Dec 2011 02

by Yashar Ali

When most people are seeking love, they have a basic list of check boxes they hold up to their prospective partners. On this list are questions like: Is he single? Is he ready to be in a relationship? Is he emotionally available? Does he want to be in a relationship with me?

It makes me wildly uncomfortable when all the boxes on that list are checked. I am attracted to and fall in love with unavailable men.

For years, especially in the past three years, I have slept with married men, men in relationships, and emotionally unavailable men (the latter would be fine if sex was all I was after).

And with some of these men, I have developed serious romantic attachments as a result of our sexual relationship and friendship. I would wish, even hope that they wanted more than sex, that they would want a relationship with me.

Why have I been so self-destructive?

I have put myself in these emotionally trying places out of fear that my imperfections and weaknesses would be exposed in the course of a serious, long-term relationship. I didn’t want anyone close to me because closeness calls for a release of all pretenses; I would be forced to expose my strengths and my faults. In a healthy relationship, accountability and questions are part of the deal. I didn’t want any questions; I didn’t want to be accountable when it came to my problems. So I chose men who I knew would not or could not be in a relationship with me.

My entanglements with unavailable men allowed me to avoid men who would see the real me and also gave me the opportunity to experience the feelings of love and emotional and sexual attraction that we all need.

I always knew going into these situations, that the men I was seeing weren’t available for actual relationships. I never had to be told by others that, “He’s just not that into you.” None of the unavailable men with whom I have had sexual relationships can say I pushed them to do anything. I never bothered pursuing romantic relationships with these men because I knew, point blank, that they were unavailable. Instead, I stewed in my frustration and sadness, sharing my pain with one or two friends.

Over the years, my friends have made multiple attempts at setting me up with prospective boyfriends, but I always knew these men would be emotionally, mentally available. What a turn off – right? So I would refuse the set-up, or I would find a reason why that particular man wouldn’t work for me after going out with him.

I would occasionally date romantically available men for short periods of time; I gave them a small chance. But I would never allow them into my world, they wouldn’t meet my friends, they wouldn’t be a part of my life. And soon, they would either tire of the situation or I would find a polite way to move on.

The concept of unavailability in men comes in many different forms and it’s an issue I’ve seen many of my friends struggle with. For some, it’s about being in a relationship with a man who could physically be in the same room, but is a million miles away in terms of his emotional commitment. For others, it’s about falling in love with a man who will never be open to a sexual or romantic relationship. For me, an unavailable man is someone who gives me enough to live on emotionally and sexually, but is someone who is totally and literally unavailable for a relationship.

Sometimes, when we chase after things, we are not necessarily chasing after something that is inaccessible. My relationships with unavailable men have nothing to do with wanting what I can’t have. These relationships are about doing everything to avoid what I want the most.

The way I would fall in love with unavailable men was always the same. In fact, it had become so textbook that a few close friends would often notice and point it out when I was heading in that direction. I would sleep with a man, whether I knew he was available or not, and once I confirmed that he was unavailable, I would become more attracted to him. It wouldn’t take much for the emotional attraction to happen. If he said something sweet to me, or asked me the right questions, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to him. Whether the attraction would last for days, weeks, or months, it was incredibly intense and emotionally draining. And I lived out that pain in private.

The process would only be prolonged when I received a perfectly timed text-message or phone call from one of my unavailable men. These connections would provide the warmth and sense of closeness that I desired. Those text messages and phone calls were enough to keep me giving them what they wanted — so I could get what I needed.

My problems, my imperfections are the kind that everyone has. But for some reason, I felt like I had some sort of invisible cloak that prevented people from noticing these flaws unless I let them in. I was wrong. Everyone saw them, as any attempt at covering up problems only leads them to be revealed more publicly. My choice to engage with unavailable men stemmed precisely from this fear of intimacy and a fear of exposing my faults and inadequacies.

My attraction towards unavailable men taught me a big lesson, a lesson about my aversion to revealing my shortcomings to the world. I have fundamentally shifted how I see privacy and what it really means to be private.

Our need for privacy, for secrecy, for keeping our imperfections hidden is seriously taxing our lives — it took me away from myself and nearly destroyed me. We ironically admire this internal suffering as a strong character trait, “Oh, she’s so private,” or “He’s so private.” We seem to think this kind of silent suffering is honorable. It’s not.

For me, sharing my time with unavailable men was a major way to hide parts of myself. Being with these men was my version of privacy. Being forced to talk about my relationships with these unavailable men or being forced to talk about the resulting pain made me feel like I was being exposed to the world. For me, talking about my problems was a weakness. And that’s why I never did it. Until now.

Our tendency towards privacy often relates to our desire to hide our problems and our desire to conceal our fear of exposing personal issues and imperfections. But problems are generally not solved behind closed doors. I also think it’s nearly impossible to cover up or hide our general imperfections or issues — human beings are so perceptive that most people will soon realize that something is wrong. For me, privacy is now about keeping things special or keeping other people’s secrets. Privacy is no longer about burying my own secrets or imperfections. I just don’t care anymore about being judged.

Usually people wait until they’re extremely successful or well past their problems to discuss them. We are often willing to talk about our secrets or our problems once we have solved them. It’s so much more comfortable to say, “That’s how I used to be.” I’m not there yet. I thought about unavailable men yesterday, I thought about them this morning, and I am thinking about them now.

While revealing this issue about my life may be embarrassing for some to hear or know about, I no longer have an issue admitting that I have never felt truly close to anyone. Until now, I have not truly felt close to myself.

I really want to be in relationship. But I know I am not ready. There’s nothing I want to do more than respond to the text from one of my unavailable men that I just received. That text still gives me enough, even though it truly offers nothing. I still have the desire to get what I need from someone who doesn’t want to give me more than sex and a kind word, someone who won’t ask me any questions, someone who won’t require me to be a better person, someone who let’s me keep my privacy, and someone who allows me to keep all of my faults and shortcomings at bay.

But I know I have to stop sleeping and falling in love with unavailable men — because my need for privacy has left me feeling incredibly lonely.

I’ve been knocking on a door when I know that no one is home. I’m tired of waiting around for him to answer.


Yashar Ali is a Los Angeles-based columnist, commentator, and political veteran whose writings about women, gender inequality, political heroism, and society are showcased on his website, The Current Conscience. Please follow him on Twitter and join him on Facebook.

He will be soon releasing our first short e-book, entitled, A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy — How We Teach Men That Women Are Crazy and How We Convince Women To Ignore Their Instincts. If you are interested and want to be notified when the book is released, please click here to sign-up.

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He Doesn’t Deserve Your Validation: Putting The Fake Orgasm Out of Business
A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy


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