keeping us safe.
If we, for instance, go through a bad breakup and get our hearts broken, we’ll categorise falling in love or getting into a committed relationship as dangerous, because of what happened last time. This then prompts us to avoid that type of deeper intimacy.
I’ve also learned that my lack of emotional availability was just a reflection of my own self-abandonment and lack of belief in myself. To begin to heal, I had to get to know myself first, and understand my own emotions, then expose myself in my own emotional vulnerability. Having to embrace that side of me and welcome it without judgement or labelling it as “weakness” was the first step to being emotionally open.
Learning to love myself was not as glamorous as you might think. It involved a lot of unpacking heavy emotions that were attached to the beliefs, narratives and behavioural patterns, some of which were located in my subconscious – making them even more challenging to access.
The thing is with self-love is that it cannot be store-bought. We cannot order our worth, self-acceptance, validation and unconditional love online. It’s something that has always been within us – it’s just buried and hidden underneath all that family and social conditioning.
I believe that once we experience some sort of self-love for ourselves, we change within. The toxic people we used to be drawn to no longer have that same power over us.
So the question is: do you love yourself enough to walk in the unknown and find the love you know you deserve and crave?
Cover by Angelo Moleele