Author: Jerri W
If you are reading this, then you are looking for answers about emotionally unavailable men. You are trying to figure out if you are involved with one and what you may be able to do about it.
I remember searching this exact topic myself on google over 2 years ago. The man I was involved with at the time displayed some “interesting” behavior that I did not understand.
It was maddening trying to figure it out, and I would wonder things like:
Is there something wrong with me?
Am I imagining this?
Is this an attachment style or love language discrepancy?
Am I over-analyzing or over-reacting to his behavior?
I read dozens of articles and I even sought support in our Facebook group. The mystery and allure of the emotionally unavailable man was a puzzle I became hell bent on solving.
I felt like I had all the knowledge at my fingertips, yet all it did was confuse and overwhelm me even further.
It is one thing to know the truth, but putting it into practice in our own personal lives is hard.
Long story short: I wasted too much time on the wrong men.
Table of Contents
When my editor asked if I would be interested in writing about emotionally unavailable men, I told her I must be an expert in that because emotionally unavailable men was all I seemed to attract!
Little did I know what I was getting myself into and how much I would learn. Not only about emotional unavailability, but also about why I kept finding myself involved with these types of men.
If any of this sounds familiar at all then keep reading because I am going to share everything I learned as well as 13 Signs of an emotionally unavailable man and how to decide if he is worth it.
Here’s a live Q & A on Emotionally Unavailable Men by Renée And David:
Emotional unavailability is defined as an inability to form or maintain emotional bonds and connection within relationships.
Given that emotional attraction and connection are the most fundamental aspects of any budding relationship, it is easy to see how an emotionally unavailable partner is an obstacle to the genuine fulfilment that we all desire from our relationships.
I once questioned whether one man was emotionally unavailable, or was he avoidantly attached?
While there are a lot of similarities between the two, not all emotionally unavailable people will have an avoidant attachment style, and not all avoidantly attached people will be emotionally unavailable.
There is overlap, and these two things are not mutually exclusive.
The way that emotional unavailability has been glorified by pop culture and society can make things even more confusing (think Sex and the City and the ever so frustratingly mysterious Mr. Big).
Mr. Big was able to maintain an illusion of value with Carrie by remaining emotionally unavailable to her.
The term “emotionally unavailable” is also often used colloquially to describe a married or taken man.
To be able to know the different signs of an emotional unavailable man and how to handle it, is crucial to navigating the confusing and sometimes disheartening landscape of modern dating.
How to deal with an emotionally unavailable man is going to depend on what you ultimately hope to achieve with him.
Only you can answer those questions, but it is something that you must go within to reflect upon.
Relationships between emotionally healthy individuals can be complicated enough! So another good question to ask yourself would be:
“Do I have the emotional resources to be able to properly love and support a man like this?”
Now let us get into the signs of an emotionally unavailable man.
Knowing whether something is lacking in the relationship is:
Regardless, he leaves you confused and never knowing where you really stand with him.
It can feel like you are always wanting more connection and you may begin to feel anxiously attached to him.
It is as if he is the one who Katy Perry wrote her famous song “Hot n Cold” about.
One day he is warm, loving and responsive, the next he is cold, aloof and uninterested (or worse, he is unresponsive!)
You may wonder what is wrong or what has changed.
While it can be normal for men to pull away after intimacy, if this is an ongoing thing or it begins to resemble some sort of weather pattern, this could mean he is emotionally unavailable.
Emotional unavailability can lead a man's behavior to be more hot and cold, as he will be warm with you, up until intimacy is asked of him.
When intimacy is required, he may shut down and pull away love or connection, usually out of fear, feelings in inadequacy, or even just a lack of emotional commitment towards you.
Check out this fantastic article from The Feminine Woman about Why Men Pull Away: 9 Signs & How To Stay High Value.
He might miss or not return your calls, leave you on read for ages and take hours or days to reply.
He is often late, cutting and changing plans at the last minute or abandoning them completely.
When he finally swings back by, he gives vague explanations or excuses for his behavior. He may even try to dismiss it completely and act like nothing unusual happened.
One thing that is for sure though:
A man will not let his ‘one and only’ woman get away for long.
If he is flaky and vague constantly over time, then you are most likely in the “one of many” category in his mind.
It is uncomfortable to think about this way, but men figure out quickly whether you are his “the one and only” or just a “one of many.”
(Even if he’s been distant, avoidant, or losing interest…)
Forget talking about the future or where things are going, the emotionally unavailable man does not like to commit to plans.
(Except for the purpose of paying lip service to future plans of course).
Big commitments like:
All these things absolutely terrify him, but even small things like a date night and catching up can feel impossible to arrange.
This is a sure sign that he always has one foot out the door. Essentially, he is not sure about you and your relationship, or he is emotionally unavailable.
(Keep reading to find out if the emotionally unavailable man can change)
To learn whether he’s serious about you or not, watch this video: Is He Serious About You Or Just “Interested”? Critical Distinction:
He is mysterious and this may very well be one of the things that captivated you about him in the first place.
As human beings we are wired to fixate on and to try to comprehend the things that we do not understand (the pursuits of science and spirituality are good examples of this!)
A man who is mysterious and maintains an illusion of scarcity can be very intriguing. But if he is emotionally unavailable then that’s all it is: mystery and scarcity can produce an illusion of value.
You have probably heard that it is important to maintain a little mystery within a relationship, however the emotionally unavailable man will often take it to the extreme.
You may feel like you never really understand him or know what is on his mind. Attempting to attune to him and his needs will seem extremely complicated, if not impossible.
(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!)
This is remarkably like signs 1, 2 and 4 (although you will notice many common themes throughout these signs of an emotionally unavailable man).
This is further to what I was explaining earlier about how it feels like he always has one foot out the door.
It is as if he is getting ready to make a run for it (and unfortunately if you are dealing with an emotionally unavailable man, then he likely is!)
Unlike the other signs, this one can be more subtle. Especially if he is just holding back a small amount, just enough to protect his own resources while giving you enough to keep you on the hook.
(Read more about breadcrumbing in the next sign!)
This is commonly referred to as “bread crumbing” in the world of dating and relationships, and it is exactly what it sounds like.
Imagine a bird or a rodent. If you give it crumbs every day it will keep coming back, even if the crumbs are of inferior quality or there are not very many of them.
The creature does not care because although it is not much, it is at least a guaranteed supply.
We are not birds or rodents obviously, but these psychological tricks work on humans too. This can look like:
Often an emotionally unavailable man will not put too much effort into pretending to be otherwise, he just won’t say it’s you.
Instead he might say things like:
“I’m not ready for commitment”
“I need time to think/ find myself/ just be single for a while”
“You’re amazing/ I love you but... (insert reason he can’t be with you here)”
All these things are perfectly legitimate reasons to not want to enter a relationship.
However, with the emotionally unavailable man, he will happily continue to see you and even sleep with you if he believes his conscience is clear.
(In his mind, he has been verbally honest, even if his actions say otherwise!)
I was reluctant to include this point because there are a lot of men who have been legitimately burned by legitimately unstable women (just as women have men).
While I would not say this is a sure sign of an emotionally unavailable man, I can confidently say it is at the very least, a warning sign (as it is when anybody badmouths an ex-partner!)
I have experienced this in my own personal relationships. At the time I did not realise the man I was involved with was completely emotionally unavailable.
In hindsight there were many clues in the way he spoke about his ex and their relationship.
He would speak as if her emotional needs were too complex or burdensome on him, and maybe it was partly true.
However, when he later started to treat my needs and feelings with the same contempt, I realised it was not me, he was and always had been, emotionally unavailable.
This is one of the glaringly obvious signs of an emotionally unavailable man.
Not to mention, keeping back burners is easy for men to pull off if they are emotionally unavailable or non-committal.
Because if you are not properly exclusive, or because he is the one who decides the terms and conditions of your relationship, you may feel like you are not able to question his connections or relationships with other women.
By other women I do not necessarily mean dating them. They may actually come in the form of:
While maintaining professional relationships and platonic friendships with other women can be essential and perfectly healthy, the emotionally unavailable man may seem to have an unusual amount of other women in his orbit.
…Or not responsive at all.
We covered this briefly as a part of some of the other signs, but it really deserves a whole point of its own.
I want to distinguish firstly that some people are just not big on texting.
Men are not well known to engage in lengthy text discussions or to text without a goal (like to impress you or to make plans with you).
If you are attuned to him and the relationship, then you will know whether this is the case or not.
But to set you on the right track, consider that:
And you notice a sudden change in his frequency of messages and replies, then this could be one of the signs of an emotionally unavailable man.
Keep in mind, it could also be that he’s unsure how to respond to you and is taking time to craft the right response.
True to his commitment phobic nature, the emotionally unavailable man will never, or rarely ever, include you when he talks about his future.
For example, he might talk about things like:
All while never really mentioning how you or your relationship will fit into any of it.
Emotional unavailability can also present as the extreme opposite: he may have and share lots of grandiose ideas and plans for your future lives together (future faking).
Because if he is emotionally unavailable, he will not have the skills to properly connect with you in any serious discussions about the future.
This is an extension of sign number 8 and one of the most obvious and straightforward signs of an emotionally unavailable man.
Most of the time men are literal speakers - as in they mean what they say, exactly as it is said.
As women we tend to try to decode what people say or to read between the lines - this is a feminine bias of behavior that we engage in.
We are wired to be this way to be able to attune to the needs of our children (after all babies and toddlers cannot verbally communicate well for some time, so we learn to look for other signs and fill in the gaps). Applying this to men too much, however, can be detrimental to your relationships with them.
If I could just impart just one bit of knowledge, just one thing I have learned about men, it would be this:
When a man tells you what he thinks about your relationship, take his word for it.
Do not waste any time trying to guess if he meant something else because most of the time he would not have. As a general rule, men say what they mean, and they mean what they say.
None of these signs are fixed rules and can absolutely be signs of other things like:
The answer to how to get an emotionally unavailable man to open up is to open up yourself first.
Be vulnerable first!
(And there’s a big but…)
Before concerning yourself with how to get him to open up, I would ask you to ask yourself, is it worth it?
This is another question that only you can answer and there is no right or wrong answer, emotionally wounded people deserve love too!
But primarily, you must love yourself more.
In my own experience with being attracted to emotionally unavailable men, I learned that I was attracting what I was putting out.
I was emotionally unavailable myself, yet completely unaware of it.
In my mind, I was present and open to him. Yet in hindsight, I was in a constant state of anxiety and fear, so that was how I showed up in my relationships.
There was not a single person or instance that could have made me open up. It was something I had to figure it out for myself and consciously work on with a willingness to learn to trust men again, and it was not easy!
Some practical and effective ways I have learned about how to get an emotionally unavailable man to lower his defenses are:
The lost dark feminine art of High Value Banter.
Remove emotional pressure from him
I would never recommend anybody to get into a relationship with somebody you wish to change. This is another one of those questions we need to ask ourselves or think:
Just because we could, does that mean we should?
Emotional unavailability is ruled by a fear of abandonment or getting hurt. It is not something that is chosen.
Consider that an emotionally unavailable man is just like you, but he is a man, and he is scared.
As women we are allowed and even encouraged by society to be scared. But we know that for men the reality and expectations are vastly different.
Perhaps it is easier for a man to take his emotions out of the relationship equation, than it is for him to admit and conquer his fears.
Furthermore, it has absolutely nothing to do with you; his emotional unavailability is not your fault nor your responsibility.
That being said, emotionally unavailable people can change, but it would not be wise to think that you can make them change.
To try to change anybody or make anyone do anything they are unwilling to is unethical, if not futile.
I see no reason you could not inspire, encourage, and support an emotionally unavailable man, if you hold no expectations (only you can decide if that is something you have the time and emotional resources for).
I would, however, encourage you to go within and ask yourself what it is that you genuinely want from a relationship, because whatever it is, it is out there!
I hope you enjoyed this article about the 13 signs of an emotionally unavailable man. Please leave a comment below with any signs of emotionally unavailable men that you have experienced yourself!
Jerri W is a hospitality manager, hostess, writer and busy mum of 3 from Melbourne, Australia. With a keen interest in femininity, personal development and the psychology of love and relationships, Jerri is passionate about helping women to get to know themselves and enjoy better relationships..
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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