6 signs you’re in a relationship with someone who lacks emotional depth

Relationships are hard regardless, but trying to love someone who doesn’t seem to quite get you is even harder.

You might feel like you function well together. 

Like a well-oiled cog, your blended life runs smoothly. But there’s something missing. 

Emotional depth is defined as the ability to register and understand other people’s emotions, and can often be mixed with emotional intelligence.

You know when you want to deep dive into thoughts, emotions and feelings with your partner, but find that their capacity to talk about such things is very limited.

That would suggest that their emotional depth is quite…shallow.

A lack of emotional depth can lead to a lack of emotional intimacy in a relationship, meaning that you don’t feel like you can open up around your partner, don’t feel like they open up around you, and you feel insecure and unstable when it comes to sharing your feelings.

All in all, it’s a bad combo.

So what signs should you look out for that indicate someone lacks emotional depth?

1) They have a hard time expressing how they feel

The first indicator that someone lacks emotional depth is if you notice that they struggle expressing how they feel.

Often, this is because they struggle to understand their emotions personally

Complex emotions tend to involve two or more emotions blended together.

For example, jealousy, which is typically made up of a fun blend of things such as resentment, anger, and fear. 

You might run into a situation where your partner feels jealous about someone in your life. 

Maybe a colleague or a friend.

Rather than being able to have an open and honest discussion about their feelings and try to navigate their jealousy, they might be completely at odds with how they feel.

They might not even understand why they’re feeling jealous themselves. 

Either way, it bubbles out into passive aggressiveness or other outlets and neither of you are able to have a conducive conversation about the who/what/why.

2) Or just don’t show any emotions whatsoever

Or maybe instead of getting irrationally angry or sad yet never being able to tell you why, they don’t show any emotion whatsoever.

I say this with trepidation as someone who feels a lot of things deeply yet struggles to express them – some people feel things intensely yet aren’t so confident in expressing emotion. 

This isn’t the same as lacking emotional depth.

However, if you have a partner who never seems overly enthusiastic about things they enjoy, who you’ve never seen break down and cry, who doesn’t get candid about their true feelings, it could be a sign that they just don’t feel those things particularly deeply.

3) They avoid getting vulnerable

You know those emotional 3am heart-to-hearts when you confess all of your deepest and darkest thoughts. 

Maybe you even dabble in the occasional “would you still love me if I was a snail?”

People who lack emotional intelligence don’t tend to enjoy getting vulnerable quite so much.

Either because they lack the emotional capacity to do a deep-dive into your shared emotions, or because they’re scared of any resulting conflict or tension. 

They prefer sticking to the straight facts and wave the wishy-washiness of emotional vulnerability off as something that isn’t quite their cup of tea

4) They don’t seem to understand your feelings

But when you do try to personally open up to them, you feel unheard.

A lack of emotional depth is often associated with lower empathy, which denotes someone who struggles to understand other people’s feelings or put themselves in other people’s shoes.

Thus, if you often feel like your partner doesn’t really understand what you’re saying when you explain your feelings rationally, chances are they lack emotional depth.

They might also be plainly emotionally unavailable or just not really care (in which case you should probably call it quits).

5) They’re unlikely to own up when they make mistakes

On top of that, an inability to follow their own actions and take accountability when they make mistakes also suggests a lack of emotional depth and awareness.

Relationships…one of life’s greatest pleasures, but also one of the quickest ways to get hurt.

Now, if your partner completely shuns vulnerability, maybe you’re not quite so exposed to getting hurt.

Still, we all make mistakes and sometimes end up hurting one another in the process

For relationships to work, we have to know when to leave our pride and ego at the door and say sorry.

A person who lacks emotional depth will often struggle to understand why you’re hurting out of a lack of empathy

They also won’t be so willing to accept their share of the blame and help you to sort the situation out.

6) They have few friends, fake friends, or are quick to bin friends

The above points combine to make maintaining a healthy relationship with this person pretty difficult.

Not only for you.

So have a look at their close friends.

If you notice that all of their other relationships seem quite shallow and superficial, chances are you’re not the only one who is on the receiving end of a lack of emotional depth.

Equally, if they’re quick to cut off friends, family, or colleagues who they run into disagreements with, chances are that they’re lack of emotional depth is a universal experience.

They might get easily frustrated and lack the time and patience to solve conflict. 

Instead, they toss out relationships when the going gets too tricky.

It’s worth being cautious if you notice a repeated pattern of your partner having cut people off

Not only does this indicate a lack of emotional depth; it unfortunately also suggests that you might be next if conflict does arise in your relationship and they don’t have the emotional means to try to sort it out with you.

You can take a horse to water…

But you can’t make it drink.

If you notice these signs in your partner and you’ve come to realize that they’re deeply lacking when it comes to emotional depth, you can try and communicate this to them.

Relationships are all about expressing our needs, compromising, and growing together.

However, if you’ve toiled away at trying to explain your feelings, tried to encourage them to open up, and have done all you can to try and build a better level of open, shared communication, it’s okay to walk away if they’re not meeting your needs.

Relationships are also about compatibility, and you don’t want to spend your life feeling unheard and unvalidated.

Whilst emotional depth and intelligence can be increased, this needs to be performed by the person lacking in these qualities. 

They need to want to change.

Not you.

It’s not your job to change someone, plus forcing them to change is almost impossible, so it’s also important to know when a partner isn’t a great match for you.

Picture of Liv Walde

Liv Walde

London-based writer with big thoughts, big dreams, and a passion for helping others.

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