Don’t Go to the Hardware Store for Bread
Think this saying comes from AA:
A number of years ago I began attending a 12 Step recovery program for people affected by someone else’s addiction. In that program I learned so many new ways of seeing the world and how to live life differently. This new healthy way of being was confusing and refreshing at the same time.
One of the most interesting teachings came from the idea that if you stop insisting that your needs be met according to your will, you may discover that all the love and support you need is already available inside you. We were taught that “Turning to an alcoholic for affection and support can be like going to a hardware store for bread”.
The irony is that we believe our “bread”, or the answers to getting our needs met, come from other people so we keep knocking on the door of the hardware store wondering why they still don’t have bread. It’s a true lesson in humility and futility.
Is there something you need from someone else in order to feel better?
Q: “you can’t find bread at the hardware store, no bread at the hardware store, don’t wander the tool aisles looking for bread”.
A: “not only have you realized you can find bread at the hardward store – but you have figured out – YOU STILL NEED BREAD!!”
and you have learned to seek another path to get the BREAD!!
The following is from:
What are the Signs That Someone is Emotionally-Unavailable?
Being emotionally unavailable describes someone who is not open to discussing or sharing their feelings. They can be evasive, flaky, or hard to read. “They’re scared of intimacy,” explains licensed couples therapist Brooke Sprowl, LCSW, CNTS.
Licensed psychotherapist Pam Shaffer, MFT, adds that being emotionally unavailable often reflects a lack of emotional depth. “It doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you, but it may mean that you are using your emotional bandwidth to cope with your own feelings or circumstances, so you don’t have enough to necessarily tune into another person,” she explains.
According to Sprowl, the term “emotionally unavailable” is essentially born from meme culture and has been popularized in the last decade or so, so you won’t find it in any diagnostic psychology manual. It’s a phrase that has further found its footing due to “hookup culture” and dating app popularity.
Signs of an emotionally unavailable partner
They don’t communicate consistently
Sure, not everyone is available all the time for a super-quick text back, but if this is happening all the time, take note. If “someone is leaving you guessing as to when they are going to talk to you, chances are good that they are not emotionally available to truly connect and make you feel heard,” Shaffer says. When someone is there for you and is into you, they want to talk to you and will make the effort.
They avoid conversations that go deeper
If the person you’re seeing has no interest in getting “deep” with your conversations, especially when it comes to your relationship, that’s a sign of emotional unavailability. If they “avoid engaging in communication or discussions centered around commitment or even getting closer in the relationship,” you should beware, says Fran Walfish, Ph.D., a family and relationship psychotherapist, and author of The Self-Aware Parent.
Someone who doesn’t want to share anything truly impactful about themselves is rarely someone who wants to have a serious relationship.
They feel overwhelmed or smothered by emotional intimacy
Emotionally unavailable people often masquerade as being fiercely independent and self-sufficient. Sprowl says that this is an illusion used to evade being vulnerable with feelings. Wanting a little space in a relationship can be a sign of emotional control and wherewithal, but sometimes an excessive need for alone time in a relationship can be a reflection of discomfort with intimacy.
The “primary drive is independence, and their greatest fear is engulfment—in other words, losing themselves in another person or being subsumed. They seek space and solitude to regulate their anxiety, especially during conflicts,” she says.
It’s possible to date with an avoidant attachment style, but it likely means there are some insecurities that need healing.
They avoid labels
Pretending you’re not in a relationship when you are in a relationship is a red flag. If the person you’re dating doesn’t want to “label” the relationship, chances are things are not organically developing in a healthy way. “Relationships can take many forms, but if someone refuses to define their relationship or talk about what you can both expect from it while still wanting all the benefits of it, they might not be ready to be an available partner,” Shaffer explains.
They seem to want perfection
If you feel like you need to be perfect, chill, sexy, and interesting all the time in order to keep someone interested, chances are you’re not the issue. Emotionally unavailable people are impossible to mollify because they are always looking for something negative to latch onto in order to justify their crappy behavior. They seek perfection in imperfect humans so that they can use your flaws as justification for ending things or not getting serious with you.
They go from hot to cold
People who are emotionally unavailable tend to confuse their partners with their inconsistent behavior. They vacillate between being very hot and into the relationship one second, only to go totally cold the next. This can feel uncomfortable and scary. If someone makes you feel safe and comfortable one day, only to disappear for a week—this person is likely not emotionally available to you. While the temptation to come back when someone comes out of the rough may be great, it can ultimately be quite damaging to you. No one should feel like they’re being jerked around.
They are unclear about what they want from you
“If you’re second-guessing what you say all the time or can’t get a clear answer on what your partner wants or needs from a relationship, they may not be available to be vulnerable with you,” Shaffer says. This can also lead to that feeling of “walking on eggshells,” wherein you worry one wrong step or word uttered will lead this person to stop calling you. This does not make for a productive dynamic. “When people are available, they allow themselves to tell their partner what they want, even though it can be scary to open up,” Shaffer says.
They don’t compromise their time
People who are emotionally unavailable are often unaware of the feelings of others. (This is also a typical sign of a narcissist, by the way.) They tend to value control over situations and aren’t willing to compromise. If the person you’re seeing wants you to bend over backward to fit yourself around their schedule but won’t inconvenience themselves to do the same, chances are they are emotionally unavailable. They want the relationship to revolve around them because they lack the emotional depth to understand that relationships are a two-way street.
Emotionally Unavailable: What It Means & 15 Signs To Look For
What are the Signs That Someone is Emotionally-Available?
The following is from:
What’s Emotional Availability?
Emotional availability (EA) is the ability not just to make an emotional connection with another person — but to sustain it.
Most people can connect on a superficial level. But to be truly open, all the time — and make it last — is hard. And scary. Most of us tread carefully, we don’t rush in to risk being hurt.
For people who’ve been through trauma, are painfully shy or neurodivergent, trying to make deep connections with partners and friends can be a struggle — if not agonising.
But, no matter who you are, striving to be available to (well-chosen) others is a worthy goal because, as we all know, healthy relationships make a positive difference to our lives.
It’s especially important in partnerships because emotional connection is a conduit to love.
Here’s how the best in the game do it.
1. They embrace the big, deep stuff.
This doesn’t mean emotionally available people spend all day in deep, meaningful conversations. They may do banter and light-heartedness as well as anyone. But when there’s an important topic on the table, they don’t shy away from it. They don’t procrastinate or get defensive or take the exit door. They’ll sit down and talk it through even if it’s not what they want to talk about and the outcome may not be what they want to hear.
2. They do “uncomfortable” well.
It’s easy to do all the light emotions — to keep things on the surface — but it’s a real test to sit with the difficult ones. Emotionally available people are up for being vulnerable. They’re not afraid of any emotions, even those that are negative and painful. They are easy with emotional discomfort. They realise it’s just part of being human and can be helpful for their personal growth.
They realise they don’t have to do anything with difficult feelings. They just have to notice them, feel them, and know they will pass.
3. They let others behind their wall.
If you’re reading this saying “I don’t have a wall”, hold up a minute. We all have walls. Because we all have vulnerabilities and sensibilities. And we do need walls because they help us make good choices in our relationships; they allow us to keep people who are not good for us out of our orbit.
But emotionally available people have low walls. When someone comes into their life they stay open to possibility. And when it’s someone really worthy they let them all the way in.
4. They trust others — and themselves.
In relationships, there are two types of trust: The trust you have in your partner and the trust you have in yourself. Naturally, if you’ve been hurt or let down previously, you may struggle to trust others.
But the more important facet of trust is that you have in yourself. Trusting yourself prevents you from being insecure and needy in relationships; it stops you from sabotaging potentially good ones, it enables you to relax and be fully yourself.
5. They express their feelings appropriately.
We all operate on an emotional pendulum. Highly emotional people swing in a wide arc, while inexpressive people have a small range, more a flicker than a swing. People with high EA tend to have a balanced swing. They’re self-aware and in touch with their feelings so their emotional reactions are appropriate for the occasion. But they don’t give their emotions full rein to do whatever they want, either. They use mind power too.
6. They don’t crash and burn friendships.
That’s because emotionally available people don’t turn and run when the going gets tough. Because they are open to listening and another person’s perspective, they are able to work through most problems. That doesn’t mean all their friendships work out — they don’t. But they can walk away from a relationship that’s not working, rather than sending it up in flames.
7. They’re brave in love.
Love requires courage. They’ll take a risk in love even if it’s scary because they know they can handle the feelings if it doesn’t work out. They know they will be okay — even if it takes time. And that’s a great comfort.
Why do we go to the Wrong People to get our Emotional Needs met?
I say it to my clients on a regular basis when they are trying to find love in all the wrong places. I thought it would make the basis for a good article so I will expand upon it here. Hopefully, you will recognize where you are ‘going to the hardware store for bread’, the reasons why you keep doing that, and then lastly, will gather some new tools for going straight to the ‘emotional bakery’ when it’s ‘bread’ you’re needing.
Let me give you an example of how this works:
A client of mine (let’s call her Sue) has a really difficult relationship with her mother. Sue is quiet, introverted and soft-spoken and extremely thoughtful. Her mother, on the other hand, is loud, extroverted, and blunt when she speaks- so blunt in fact, that she often makes others cry with her harsh words.
Sue and I have been working together for two years and she has made great strides in coming to terms with the fact that her mother is not the soft, warm and fuzzy kind that she had hoped for and that she doesn’t get the nurturing she wants from her. For the past year, she has done a lot of grieving over the fact that she and her mother are not good “matches” in terms of personality. I used the ‘hardware store/bread’ analogy with Sue and she really liked it and has used it a lot lately.
In this case, Sue wants and seeks warmth and nurturing (“bread”), and yet she keeps going to the ‘hardware store’ to buy it. In this scenario, Sue’s mother is the ‘hardware store’. When Sue tells me another story of trying to get nurturing from her mother I gently ask, “Which store did you go to this time?” She often smiles in quick recognition and answers, “The hardware store”. I usually respond with something like, “That’s funny- I thought you were shopping for bread, not nails…”
It’s not that Sue is lacking in intelligence, nor common sense. It’s just that she can’t get her emotional needs met from someone who is supposedly in a position to meet them (in this case, her mother). This is the case for many of us who come from dysfunctional families. Oftentimes, one or both parents are unable to meet our emotional needs. This can cause much bigger problems later on when we become adults and start dating. In Sue’s case, she picked a partner who was harsh and critical towards her; just like her mother. Although what she wanted and needed was softness, kindness, and nurturing, she instead went with what felt ‘familiar’ when choosing a partner- someone harsh and critical. Even though she didn’t like being treated that way, because it was a family pattern and was familiar, it felt ‘like home’ to be with someone who treated her like her mother did.
For Sue, even though she loved everything she experienced when she walked into a bakery- the warmth coming from the ovens, the delicious smell of baking bread, the sight of fresh new loaves right out of the oven, and the taste of freshly baked bread- metaphorically speaking, it wasn’t the first place she stepped into when she was hungry. You see, growing up in Sue’s family was like living in a hardware store- no warmth, no alluring smells to tempt the palate- just rows and rows of screws and nails and power tools. Let’s face it- a hardware store is a great place to go when your toilet needs fixing and they have just the part that will make it stop making that non-stop swishing sound…But when it comes to finding a warm and loving pair of arms to wrap around you when you’re having a bad day, it will always come up short.
Another reason Sue entered therapy was because she recognized a long-held pattern of dating emotionally unavailable men and was sick of it. She wanted to figure out why she kept meeting ‘the same guy’ over and over again; even though hair colour varied from man to man- all of these men had one major thing in common- they were emotionally unavailable and cold. As you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “I’ve figured out the riddle for Sue’s pattern!” and are eagerly waving your hand in the air hoping that the teacher picks YOU to shout out the answer…
Well, here’s the answer you most probably figured out already:
When Sue was able to make the connection in therapy between the kind of men she kept picking to be in relationships with, and the pattern she experienced throughout her lifetime with her own mother, a big light bulb went off inside her head where she experienced a life-changing “aha moment”. For the first time in her adult life, she was able to make sense of a confounding pattern she found herself repeating, even though she was totally aware that it was not helping her.
Sadly for Sue, she had learned from her experiences in her family-of-origin to go looking for bread at the hardware store. In Sue’s case, it was her mother who became the proverbial ‘hardware store’ who could never supply her with the love, warmth, and affection she craved and needed. Metaphorically speaking, Sue didn’t even know there was such a thing as a ‘bakery’ and that she could go there in the first place when she needed some ‘bread’.
The next part of Sue’s journey was to familiarize herself with the concept of a ‘bakery’ when it came to other people- her starting point was to learn that there actually were people out there (including datable men her age) who were warm, compassionate, and nurturing. For this phase of therapy, I often invite clients to conjure up positive memories of people they have known in the past or present who exhibit the qualities they are seeking in a mate. This task was very emotional for Sue as she immediately recognized that all four of her grandparents had showered her with warmth, tenderness, and nurturing when she was growing up. I asked her to expand on these memories by telling me stories of when she experienced this warmth and nurturing from them and she had so many that she decided to continue when she got home by writing down as many of these memories as she could.
She came back to our next session and excitedly read me story after story of receiving ‘countless loaves of bread’ from ‘real bakeries’ she had visited as a child. She increasingly came to realize that while her mother had been, and still was, a ‘hardware store’ for her emotionally; that she had experienced FOUR emotional ‘bakeries’ with her grandparents and had therefore been shown what she should be looking for in relationships with men in her life today.
She has also done a lot of work grieving the loss of getting the love and nurturing she always wanted from her mother, and is slowly coming to peace with whom her mother is and what she can and cannot give her. In fact, she has even developed an appreciation for ‘hardware stores’ through knowing her mother and finds they can be very useful when you need to make a business decision or when choosing paint colours and goes to her mother for this sort of concrete advice. But when it comes to choosing whom to date, she is now relying on the memories and felt experience of being loved and nurtured by her grandparents. In fact, she’s even gone on a couple of dates with men who can bake!
Beautifully written. I have used this metaphor with clients. But this article drew it out in a wonderful way. Thanks for your writing.
Esther Kane says
Thanks so much Dan. So glad you found it helpful and that you too, use this wonderful metaphor with your clients.