Since happy and healthy relationships are based on openness, honesty, mutual respect, and trust, it can be hard to understand and deal with emotionally unavailable people—and even harder to learn how to spot them. Often times, we'll try to rationalize a partner's behavior in a relationship, making excuses for them and having way too much hope that they'll change if we just give them time. Patience and understanding is important, but not when you're dealing with someone who will never be able to reciprocate emotionally.
What Is Emotional Unavailability?
Being emotionally unavailable means the inability to maintain emotional bonds in a relationship. It can manifest as distance, indifference, and a lack of commitment.
If you're worried that your partner might fall into this particular category, these eight key signs can help you learn if they're someone who's truly emotionally unavailable.
He Doesn't Open up To You
One of the most common signs that someone is emotionally unavailable is that they doesn't reveal or show their actual feelings around you. And while you may encourage them to open up and be able to express their emotions, they never let their guard down around you to say what's really on their mind. For example, rather than confiding in you and talking about a bad day at the office or a disappointing night out with friends, they chooses to keep their feelings bottled up inside and not express to you what's they're actually thinking. And if your partner is this complicated and hard to read, it's actually not hard to see that there may be an issue with emotional unavailability and detachment.
He's Not Comfortable With Your Emotions
An emotionally unavailable person is also not receptive or supportive when you express your feelings. If your partner becomes uncomfortable, put off, frustrated, or withdrawn when you choose to open up and be vulnerable, this is an indicator that they're not good at handling emotions—both their own as well as yours. In a deep, meaningful, and long-lasting relationship, you and your partner should lend an ear, a shoulder to cry on, and a helping hand, but if your beau isn't willing or able to be there for you when you need them the most, this is a sign that you're with someone who's emotionally unavailable.
His Past Remains a Mystery To You
This type of man is also hardly ever open, honest, and forthright with you about the happenings in his past. And while he certainly doesn't need to divulge every single detail about his relationship history and life story, it's important to keep in mind that having a strong relationship means that you and your partner openly share with one another and get to know each other on a deeper level. However, if he chooses to keep you completely in the dark about key details of his past, this can be a sign that he's emotionally cut off since he's refusing to let you know more about his life. When a man chooses to be a closed book, it's a major warning sign.
Further, if he does open up but you find out he's never been in a serious or committed relationship, take that as a warning sign. "They're scared of intimacy," says licensed couples therapist Brooke Sprowl.
He Often Resorts To Sarcasm
Have you noticed that he brushes everything off with a joke or sarcastic comment? Rather than expressing anger, fear, sadness, or disappointment, an emotionally unavailable man turns things into a joke in order to avoid dealing with raw emotions and to remain strong and unfazed in your eyes. "Making a joke or telling a partner not to feel emotional about a topic is a common mechanism for the emotionally unavailable to try to control the discussion," says Sherry Gaba, licensed psychotherapist.
For instance, even if your man is upset and hurt that he was passed over for a promotion, he'll somehow turn it into a joke and laugh it off in front of you so as to not actually have to process, deal with, and talk about what he's really feeling inside. When he uses sarcasm as a defense mechanism and resorts to laughter over honesty, it's clear that he's cutting himself off emotionally from you.
He's Slow To Commit To You
An emotionally unavailable man is typically not willing or able to truly commit to you and be loyal to you. This type of man will often want to keep things casual and undefined so as to not deal with any of the emotional components that go into a long-term relationship. Men who are emotionally unavailable will often jump from fling to fling because they don't have to fully invest more than what they're willing to or comfortable with. If you'd like to take your relationship with a man to the next level but he wants to remain unattached, friends with benefits, or keep his options open, this can be a clear sign that he's emotionally unavailable.
Communicate with your partner to find out how they feel. Efficient communication will help you avoid wasting your time on someone who doesn't want the same things as you do.
You Can Never Reach Him
If a man is emotionally unavailable, he'll likely put physical distance between you as well. If he ghosts you and then reappears again out of the blue, takes forever to respond to texts, or puts long gaps in between dates, he might be emotionally unavailable.
He Chooses Physical Intimacy Over Emotional Intimacy
It's also quite common for this type of man to want to be physical with you before an emotional connection has been established. "Beware of sexual cues given too early," says marriage and family therapist Darlene Lancer.
Emotionally unavailable men often choose physical intimacy over emotional intimacy so as to not have to deal with the messiness, seriousness, or complications that emotions can bring into a relationship. If he tends to transition into being physical with you amidst potentially deep, emotional, and personal conversations, it's a sign that he's the kind of guy who's emotionally detached.
He Never Makes an Effort
We all want our partners to do more, but a man who never makes an effort is a red flag. "They anticipate being let down, so they don’t make the effort," says marriage therapist Marni Feuerman. If you notice you're always the one planning dates and following up after a date, you might be dating someone emotionally unavailable.