Author: Sarah Meyer & Renée Shen
Emotionally unavailable men are the men who, for whatever reason, do not readily form an emotional connection with women.
I’m sure we all know a few of these guys - and if you’re mainly meeting men online, you may know more than just a few.
These men may be the last ones in their social circle to “settle down”, and they may have a lot of resistance to the idea of falling in love and committing to one woman.
They may talk a lot about their ambitions, spend time with a lot of different women, and be more interested in travelling and having adventures than they are in making deep connections.
As a woman, these kinds of patterns can bring out the obsessive or desperate side of you.
If you spend enough time around an emotionally unavailable man, you might start to feel like you’re not good enough or pretty enough to deserve love and commitment.
The logic you may tell yourself is this: if I was good enough, he would give it to me.
You might feel like you’re giving him so much - maybe everything you have - but he just isn’t interested in giving back to you.
And yet as soon as another woman comes around, he’s all over her, giving her all the attention you wish he’d give to you.
What’s up with that?
And is there anything you can do to change the way your man sees you?
Is there any chance he’s actually been in love with you the whole time, but has somehow been afraid or reluctant to show it?
Are there specific signs an emotionally unavailable man is in love with you?
Just before get get in to the signs in depth, it’s important that you understand one distinction, and that is the distinction between an emotionally unavailable man and a man who is simply exhibiting masculine behaviors.
Let’s briefly discuss that now.
Table of Contents
Emotional unavailability is a bit of a catch-all phrase at the moment; people use it in a range of contexts to describe different kinds of problems that men (and women) can have in relationships.
It’s important to note that a lot of the things that we think of as emotional unavailability can actually be normal, or say more about the circumstances of a specific relationship than about the man’s psychology.
There are key gender differences in mating behaviour, for example, that can look like differences in emotional unavailability.
Here’s more on how to identify an emotionally unavailable man in Renée and David’s live Q and A on emotionally unavailable men:
For most of human history, we were hunter gatherers, and women were reliant on men for protection and resources during pregnancy, breast-feeding, and child-rearing.
They needed to ensure that they had emotional investment from the man they were sleeping with, and that they chose men of the highest genetic quality to mate with during their relatively short fertility window.
Because of these patterns, even now women tend to naturally get attached to men they are having sex with, and to try to form pair bonds with them.
But men did not face the vulnerability and high costs of child bearing and child rearing that women did, and they did not necessarily adapt to form these close attachments or pair bonds so readily.
Many generations later, men still tend to approach sex from a more detached place than we might intuitively understand as women, because it is a much less risky endeavour for them.
With this in mind, having a preference for casual sex doesn’t always mean a man is emotionally unavailable.
Sometimes it just means that his emotional investment hasn’t been triggered yet - and we don’t always intuitively know how to trigger this in men.
I tend to believe that most men, even when we think they are emotionally unavailable or commitment phobic, have the capacity to form a pair bond with a woman if the relationship unfolds in the right way.
But there are a few exceptions of course, and there are many different patterns that men can show up with in relationships, some of which can make them more difficult to connect with.
When you understand men and the way they naturally approach emotional investment and commitment, it becomes much easier to work out which men are worth your time.
If you’d like to learn how to weed out the weak and create emotional attraction with the “BEST” of men, I recommend using the dark feminine art of high value banter…
CLICK here to discover why you as a woman need to use the dark art of “High Value Banter” in order to quickly weed out the wrong types of men and create emotional attraction with the "BEST of MEN"! (...Even if no man has ever given you any love and all you've encountered so far are pen pals, ghosts, booty calls, and incredible duds!)
It could be a man with an avoidant attachment style who experiences a lot of anxiety and avoidance in intimate relationships.
It could be a narcissistic or sociopathic man who isn’t really able to see you as an individual, and only approaches you for what you can do for him.
For the purposes of this article, I will try to focus on the most common scenario - where a man has some significant resistance to intimacy and commitment with a woman, but he isn’t completely cut off or abusive.
An emotionally unavailable man in this context might be someone who:
When it comes to men like this, it can be harder to get close to them and to feel that they love you, even when they actually do.
Let’s look at 6 signs an emotionally unavailable man is in love with you.
When we think about signs an emotionally unavailable man is in love with you, we often focus on things like how romantic he is, the words he says, or the gifts he buys.
But when it comes to emotionally unavailable men, this may not be so helpful.
Emotionally unavailable men tend to be introverted, reserved, and sometimes risk averse.
They often experience avoidant attachment patterns, growing up with emotionally neglectful or otherwise unstable parents, and feel unsafe or uncomfortable with displays of emotion.
They may also subconsciously perceive their needs as shameful or dangerous, and try to avoid becoming dependent on others.
A man like this may be much more comfortable showing his love through actions.
He may not have a good vocabulary for emotion and relationship, and may even struggle with alexithymia, a condition where people have difficulty describing and identifying their own emotions.
Instead, if he loves you, you might see him fixing your car if it’s having problems, or helping you with technology or investing or other areas where he has knowledge to share.
He might not say much, or even come up short on romantic occasions, but then you’ll find him clearing the snow from your front walk or fixing your fence or simply picking up groceries for you.
Look out for consistent problem solving.
If you have a problem, does he try to fix it for you most of the time - maybe without even talking to you about it?
If so, this is one of the strongest signs an emotionally unavailable man is in love with you.
One of the signs an emotionally unavailable man is in love with you is that he prefers your company to the company of others.
This is important, because when it comes to people who are emotionally unavailable or avoidant, they may tend to spend more time on their own than most people, and may have a different baseline for connecting with others.
They may struggle to share even basic information about themselves, subconsciously worrying that this information may be used against them, and may not have skills or experience in getting close to others.
For this reason, if you’re trying to figure out where you stand with an emotionally unavailable man, it’s important to consider his individual baseline for relationships and connection.
Does he have close friends that he can go to for support?
Would he be okay failing or losing in front of them?
Does he tell them things about his life, or does he stay superficial and only share his triumphs and successes?
Does he express his opinions, or does he go along with what other people think?
Once you’ve observed and answered those questions, compare the way he is with friends and family with the way he is with you.
Do you get more out of him than most people do?
Does he seem to find a way to establish routines and habits that put him in your proximity more than others’?
If he has routines (not just routines related to sex) with you, and he misses them when they get disrupted or changed, this is a great sign he loves you.
So is just being willing to hang out with you without doing anything in particular (like having sex).
The evidence may be a little hard to see if you’re not looking for it, but once you do, it might become extremely obvious how he feels.
By the way, if you want to discover exactly how likely your guy is to commit to you, you can take our quick and easy quiz:
QUIZ TIME! Is your man serious about committing to you? CLICK here to find out with the specially crafted quiz! (All the answers you seek about him lie within these 8 questions).
An emotionally unavailable man might be reserved, but he can also be very observant.
This may be the result of his natural detachment, or it might arise from emotionally abusive or neglectful parenting that led him to become hypervigilant and outward focused.
Either way, if an emotionally unavailable man is in love with you, he’s probably thought a lot about you and spent a lot of time figuring out how you work.
He doesn’t want to make a mistake and waste his emotional resources on the wrong woman, and he’s probably also pretty fascinated by you.
It’s not just anyone that can trigger attraction in an emotionally unavailable man.
If he’s in love, you might find him remembering bizarre little details about the first time you met, such as:
This sign works best when the details he remembers have less to do with sex, and more to do with your personality or other unique qualities.
He might also memorise your preferences and your interests, because those things will become more interesting to him too through his feelings for you.
He won’t be able to help this.
He may not be interested in what your bitchy coworker said to Amanda the other day, but he will remember that recipe that your grandmother taught you when you were 8 or that random song lyric that you said you liked.
Pay attention, also, if he tends to just watch you from afar.
Not in a creepy, stalkerish way, but if his eyes are on you from across the room as you talk to people or dance.
This is a good sign that he loves you (unless he has reason to be jealous), because it shows that he’s imagining being near you.
It could also mean that you’ve become something of a bridge between him and other people - someone that brings him out of his shell socially- and he wants you to come back to him so he can feel comfortable again.
This is more the case for introverted men - but it may apply to your situation and certainly to the more reserved emotionally unavailable men.
If he’s outgoing and extroverted but won’t open up emotionally, look for similar situations where he accesses a softer side of his personality in your presence.
If a man is in love with you, he cannot help but feel responsible for your happiness.
And even if he’s emotionally unavailable and doesn’t necessarily get all your emotional needs or know what to do to make you feel better, you will still see him taking some responsibility for you.
What does this look like with an emotionally unavailable man?
Well, he might be more responsive to direct emotion than indirect communication.
He might take responsibility only for the things that you’re explicit about or obviously upset by.
He might not be so good with taking hints or anticipating what will hurt you, but if you show him something really matters to you, he will remember that thing and make a painfully excessive effort to work around it.
And maybe not in the way you imagined he would, either.
Maybe in a very literal way that doesn’t quite get to the point you were trying to make, but you still think it’s sweet that he tried.
Or, if there’s something you really want or love, he might put in a tonne of effort towards helping you fulfill that dream, without even saying much about it.
He might spend a long term researching the perfect gift for you, or go to great lengths to surprise you.
This is another major sign an emotionally unavailable man is in love with you.
The final sign an emotionally unavailable man is in love with you is that he gets hurt if you pull away from him or leave him.
Although I wouldn’t recommend testing this one, it does happen somewhat more often in relationships with emotionally unavailable men that we women are the ones to pull away.
This might happen because we feel hurt by his inconsistency or “hot and cold” behaviour.
It also happens when we become upset because there was something really obvious he could have done to show love, that he couldn’t manage to do.
I know in my own past relationship with a man like this, I sometimes felt so hurt and disillusioned that I had to pull away to evaluate the situation.
Alternatively, sometimes the pulling away is less deliberate, and we just get busy or find other connections more fulfilling.
Sometimes it’s more circumstantial, like moving away or starting a new job.
Again, this is not a strategy that I would recommend using to test where he’s at, but it may be something that naturally comes up in your relationship anyway.
Whatever the reason, if an emotionally unavailable man loves you, you should expect a big reaction if you distance yourself from him.
I'm not condoning any crazy behaviour here, but you might expect to see a lot of hurt, anger, confusion and fear of betrayal on his part.
This is partly because an emotionally unavailable man is less likely to have a good gauge on where the relationship is going.
He might think things are stable and going well, even while you’ve been unhappy for years and have one foot out the door.
He might not see the things he’s not giving you, and mistake his own contentment for yours.
He may also experience a lot of shock when he realises you’re not happy with him.
It can also be because he might not realise your value until he actually has to face losing you.
This can happen because his awareness of his own emotions is somewhat blunted due to his avoidant attachment or even alexithymia.
While any man in love will be deeply upset and hurt when his relationship with you is threatened, an emotionally unavailable man’s reaction may be surprisingly intense relative to his usual behaviour.
This may be one of the only examples you can think of where you felt sure that he cared, that he was invested in the relationship after all.
Of course, this is not a great sign of the health of the connection, and just because an emotionally unavailable man loves you does not mean that the relationship is worth keeping.
Having experienced a relationship where there is no uncertainty about how we feel about each other, I would never choose to go back to an emotionally unavailable man who kept me guessing and only showed his true feelings for me in a few heated moments.
But I know that every relationship is different, and sometimes it can be very hard to let go of someone you love, even if they are unpredictable or struggle to reciprocate.
Only you can decide whether you want to keep building love and intimacy with this particular man.
It’s certainly possible for people to recover from emotional unavailability - or at least, from insecure attachment.
(If this is you, or you think you might be anxiously attached, I recommend you take our quick, women-specific quiz to discover your attachment style):
(Why is this important? It is because your core attachment style largely dictates and influences what happens in your relationship. Thus it’s imperative you understand your core attachment style!)
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that with enough time, trust, and challenge, men and women all over the world are moving towards secure attachment and greater emotional openness.
This process is often helped by their patient and loving partners.
As long as your man is willing, you can certainly help him find his way out - and encourage him into deeper intimacy and connection.
If you’re pretty sure your emotionally unavailable guy is an avoidant, I recommend you read this article by Renée on 11 Genius Ways To Communicate To An Avoidant Partner.
Sarah has a Masters in psychology and works as a special education advisor in early childhood. She lives in Auckland, New Zealand, with her partner and two children. She has a passion for evolutionary psychology, attachment theory, and personality psychology.
Author & Editor For National Council for Research on Women. Founder of the popular women's dating & relationship advice website, The Feminine Woman.
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