Intelligence can come in a lot of different forms. And one form of intelligence that doesn’t get enough time and encouragement is our emotional intelligence, which comes into play every single day of our lives in all sorts of relationships—personal and professional. And it can be difficult to navigate different people and their emotions, because some people are far more emotionally complex than others. Sometimes dealing with someone who isn’t particularly emotionally intelligent can be tricky.
When it comes to romantic relationships, emotional complexity is closely linked to emotional availability. Partners who aren’t emotionally complex are often more closed off. They either don’t experience emotions in the same way or they don’t have the tools to access and speak about them, which can leave their partners feeling confused, frustrated, or alone. If you’re an emotional person or someone with a lot of emotional intelligence, it can be difficult to be with someone who doesn't share that level of being in touch with their feelings.
But how do you know? Here are the signs that your partner isn’t particularly emotionally complex, because empathy is key.
They Find it Easy to Walk Away From Relationships
Many of us find it difficult to move on from a relationship, no matter how bad it gets. Whether it’s a friendship, a job, or a romance, it’s hard to make a clean break even when we know we should. But often, people who experience emotions more simply find it a lot easier to just walk away. They no longer want a relationship in their life, so they move along—to them, it's as simple as that.
They Think in Black and White
One of the reasons some people can move on is that they think more in black and white. While most of us live in shades of gray and recognize the moral ambiguity of a situation, emotionally simple people see things as good or bad, as working or not—with nothing in between. If your partner seems to see things in broad strokes, they may not be emotionally complex.
They Don’t Like Emotionally Charged Conversations
For those who aren’t particularly emotional, those big, deep conversations can be a minefield. Either they don’t have the emotional complexity you do or they don’t know how to access their own feelings enough to have a conversation about them. If you find that your partner avoids those big talks then that can be a sign.
They Struggle With Empathy
Empathy is so important in a relationship—you want to know that your partner can put themselves in your shoes, so you feel supported and understood. But if you’re not emotionally complex, it can be very difficult to imagine someone else’s point of view and, even if you can, to actually feel for other people. In romantic relationships, this emotional unavailability can really take its toll.
They Can’t Read a Room
Sometimes, not being emotionally complex shows in simpler ways. If someone can’t read the tone of a room—they make jokes that jar and grate, they don’t sense the mood, they seem not to notice when they’re bothering other people—that can be a major sign. It can make socializing in groups and at parties difficult, as you often feel responsible for their slightly uncomfortable behavior.
They Don’t Talk About Their Feelings
Those who don’t have a high level of emotional intelligence will often struggle to talk about their emotions—not just in big conversations, but simply identifying the emotion they’re having and acknowledging it. You may have someone who seems to get upset or has a short fuse but seems unable to explain what’s going on in their own mind. It can make relationships incredibly fraught, because you'll feel like you can’t break through to reach them because they can't even let you know what’s going on.
You Don’t Feel Heard or Acknowledged
Finally, one of the signs is about how you feel. If you feel like your partner doesn’t acknowledge your needs, listen to you with empathy and respect, or that you’re just feeling a bit alone, that can be an indicator that your partner isn't emotionally complex. In some cases, you may be dealing with someone who understands your emotions but doesn’t care—but often it's a more straightforward case of someone who simply can’t process or recognize emotions in the same way.
Dealing with a partner isn't emotionally complex is hard. Even though it may not always be their fault, that doesn't mean you need to stay in a relationship in which you don’t feel supported and heard—or one in which you feel like you’re doing all of the emotional labor for both of you. Talking to your partner or seeing a professional can help you gauge the extent of the issue and see whether you can find a compromise. But at the end of the day, emotions in a relationship should be a two-way street.