Everyone has their own dream of what makes an ideal man. Maybe it’s a man you can share everything with and a man that’s always there for you. However, sometimes you end up with an emotionally unavailable man, and that can make you feel frustrated and unsatisfied. Dealing with this sort of man and getting him to open up can be vital to having a fulfilling relationship.
Be careful, however, that you aren’t trying to fix someone who simply can’t be fixed or that you’re looking at this man like as a project. If you’re giving 100 percent of yourself to this relationship, and he’s not giving nearly as much as you are, he’ll realize that you aren’t placing a high value on yourself. Once you’ve established that pattern, it becomes more difficult to get a guy motivated to give more of himself. The longer you’ve been accepting minimal commitment and involvement from him the harder it gets to change things.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE EMOTIONALLY UNAVAILABLE
Being emotionally unavailable is also known as having trouble with emotional attachment. It’s characterized by a lack of emotional intimacy. On the other hand, someone who is emotionally available isn’t just there physically. They offer support and care .
If you’re seeing someone who is unavailable emotionally, you might struggle to become closer and to learn what’s really on his mind.
Related: 9 Vital Conditions For True & Deep Emotionally Intimacy
There are two reasons men are emotionally unavailable: They really are into you but they just don’t know how to be close. Or they just aren’t into you. This makes it difficult to decide whether you should move on or to try to get him to commit. If you wish to try, make sure you develop a life outside of him, so that you aren’t totally dependent on him to fulfill all your needs.
Plus, when he sees that you have other interests besides him, he’s more likely to feel safe enough to show more commitment to you. Men who are emotionally unavailable shy from women who expect too much from them or who are needy. More on that here.
But first things first, let’s learn the signs that a guy is emotionally unavailable. Remember that women can be emotionally unavailable, too, and these signs can also apply to you!
WAYS TO IDENTIFY AN EMOTIONALLY UNAVAILABLE MAN:
It’s not hard to see if he’s emotionally unavailable if you look for the signs…
1. HE’S DISTANT
When your man is distant, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s unavailable emotionally; he could be dealing with a problem in his life that has nothing to do with you, such as trouble in his family or problems at work. But distance could mean he’s emotionally unavailable. When a man acts distant toward you, he typically pulls back. He might not mention seeing you over the weekend, or maybe he’s not affectionate with you.
Sometimes people withhold information about their pasts because of guilt or shame. It might not even be something that was under their control or that you would judge him for (sexual assault is an example). But if he cannot find a way to communicate with you, it will still be an obstacle to your intimacy.
Beware when this behavior becomes secretive. If he has no excuse for his distance or if you know he’s lying, it could be a sign that he’s cheating on you with someone else with whom he does have emotional intimacy or is simply unwilling to commit to you or let you go.
Be on the lookout for accusations that you’re the cheater, too. People who lie often become suspicious and make accusations in return.
2. IT’S JUST SEX FOR HIM
If you started having sex with your guy right away and now the relationship revolves around sex and nothing else, it’s a sure sign that your guy is emotionally unavailable. He might be in the relationship only for sex. After all, even though he’s emotionally unavailable, he probably still wants sex! If you try to get more emotionally involved with a man who wants only sex, he’ll probably break the relationship off at that point.
This is okay if you’re only looking for something casual – read more about that here – but will spell trouble if you want more.
Sometimes a person will lead you on when they know you have feelings even if they don’t feel the same. Sex is a common way that people use others. Look for these signs that he’s using you.
3. HE DISAPPEARS FROM TIME TO TIME
If your man is there for you only when it’s convenient for him, he might be an emotionally unavailable man who has a fear of commitment. If you ask him to spend more time with you, he’ll likely come up with an excuse, such as he’s really busy at work. He might spend an entire weekend with you, but then he might just disappear without letting you know, and he won’t communicate with you much or at all while he’s gone.
Related: Why Is He Ignoring Me?
If a guy like this tells you he loves you but then engages in the disappearing act, he’s probably emotionally distant.
4. HE NEVER INVESTS IN THE RELATIONSHIP
If you feel as if you’re constantly working to keep him interested, even trying to change your personality or appearance to something you think he’ll like, you’re probably with an emotionally unavailable man. Lack of investment in the relationship can take some surprising forms. For instance, if he’s unwilling to argue, it might not be a sign that he’s not interested in working out your issues or hearing your side rather than a sign of someone who is mature enough to avoid fighting.
Remember that never working through issues is just as toxic as always fighting. More about toxic relationships.
This might lead to you doing things to upset him or trying to goad him into an argument because you’re looking for any sign that this guy cares about you.
5. HE’S TOO FLATTERING
Everyone likes a little flattery, but if your man seems to do it to distract you from how he can’t seem to commit emotionally, it’s not a good sign. He’s trying to keep you happy and distracted enough so you’ll stay on his hook. It’s all about the seduction, but he may not be interested in reeling you in. Eventually, you need to talk about the real stuff, even if it’s a little dark. This leads us to our next point.
6. IT’S ALWAYS POSITIVE
Similarly, someone who is interested in being with you only for the good times and never the bad isn’t being emotionally available. This might initially seem like a light and fun relationship, but his true colors show whenever you want to talk about real stuff. In a healthy relationship, you both support one another when the time comes. It’s not always pretty.
7. EVERYTHING HAS TO BE JUST SO
Does your man require everything to be just so? Maybe he has a routine and there’s no room to alter it. If you find yourself working around his schedule and preferences all the time, he may not be available to you emotionally. Not only is this exhausting, but it’s completely unfair.
Relationships require compromise. So why do you do it? You might realize that if you’re not living up to his perfect ideal, he’ll leave. People who are emotionally unavailable often focus on flaws as a reason not to commit to people because they’re actually scared to commit. The truth is that no one deserves that behavior, and you’re probably better off without him.
8. HE’S NEVER VULNERABLE
Emotional intimacy requires the ability and willingness to open up and be vulnerable. We show others our innermost selves and dark pasts. We give them the opportunity to hurt us and hope that they don’t. A man who does not allow himself to be vulnerable is going to find it difficult to be emotionally available. Don’t waste too much time on him unless you never want to know who he truly is.
9. HE’S ALWAYS ARROGANT
Confidence is attractive, anyone will tell you that. But if he’s overconfident and downright cocky, don’t be surprised if he’s also emotionally unavailable. This goes hand in hand with not being able to be vulnerable because he’s never looking inside to get to know who he really is — or letting you do the same. That bravado is often false, a disguise for low self-esteem that gets in the way of intimacy.
10. HE TELLS YOU
Sometimes men who are unavailable emotionally will actually tell you they don’t want a commitment, but you might not believe it, or you think you can be the one to change things. This is often a mistake. If you insist on trying to change him, make sure you don’t try for too long. If he says “I’m not ready for a relationship,” assume that he doesn’t want to or can’t be emotionally available right now.
Otherwise, you would have wasted time that you could have spent on someone who is ready for a relationship. If a guy never calls you his girlfriend, routinely cuts off contact with you for several days (until he’s ready to see you again), and comes right out and says that he’s not looking to be in a relationship right now, maybe you should believe him.
In that case, it might be time to break up.
WHY IS HE EMOTIONALLY DETACHED?
There are several reasons why a person might be emotionally unavailable.
- He’s immature and doesn’t know what a real relationship takes including all the commitment and effort that go into it. He might not understand that relationships require emotional intimacy (what is this?) in addition to physical intimacy
- He doesn’t know how to foster healthy attachment, perhaps due to his own relationship with his parents. A man’s childhood relationship with his mother can color how he views women for his entire ife .
- He only wants you for sex or to boost his confidence. This may be the case if he’s married and you’re his mistress – learn what do do when you’re in love with a married man.
- He isn’t over his ex.
- He suffers from a mental health condition like schizophrenia , depression [4 – this study specifically documented it in mothers with infants], PTSD , etc) that makes it difficult for him to achieve true emotional intimacy.
- He wants to break up with you, but he’s too chicken to do it. Look for these other signs he wants to break up.
- He’s afraid of having his heart broken, especially if he’s recently been hurt.
- He is a victim of sexual assault and is having a difficult time connecting again. Check out this post about having sex after a sexual assault for advice.
- He struggles with addiction to substances or behaviors such as gambling. It’s difficult to connect with people who have compulsive behavior that they cannot control.
- He’s currently going through something such as a death in the family or health issue that he has to prioritize over your relationship.
- He doesn’t know how to get deeper. He’s always looking for fun and never dives into the true issues that life presents. He might be quite shallow or seriously missing out on meaningful experiences and relationships.
Do you see yourself in any of these reasons? Perhaps you’re afraid to commit or fall in love so you avoid putting yourself in positions where you could get hurt. Are you really so independent that you don’t need anyone else? Do you worry about losing your independence or sense of self when you’re in a relationship?
Maybe you don’t think you’re worthy of a relationship and are always waiting for the other shoe to drop (this might lead to self-sabotage). On the other hand, you might avoid emotional intimacy and keep yourself closed off because you’re actually keeping an eye open for something better.
Finally, You might feel anger or distrust toward men because of an ex.
You might be emotionally unavailable if you struggle with intimacy in general. Examine your relationships with friends and family. Are they distant? Have others tried to get closer to you but you resisted?
HOW YOU CAN FIX AN EMOTIONALLY UNAVAILABLE MAN
If you are with an emotionally unavailable man, there are some things you can do to “fix” him. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t fix every man and that some men should just be avoided. For example, younger, inexperienced guys are often emotionally unavailable. And some men will just never commit. But if you feel as if the relationship can be better than what it is, there are some things you can try.
1. GIVE HIM SOME SPACE/TIME
It sounds like giving him space when he’s already distant would be the opposite of what you should do. It seems only natural that if he’s unavailable emotionally and is distant, you should get closer. But that might make him close off from you even more. You are now chasing him, and he’s running away.
The thing to do is to let him have his space. If you’re in a relationship (and he wants to continue it), he’ll eventually contact you. When he does, you can then use that opportunity to tell him what you’re experiencing in the relationship.
Time, like space, can be helpful. This is especially true if he’s unavailable because of something he’s currently going through that might pass such as the passing of a parent or a divorce (especially when you’re not yet officially a couple). Sometimes life events just take precedence over a relationship and can lead to emotional unavailability . Beware if he frequently becomes emotionally unavailable as the first sign of stress, however; this could be a sign that he handles stress poorly or isn’t mature.
2. DON’T JUDGE HIM
Let him know (and demonstrate to him) that you are open to him and won’t judge him. You should let him know that you feel hurt by the distance you sense between the two of you. Tell him your feelings without blaming or accusing him. For example, instead of asking him why he just left for three days without telling you first, when he’s with you, let him know how much you enjoy being with him. If he knows that you’re OK with him leaving from time to time, he’ll be more likely to let you know beforehand next time.
3. TELL HIM YOUR NEEDS
Make sure he understands that you need an emotionally available man. When your man is emotionally unavailable or when he withdraws from you, you probably feel neglected. You might also feel uneasy because you aren’t sure where you stand with him, and that might make you sad or angry. He needs to know how you feel because of the way he acts toward you. If he wants to be part of your life, and if he cares for you or loves you, he’ll want you to be happy. As long as he knows that he can still be himself, he should be able to be close and connected with you.
4. TALK ABOUT CONFLICT
Because he’s emotionally unavailable, he probably avoids conflict. Let him know that dealing with conflict is a normal and necessary part of a relationship. In fact, if he always avoids conflict, the relationship is more likely to end because problems are not being addressed. And unaddressed problems become bigger the longer that they are allowed to go on.
When you approach him to discuss the conflict, make sure the talk doesn’t turn into a fight. It might be easier to bring this up when you’re doing something else together, such as walking the dog. Note that if you’re both hotheads, it’s probably better not to bring this up while he’s driving. But if you can discuss things calmly, it should be OK.
Stay calm. Don’t yell, curse, or interrupt him. And practice active listening. That means you are really hearing and taking in what he has to say. You are not busy thinking about your response. When he’s had his turn, you take yours. Now that you both know what the problem is and you’ve both stated your positions, you can act to solve the problem together.
This is a pleasant method of conflict resolution. One of the reasons emotionally unavailable men avoid conflict is that they don’t want to get into a fight. Now that he knows that you can have a discussion without getting emotional, he should be more likely to talk things out with you when there’s a problem.
Remember that the two of you are a team so it’s less about how you can change him and more about building a strong and healthy relationship together. He’ll be resistant if he thinks you’re just trying to change him. Together, you can learn how to be emotionally available and develop healthy attachment styles.
Focus on letting your partner get to know you without worrying about shame or judgment. Let him know your hopes and fears. Find little ways to be vulnerable and open.
You might have to do the hard work of examining your fears to determine if they’re rational. You and your partner might find it helpful to seek a therapist to deal with your intimacy issues and learn how to be emotionally available to one another. Or you may want to go on your own to get over past traumas.
WHEN IT’S TIME TO MOVE ON
While it’s often possible to become more emotionally available and improve your relationship, you really need to work toward it. What do you do if it doesn’t seem possible, especially if the guy you’re seeing who is emotionally unavailable? You can’t force anyone to do something that they don’t want, and this includes striving for more emotional intimacy and availability. If you stay in a relationship with a person like this, you’re likely to feel self-doubt and anxiety about your relationship.
Trust issues (read more about them) can stem from a relationship where your partner is emotionally unavailable.
Instead, you might have to make a difficult decision and end your relationship. This is especially true if you know that he’s emotionally detached because he’s seeing or, even worse, married to someone else. He might indicate that he wants to leave his relationship, but he has no motivation to do so if you’re aware and still dating or sleeping with him.
Check out our advice for dating a married man… if you have to.
While breaking up with someone isn’t easy, we wrote 10 tips that will make it easier to break up with someone.
After you break up with him, you might beat yourself up for falling for someone who wasn’t there for you — and his actions. However, many of us have done it in the past. Some people might argue that this is just one type of man that everyone falls for. Discover the 14 types of guys.
But if you find yourself repeatedly going for the type of guy who is emotionally unavailable, cannot commit, and avoids intimacy, you might want to examine yourself. Do you have low self-esteem? Maybe you think that you aren’t worth someone who will treat you better or have an unhealthy attachment style. You might not be able to fully commit yourself, so you wind up with this type of guy. Perhaps you jump into relationships before you get a chance to see a person’s negatives.
Some people even relive past traumas in their current relationships. Women often try to fix men and turn them into “projects.” It might make you feel useful, but every person has to fix themselves, which you should do if you’re focusing on his problems to avoid your own. Maybe it makes you feel good that you get special attention from someone who has issues with other people.
Finally, you might crave the drama and excitement that you get because you’re unsure about this guy. As frustrating as it can be, it can also be enticing. The same goes for the mysterious allure of a guy who won’t reveal himself. Add in stubbornness — you’re not willing to give up — and you might not be allowing yourself to experience a healthy relationship.
Raising your standards and your self-esteem can prevent you from winding up with guys who refuse to commit and aren’t good for you. Be authentic and vulnerable yourself. Some people advise doing the opposite of what you always do. Look for a guy who truly cares about you, complements you and challenges you, instead of the emotionally unavailable person.
It’s problematic to be with a man who’s unavailable emotionally. You can never get as close as you would like to be, and your relationship can stagnate. Try focusing on your needs and asking yourself why you’re with an emotionally unavailable man. You might have some self-esteem issues that need fixing before you can fix your man. Know that with time and the right attitude, some men can change. Now that you know what to do, try to get your guy to open up so that you can both enjoy a fulfilling and satisfying relationship.