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Emotionally Unavailable Men: Definition, Signs & FAQs

Emotionally Unavailable Men
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If you are sick of attracting emotionally unavailable men, it’s not because you have a “broken picker!” More likely, you are not listening to what he says (many women have selective hearing and interpret everything he says based on what they want), not listening to your gut, or jumping into a relationship so fast it makes it hard to get out when you know it’s the right thing to do. The good news though is that after reading this article, you’ll be able to easily spot emotionally unavailable men. 

Defining Emotionally Unavailable Men

To truly understand emotional unavailability, I’m borrowing the definition from Natalie Lue’s book, Mr. Unavailable and the Fallback Girl (2011). 

“Emotionally unavailable means not fully emotionally present. It’s struggling or being unable to access emotions healthily and as a result, being emotionally distant due to ‘walls’ which basically act as barriers to true emotional intimacy.”

How Does Emotional Unavailability Come About?

Emotional unavailability might come about due to one or more of the following: 

  1.  Early interactions with our caregivers which is primarily responsible for our attachment style in relationships as adults. 
  2. Heartbreak (Breakups, separation, divorce or infidelity might cause a person to become emotionally unavailable). 
  3. Traumatic experience (trauma is defined according to one’s reaction to an event and not in terms of the magnitude of the event, and it could trigger a change in one’s personality and attitude) 
  4. Mental health issues (depression or suffering from other mental illness could also make a person withdraw emotionally) 

10 Signs of Emotionally Unavailable Men

Sign #1: Emotionally Unavailable Men May Simply Tell You They're Emotionally Unavailable

Yes, men typically mean what they say and say what they mean. Drop the selective hearing, ladies, and start listening to the men you date immediately! He might tell you that you’re “amazing,” but he just can’t commit to anything right now. One of the biggest fears of this type of man is becoming lost in a relationship and losing his freedom. Often times these people really do want to connect with someone but are too afraid to start anything because they know they really aren’t ready. And believe us: you can’t be “so amazing” that he flips his switch and becomes your perfect mate. It rarely to never happens.

Sign #2: Emotionally Unavailable Men Might Share A Lot of Information But Not Feelings

An emotionally unavailable man might share LOTS of information, which gives you the impression that he’s sharing with you, and therefore you’re being emotionally intimate. In addition, he’ll always portray himself to be in the midst of some sort of a crisis, from troubles with their ex, with the kids, a sudden illness in the family, to having work, money and health problems. Without you realizing, you’ll find yourself sucked in the drama and always having to be there for him, without having anyone being there for you. He might even vent the feelings that he has for someone else. A man who is in love with someone else could never be in a relationship with you. 

Sign #3: Emotionally Unavailable Men Fear Intimacy

Emotionally unavailable men are mostly driven by their fear of intimacy and  commitment and their fear of losing their independence in a relationship. You would typically find them shying away from any conversation that involves your relationship, your feelings or any long-term plans. 

Sign #4: Emotionally Unavailable Men Have Tons
of Excuses for their Behaviors

Some of the excuses you’ll hear from emotionally unavailable men could include, but are certainly not limited to; 

  • I’m busy with work right now. 
  • So many things are going on in my life right now. 
  • My wife and I haven’t had sex in years.
  • We’re moving into separate places any day now. It’s financially difficult, but we’re working on it.
  • And, btw, I am miserable.
  • Once the kids are (insert any milestone here), we’re going to split.
  • We haven’t had sex in years. (Yes, it’s here twice because for some reason this one is a big seller.)
  • My wife is emotionally unstable. Soon…soon. She’s in therapy.
  • I don’t feel like this with her, and you’re amazing. I’m confused, but the truth is I love you. Can you be patient?
Bottom line, ladies! They’ll never run out of excuses and stories to tell you… Don’t fall for these excuses, because if a man wants to be there for you, HE WILL. 

Sign #5: Emotionally Unavailable Men Love the Chase

Emotionally unavailable men have a push-pull strategy. They tend to pursue you hard toward the beginning, sweeping you off your feet quickly, eliminating all competition and pushing for physical or emotional intimacy right away. But once you let them know they’ve won you over, they pull away and often disappear for a week or two. If he has a consistent pattern of disappearing, this is a serious red flag. It’s even more concerning when he can’t articulate what’s happening for him during these periods. If your guy uses the “busy” excuse to explain his mysterious disappearances, run in the opposite direction!

Sign #6: Emotionally Unavailable Men's Words
Do NOT Match their Actions

When a man is full of mixed messages or is being inconsistent, it’s not a good sign. He may surprise you with a weekend getaway and then cancel on you several times in a row the next week or show up with flowers and shower you with love and affection only to ghost you the next day. 

Sign #7: Emotionally Unavailable Men Mirror Your Emotions

Emotionally unavailable men have difficulty connecting with and expressing their feelings, so you’ll find them mirroring yours both in actions and words, nodding their heads and saying things like “I feel the same”. What is sometimes telling of the difference between someone who is mirroring you because he genuinely likes you and another who is mirroring you because he’s emotionally unavailable is a tinge of sarcasm in their voice, facial or body language and their inability to express any feelings of their own. . 

Sign #8: Emotionally Unavailable Men Run From Their Emotions

Needless to say, a man who is constantly running from his emotions is in desperate need for a distraction. So, you might find him throwing himself in work, addicted to working out, drinking alcohol, watching porn or binge eating. 

Sign #9: Emotionally Unavailable Men Like To Be In Control

Ladies, if you feel that you’ve taken the passenger seat in your relationship, going along with whatever he plans or says because you know that if you resist, he’ll pull away, you might very well be with an emotionally unavailable man. All these aforementioned strategies are meant to have you under his full control. Once he realizes he is in control, he’ll vanish mysteriously, resurface unannounced and be on his best behavior only to vanish again. This game is very likely to continue for years and years, if you allow it. 

Sign #10: Emotionally Unavailable Men Are Suspicious of Others

Blame it on their past bad experiences, but emotionally unavailable men tend to  distrust others in general. If a guy is acting suspicious of you and asking lots of questions about your whereabouts or your past or seem to be mistrusting you for some mysterious reason, it’s time to grab your sneakers and run for the hills! They could be projecting their infidelity or projecting their past experiences onto you. Either case, know that this is them and not you. You do not need to justify, explain or prove yourself to anyone that cannot see your awesome self. 

Signs Emotionally Unavailable Men

Can Emotionally Unavailable Men Fall in Love?

The short answer is “Yes, emotionally unavailable men can fall in love”. However, a relationship with an emotionally unavailable man is extremely difficult because all he can give you is love crumbs or little attention and love every now and then, that serves to give you hope that is hope for the relationship. Most importantly, since emotional unavailable men fear commitment, there is little hope for this relationship to grow and thrive over time. 

Do Emotionally Unavailable Men Miss You?

The short answer to this question is, “It depends”. On the one hand, when a relationship ends, an emotionally unavailable man could feel relieved, because of his fear of intimacy and commitment. On the other hand, an emotionally unavailable man has feelings and might be very well missing you or thinking about you, only if their feelings for you were real (not a game!). The question that you need to ask yourself is; “Do  you really want that type of relationship, where you’re doing all the work?”. If the answer is no, then keep reading. 

Why Are You Attracted to Emotionally Unavailable Men

Why Are You Attracted to Emotionally Unavailable Men?

Now, that you’re familiar with emotional unavailability patterns, it’s time to face the music and ask yourself the difficult question; Why am I constantly attracted to unavailable men? 

There is no simple answer to that. It could be one of the following reasons or a combination of two or more. Only you have the answer to that question.

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Do you feel worthy and whole and deserving of love? 

Having low self esteem could result in adopting the belief that you don’t deserve a whole, healthy and satisfying relationship, which in turn draws you into these sort of relationships. 

  • Does your current relationship with an emotionally unavailable man remind you of an old relationship with a caregiver? 

Unresolved childhood issues with a caregiver could trigger  unconscious attempts to resolve these issues in intimate relationships as an adult. 

  • Are you emotionally unavailable? Are you able to identify and express your emotions? Do you usually run away from your emotions? Do you give out of fear of abandonment or fear of rejection? 

You could be emotionally unavailable yourself (without even realizing it!). You might be avoiding getting close to someone by choosing men who can never be fully there for you. 

Identifying your wound that keeps you stuck in a loop with men who are incapable of loving you the way you want and need and most importantly DESERVE, is the first and most important step towards breaking the pattern and finding your right partner. 

How to avoid emotionally unavailable men

How to Avoid Emotionally Unavailable Men?

1. Don't Settle for Any Relationship

If you’re at a place in your life where you’re ready for a relationship, that’s great news! However,  it doesn’t mean you should settle for someone who only partially meets your needs just because, well, he’s partially meeting your needs.

(At Dating with Dignity we call this the “Relative Charm Factor”; e.g., relative to the rest of the men you’ve dated, he’s not half bad because at least he has a job, mostly shows up on time, and is great in bed.)

But if you’re dating someone whose actions aren’t matching his words, and you continue to be okay with the state of your “relationship,” you’re settling–and you deserve better than getting only some of your needs met. You deserve to have  appropriate expectations, and it’s your responsibility to make sure they’re getting met.

2. When a Man Says He’s Not Looking for a Relationship, RUN !

Yes, there are a few exceptions to this rule; however, chances are that if you’re reading here and a man told you he’s not looking for a relationship, HE WAS NOT LOOKING FOR A RELATIONSHIP.

The truth is this that men say what they mean and mean what they say. No matter how fabulous you are, he’ll not figure it out and become relationship ready. It just doesn’t happen in real life.

Note that this probably has little to nothing to do with you. If you’re presented with this information in a clear way and decide to ignore it, you’re basically welcoming a parade of unavailable men to trample all over your dating life–and your fabulous self does not need that.

3. Project Yourself in a Positive Way. Love Yourself.

If you have high self-esteem and surround yourself with positive energy, it will be much harder for men who are emotionally unavailable to invade your space. It’s often said that you will attract what you project. So if you’re projecting negative energy, are not emotionally connected, or not projecting a confident vibe, that’s exactly what you’ll be attracting back to you. Remind yourself why people enjoy spending time with you and do just that.

4. Know Your Goals & Practice Communicating them

It’s a really good idea to sit down and evaluate what it is you’re truly looking for in a relationship. (It’s one of the Dating with Dignity’s 10 Steps to Breaking Free from Your Romantic Rut and Manifesting the Love of Your Life.) When you have true intentions and defined dating goals, it will be much easier for you to communicate these intentions through your energy and the way you communicate. Men are actually most attracted to women who know what they want and aren’t afraid to ask for it by using powerful, feminine communication.

If your guy is relationship ready, he’ll be open to these types of conversations. Conversely, men who are emotionally unavailable will run for the hills when faced with this type of conversation, saving you time, energy and room to attract your Mr. Right.

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Marni Battista is a certified professional dating and relationship expert specializing in helping high achieving women find love.

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