11 Signs Of An Emotionally Unavailable Man You Don't Want To Miss
We all know the type.
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
Image by Igor Madjinca / Stocksy September 22, 2023 We carefully vet all products and services featured on mindbodygreen using our Our selections are never influenced by the commissions earned from our links. Healthy relationships require maintenance, understanding, and mutual give and take for both partners to feel loved and supported. And in the case of emotionally unavailable men, those things can seem particularly difficult to access—so what can you do about it? We asked experts why men can wind up emotionally unavailable, the telltale signs to watch out for, plus how to handle it. Here's what they had to say.
What does it mean to be emotionally unavailable?
Image by Igor Madjinca / Stocksy
September 22, 2023
We carefully vet all products and services featured on mindbodygreen using our
Our selections are never influenced by the commissions earned from our links.
Healthy relationships require maintenance, understanding, and mutual give and take for both partners to feel loved and supported. And in the case of emotionally unavailable men, those things can seem particularly difficult to access—so what can you do about it?
We asked experts why men can wind up emotionally unavailable, the telltale signs to watch out for, plus how to handle it. Here's what they had to say.
Someone who is emotionally unavailable is someone who is not open to intimacy, discussing or sharing their feelings, or otherwise allowing themselves to be vulnerable. As licensed marriage therapist Weena Culins, LCMFT, previously told mindbodygreen, "When a person is emotionally unavailable, it means they're unwilling or unable to manage the emotional aspects of a relationship."
And according to therapist and relationship expert Ken Page, LMFT, emotionally unavailability can arise from a number of different factors, such as childhood trauma, an avoidant attachment style, fear of losing independence and freedom, and even being highly empathetic to the point that you avoid empathy all together.
According to licensed psychotherapist Pam Shaffer, MFT, sometimes we go through phases where we're less emotionally unavailable, and other times it's more "chronic." "It doesn't mean that something is wrong with you," she previously told mindbodygreen, "but it may mean you're using your emotional bandwidth to cope with your own feelings or circumstances, so you don't have enough to necessarily tune into another person."
Why men can struggle with emotional availability
Men and women both have the capacity to become emotionally unavailable, though Page points out that men are particularly traumatized in our culture by gender roles and expectations that suggest they don't show any vulnerability. "[Vulnerability] comes across as really weak and robs a man of a sense of power," he explains, adding that men who become emotionally unavailable may often have been ridiculed for showing emotion in the past.
"There's also a huge amount of mixed cultural messaging saying that, for example, women might want you to be sensitive, but they also want you to be strong. Be vulnerable, but don't be too vulnerable. Show your partner that you care about them, but don't show you need them," he says.
And this kind of messaging applies to everything from emotional connection to sexual connection. "A man might shut down in the bedroom because he might have impulses, desires, or fantasies that don't seem 'fully masculine,' might seem more submissive, vulnerable, or emotional—so all of that gets shut down," Page notes.
Of course, this leads to the classic anxious versus avoidant dance that many heterosexual couples go through. A straight woman faced with an emotionally unavailable man will feel frustrated in the lack of emotional nourishment the relationship provides, Page explains, which leads to her feeling more insecure and anxious about the relationship.
This dynamic can also be present in the LGBTQ+ community, Page adds, however, because the queer community tends to have more freedom when it comes to crossing gender boundaries, gay men might not feel the same pressure to be "hyper-masculine."
11 signs of emotionally unavailable men
They're uncomfortable with serious conversations
Discomfort talking about feelings or anything that requires a bit of vulnerability is a big sign of emotional unavailability. "This can be due to a fear of intimacy or conflict," according to relationship therapist Jelisha Gatling, LMFT.
They minimize your feelings
Minimizing another person's feelings is another indication of emotional unavailability. As licensed clinical social worker Canh Tran, LCSW explains, someone who's emotionally unavailable might reach for their phone when you're crying, or even laugh at your emotional anguish, tears, etc.
If this guy's primary response to any glimpse of conflict is defensiveness, rather than being able to talk about it or acknowlede their part, Gatling warns that's a big sign of emotional unavailability. (It's also one of the top four predictors of divorce, too, for what it's worth.)
Communication isn't consistent
Inconsistency in communication, according to relationship therapist Jelisha Gatling, LMFT, is another warning sign of an emotionally unavailable man. This could look like "disappearing and being vague about it and coming back without any explanation" she says.
Additionally, if someone is "leaving you guessing as to when they are going to talk to you, chances are good that they are not emotionally available to truly connect and make you feel heard," notes licensed psychotherapist Pam Shaffer, LMFT.
It's a great irony that insecurity in relationships can cause people to push away the very thing that might help them feel more secure. However, as licensed psychotherapist Antranique Neblett, LCSW previously told mindbodygreen, insecure people may sabotage relationships in order to avoid closeness.
Their relationship history is one big red flag
If the person you think is emotionally unavailable has a track record of infidelity, situationships, ghosting, breadcrumbing, or anything else that shows reluctance to connect intimately, take that at face value. It can be enticing to think you might be the one person who changes them into a tender and loving partner, but odds are, they're just going to treat your relationship like all the other relationships in their past.
They feel smothered by intimacy
Often for people who are emotionally unavailable, their primary drive is independence and their greatest fear is engulfment, or becoming dependent on another person, according to licensed couples therapist Brooke Sprowl, LCSW, CNTS. "In other words, losing themselves in another person or being subsumed," she says, adding that they then seek space and solitude to regulate their anxiety, especially during conflicts."
They don't want to label the relationship
If the person you're dating doesn't want to "label" the relationship, chances are they are not emotionally available to give you the kind of love and support you're looking for. As Shaffer explains, "Relationships can take many forms, but if someone refuses to define their relationship or talk about what you can both expect from it while still wanting all the benefits of it, they might not be ready to be an available partner."
They're impossible to please
For people who are emotionally unavailable, convincing themselves that you're not the right partner for them is all too easy. As sexologist Gigi Engle previously wrote for mindbodygreen, "If you feel like you need to be perfect, chill, sexy, and interesting all the time in order to keep someone interested, chances are you're not the issue."
As she explains, emotionally unavailable people can be impossible to mollify because "they are always looking for something negative to latch onto in order to justify their crappy behavior." She adds that they may even seek perfection in imperfect humans so they can use your flaws as justification for ending things or not getting serious with you.
There's no mutual understanding or trust
According to Shaffer, if you're second-guessing what you say all the time or can't get a clear answer on what your partner wants or needs from a relationship, they may not be available to be vulnerable with you. This can also lead to a feeling of "walking on eggshells," in which you worry one wrong step or word uttered will lead this person to stop calling you.
This relates to Engle's aforementioned point about emotionally unavailable people looking for impossible perfection as justification for keeping their distance. If you're on the receiving end of this, you might feel like you can't open up either.
They're only free when it's convenient for them
Lastly, people who are emotionally unavailable are only going to make time for you when it's convenient for them. They tend to value control over situations and aren't willing to compromise, according to Engle, who notes, "If the person you're seeing wants you to bend over backward to fit yourself around their schedule but won't inconvenience themselves to do the same, chances are they are emotionally unavailable."
What to do about it
Know that you're worthy of love
It's not uncommon to get involved with emotionally unavailable people when we ourselves feel it's the best we can get. As such, Page says, remind yourself of your own self-worth, and further, acknowledge that you're worthy of the love you desire.
We often convince ourselves that something about us is stopping us from receiving love, but "this myth that we hold dear to our hearts causes us to enact cycles of pain for ourselves and others," Page says, adding, "And that gets terribly triggered by people who cannot accept us and love us for who we are."
If you want to try and maintain your relationship with this person, you'll need to set some ground rules. According to Page, we're never going to have all of our needs met by one person, but we can at least explain our bottom lines. This could look like telling them, "I need you to not disappear for days at a time, or if you do need space, please let me know."
You can also attempt to understand their fears and limits around intimacy so you can help "crack their shell," so to speak, with compassion. However, Page warns, this can become a slippery slope of internalizing your own needs and shaming yourself for wanting more from this person.
Following these kinds of conversations, you can assess whether they seem to be becoming more emotionally available, but our honest advice is: don't hold your breath. For many unavailable people, the more you try to force the issue, the more they will withdraw.
Cut ties if the relationship is draining you
Finally, if you're getting no where with this person, it's always better to cut ties and go no-contact to prevent the relationship from further impacting your mental and emotional health. Being repeatedly drawn into relationships with emotionally unavailable people, which Page refers to as an "attraction of deprivation," can be detrimental to our self esteem and trust in others, so do not be afraid to quit while you're ahead.
What is an emotionally unavailable man like?
An emotionally unavailable man will be uncomfortable with emotional conversations, intimacy, labeling relationships, or otherwise feeling close to another person.
Do emotionally unavailable men love you?
It is possible for an emotionally unavailable man to love another person, however they may still resist it or try to keep their distance. A healthy relationship won't be possible until they learn to overcome their unavailability.
Can you stay with an emotionally unavailable man?
Yes, you can stay with an emotionally unavailable man, but that doesn't mean you should. Sometimes we go through unavailable phases, but if nothing is changing, your best bet is to walk away.
Finding yourself attracted to an emotionally unavailable man can be as frustrating as it is exhausting, and while the idea of finally winning them over can seem enticing, it's often fruitless and harmful to our mental and emotional health.
As Page puts it, you're far better off, instead, "Looking for that rich, nourishing feeling of peace when you're with people who regularly and consistently are available to you." Anything less is not worth your love and energy—so don't forget it.