8 Signs You Are With An Emotionally Unavailable Man
A while back I asked this question on my Facebook wall:
Women: I’m curious how you “spot” an emotionally unavailable guy. What are the most common signs in your experience?
I got some great responses, and I asked a similar question to women in my private community.
I geek out on this subject because I was a very emotionally unavailable man for over a decade. And it caused me a TON of pain and failures in my relationships.
So I know the “emotionally unavailable guy” pretty well.
Anyone who’s dated a guy like this can probably understand how frustrating and confusing it can be. So, here’s a quick guide on the 8 signs he’s emotionally unavailable:
- Self Denial
He’s in constant denial about his feelings by saying, “I’m fine.” This is a classic statement of incongruency that breeds mistrust in you. Most often his denying behavior looks like defensiveness. For example, if you tell him he seems shut down or is emotionally unavailable he will declare that he isn’t. He may insist that there is no problem, that they have a great relationship, or that she’s making “mountains out of molehills.”
I often said I was “fine” when I wasn’t. I also denied that I had any issues that needed to be worked on. I never took responsibility and most often blamed my girlfriends for the way I was feeling.
When he’s incongruent, it triggers mistrust in you. He says one thing, then contradicts that later in his actions or words. So, in a new relationship, maybe he says he wants to be friends, then flirts for more, but later holds the boundary line of “just friends” when you flirt back.
Later, this can show up as him insisting on arrangements that are one-sided.
For example, he clearly states he wants to hang out, but he is uninterested in sharing feelings, validating you, or being there for you when you’re emotionally in a tough spot and reaching out for support.
- Inconsistent and Ambivalent
A bit like incongruence, but here he constantly changes what he wants and what he will offer. Perhaps he shows up big at first, then pulls away after a few months or years. He may be hot for you one week, only to have little interest a few days later. Very push- pull. It’s normal to experience changes in what we want or need, but he regularly gives just enough to hook you before pulling away. He is keenly interested in one kind of intimacy, but avoids another. This means he can be physically affectionate and want sex (especially on his terms) but stops short at expressing his emotions or feelings for you. He can also talk a big game and declare his undying love and devotion, but then avoid physical intimacy.
I did this one with every woman I dated. I’d say I was into them and I was pretty convincing, but a day later, I’d be annoyed and irritable and just want to be alone or with guy friends because I thought they were “easier.” Deep down, men like this are very ambivalent about being close with a woman for a long period of time. The older a man gets, the more he hates this about himself, and he often stays stuck by staying in the relationship, but giving very little.
At a certain point in the relationship, when things get more serious, he begins to distance.
It feels like his primary relationship is with his phone or his computer, not you.
He pulls away or shuts down. He can’t look you in the eyes. He is slow to return texts. He says “I’m busy” or “I’m tired” and vacantly smiles and nods when you shares your feelings or important news, but pretty much stays silent.
His disconnection can also manifest in lots of habitual or even compulsive “checking out” behavior, like TV, alcohol, porn, screen time, his phone, etc.
When I used to get triggered by the women I dated, I didn’t know how to be with myself or my feelings so I would simply disconnect or check out. It’s what most normal people do who don’t know how to deal with their internal upset.
- Disengages from Relationship
After disconnecting, this is where he disengages or "checks out" of the relationship.
He no longer puts his resources (time, energy, money) into nurturing the relationship. Here he stops initiating calls, emails, texts, sex, and conversations about deeper things.
This begins to show up as him always putting himself and his other relationships first. For example, consistently making plans with his guys friends on his normal date night with you, without setting an alternative time with you.
He shows little interest in your life together, from household issues to vacation or weekend plans. This can also manifest as constant “forgetting.”
For me, the moment my relationships got hard, I’d have a very hard time showing my genuine interest, so I put on a fake smile and said things were fine. But inside I was truly losing interest mostly because I didn’t know how to deal with the relationship challenges. And it showed.
Here he indirectly or directly labels you as “too much,” “too sensitive,” “too serious,” “too dramatic,” “crazy,” or neurotic for sharing your feelings and wanting to talk about the relationship and deeper subjects.
When you share your upset and difficult feelings, he makes you wrong for “making such a big deal out it.”
He’s consistently unwilling (or unable) to see your point of view as a valid possibility, and thus, won’t validate your feelings.
Whenever my girlfriends would tell me their upset, I’d become the coach or helper trying to fix them or make them feel better, which often resulted in them feeling dismissed.
- Blame & Avoiding Responsibility
He really doesn’t see his part and avoids taking responsibility for any of his relationship challenges—his fear, his wall, and his guarded heart.
He doesn’t try to see his own contribution to relationship problems, even after you have owned up to your side. His default setting is defensiveness and he makes the relationship challenges about you, then you end up being overly responsible for how the relationship turns out.
He might even avoid responsibility for ending the relationship, long after he has lost interest, saying things like “you deserve better than me” and trying to get you to make the decision.
The only thing I ever owned was that I didn’t want to call her my girlfriend. I didn’t want to say “I love you” because that was reserved for when I met The One. Imagine how the women I dated felt. Yikes.
Here he flat out lies and not only withholds his love from his partners like you, but he literally doesn’t share certain things at all.
Inside his head he justifies this as “If I tell her this she’s just going to freak out and it’s not that big of a deal, so there’s no need to tell her.” But deep down he’s simply scared of your reaction and the conflict he’ll have to deal with (that he doesn’t know how to deal with) when you get upset.
He may also tell someone that he’s happily married but be leaking or running sexual energy with other women. He's too scared to end his marriage or give you a chance to pull out.
Here I wouldn’t tell women that I was beginning to be interested in someone else. I was too scared and freaked out to let her know for fear of creating more drama I didn’t want.
So, now we have a portrait of this guy, a guy you might currently be with.
But remember, your guy isn’t wrong, and it’s not necessarily his fault. If he’s a normal male, he was conditioned into this through his upbringing and doesn’t even know it’s going on with him.
Thus, underneath all of these behaviors lie unconscious motives that serve to keep him safe in his comfort zone.
So, if you can relate to this and are with a man like this, he needs your help, starting with a gentle kick in the ass. And, I have just the approach to take that will get him to care about the relationship again.