How To Tell: Emotionally Unavailable Men Characteristics
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated February 11, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Martha Furman, LPC, CAC
Many people searching for a male partner are looking for one who can understand and accept their needs. They usually want someone who is loyal and dependable. One of the most important aspects of a dependable man is his emotional availability. Men who are not emotionally available may not want—or simply cannot understand what you are feeling. As a result, they are often unwilling or unable to help you in a time of an emotional crisis.
Rather than attempting to change your partner, a better approach may be educating yourself about emotionally unavailable men’s typical characteristics. Once you identify these characteristics, you can learn how to avoid emotionally unattached men. Or, if you realize that you happen to be dating an emotionally unavailable man, you can learn how to improve your relationship or decide to end things successfully.
9 Common Traits Of Emotionally Unavailable Men
Many emotionally unavailable men often struggle with issues of insecurity and low self-esteem. Due to past trauma or bad relationships, for example, they might put up an emotional shield to protect themselves from future damage. As a result, they often cannot sustain the deep emotional bonds that a healthy relationship requires. This emotional unavailability can manifest in a variety of characteristics and signs.
In this article, we break down the most common signs of an emotionally unavailable man.
- He Is Giving You Mixed Signals
Emotionally unavailable men generally give their partners a number of mixed signals regarding their interest in the relationship. They could act wholly invested in their relationship one week and then begin ignoring it the following week. Your partner may be giving mixed signals because he is unsure if he wants to be in the relationship. There is also the unfortunate possibility that he is seeing someone else.
Often if a partner is cheating on you or cheating with you, they will act emotionally detached because they know there is a good chance your relationship will fail or burn out. However, if he has recently gotten out of a long and perhaps meaningful relationship, he may not want to settle down. He could still be grappling with past emotional baggage. As a result, he may not want to pursue anything serious at the moment.
If you are looking for a stable or long-term relationship, these “mixed signals” may eventually develop into a significant challenge for you. If this man were to communicate his goals—should he have any—regarding to your relationship, you could make an informed decision based on this information. Unfortunately, emotionally unavailable men often fail to make a firm decision when it comes to their relationships. In even less desirable cases, your partner may actually mislead you. As a result, it will be up to you to often read between the lines and make up your mind on where you believe the relationship will go.
- He Does Not Lend Any Emotional Support To You
One of the most common types of unavailability in men is their inability to make themselves available to you during a personal crisis.
Even if they claim that they have lent a hand of support to you during tough times, a quick analysis of their roles in these past situations might prove otherwise. If you think you are dating an emotionally unavailable man, an important part of deciding how to act will involve separating what he SAYS from what he DOES.
- He Always Comes Up With Excuses For Not Spending Time With You
Some people call it “ghosting.” Others refer to it as “benching or breadcrumbing.” Either way, you might have noticed that your partner is taking longer to respond to text messages than usual or rarely available to hang out with you. The act of ghosting is one of the most common characteristics of emotionally unavailable men.
Emotionally unavailable men are also quick to find excuses to explain wht they are late to visit you, do not show up on dates, or have not spoken to you in a while. They may say that they are busy. But if he is constantly “busy” doing things and hanging out with people who are not you, this could be a red flag.
An additional truth to consider is that we often make time for the things that we consider to be priorities. After all, you are likely making time for him.
- He Avoids Making Long-Term Plans With You
Additionally, emotionally unavailable men tend to avoid making long-term plans or displaying affection toward you in public. Some of this can be a matter of timing, of course, but if you have been with a man for several years and he is hesitant to refer to you as his girlfriend or even broach the subject of marriage with you, then it might be time to reassess the status of your relationship.
- He Is Arrogant
The next time you are out in public, pay attention to how your partner treats other people. One tell-tale sign that he is experiencing pent-up anger or an oversized ego is his quickness to disrespect service workers or anyone he believes he holds power over.
An emotionally unavailable man often develops arrogance from a lack of self-esteem. In order to feel the power and control he lacks, he must show others that he is “better” than them. In his mind, they should serve him, not the other way around. Arrogant men with self-esteem issues may also display narcissistic traits and constantly seek validation from others.
- It’s Always His Way Or The Highway
Emotionally unavailable men also tend to despise compromises. According to him, all of his personal relationships should revolve around him and cater to his individual needs. This often leads him to control a relationship so that things either go his way or no way at all. For instance, if he wants to go out for dinner, he will make sure you go out for dinner, even if you’d prefer to stay in.
- You Only See Each Other On His Terms
One of the most common signs of an emotionally unavailable man is his desire to only see you when it is convenient for him.
Have you begun to realize that you only see your partner on his terms? He may call you to spend time together when it is convenient for him but make excuses whenever you attempt to make plans. Unfortunately, many men who are emotionally unattached are takers, not givers. When he needs help, he knows you will provide him help. But whenever you seek emotional support, you feel left in the dust.
- He Disguises Himself As Prince Charming
If a man seems too good to be true, he sometimes is. Men who flirt using excessive flattery are often only focused on finding short-term intimacy in casual relationships. Out of the most common characteristics of emotionally unavailable men, this can be the most misleading.
To help reel people in, an emotionally unattached man might pretend to appear vulnerable and open. But upon further inspection, you might realize you really don’t know anything about him. Should you ask him questions about his past or his future goals, he might smoothly change the subject and turn the conversation toward an unrelated topic. Some emotionally unavailable men are genuinely afraid of opening up and will do anything to prevent it.
- He Is Only Interested In Sex
A man who is emotionally unavailable might express a desire toward becoming sexually familiar with you shortly after you meet. Some emotionally unavailable men are only interested in pursuit. Once a man has achieved his sexual goal, and your relationship with him starts to grow more intimate, he may wish to move onto someone new.
Sometimes, a man struggling with emotional availability expresses a primary interest in sex because he believes he has nothing else to offer in a relationship, or he is afraid of growing close to someone.
What You Should Do If You Are With An Emotionally Unavailable Man
It may help if you take the first step toward putting labels on your relationship. Does he mind if you call him your boyfriend or that you are his girlfriend? Sometimes, this will be enough to wake him up and help him become more emotionally engaged. If he is not receptive to you clarifying what you are to each other, it may be an indication that it is time to break off the relationship. Breaking up with someone that you have strong feelings for is never easy, but it often has to be done in order for you to have a chance at happiness with someone else.
If you’ve decided to end the relationship, the first step requires you to be honest with yourself. You must acknowledge that you are dating an emotionally unavailable man. In your heart of hearts, you probably may have suspected as much, and know that you deserve a happy and fulfilling relationship.
The second step involves making an inventory of all of the times that your partner has disappointed you or was not there for you. Making this kind of list can be uncomfortable for some people. After all, you may still have strong feelings for your partner. You may find yourself getting angry or sad as you go through this list. It is okay to be angry at someone who has taken you for granted or actively mislead you. And it can be disappointing too, to know that, for someone you felt you held a connection with, the connection did not end up running both ways.
Finally, stop contacting him. No calls, texts, emails, “dropping by” …nothing. See how long it takes for him to reach out to you. You may discover pretty quickly that you were the one keeping this quasi-relationship going. He really was not doing very much at all.
And if for whatever reason he does reach out to you, stay strong. The two of you are done, and you deserve a chance at happiness with someone else. Refer to the list that you made earlier. Has anything from that list really changed? Probably not.
How Counseling Can Help
If you’re interesting in salvaging the relationship, a couple's counselor may be able to help you to strengthen your communication skills. A couple's counselor is trained in listening to and understanding couples and can help partners to listen to and understand each other. Sometimes an unbiased, objective professional can help you better understand yourself and your relationships with others.
Some people are leery about going to counseling because of things like affordability, time constraints, and confidentiality. Research shows that online therapy is a powerful tool in strengthening relationships and can result in similar success and satisfaction rates to traditional in-person therapy. For example, the study Marriage: A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Web-Based OurRelationship Program: Effects on Relationship and Individual Functioning found that an overwhelming majority—94%—of participants were satisfied with online relationship services, and more than half made significant progress in strengthening their relationships.
Online therapists can talk to you in the comfort of your home and can help facilitate difficult conversations between you and your partner. Licensed therapists at BetterHelp are available according to your schedule and can help you with any emotional or mental health concerns you have. Starting is easy, and you won't have to wait for weeks to have your first session. And, if you don't click with a particular therapist, it's easy to switch to another counselor. If you are stuck and can't figure out what to do next to get your boyfriend to open up to you, this can be the way to go. You can read BetterHelp counselor reviews below.
“She has been a great resource for me to reflect on my relationship with my husband. I hope to continue this journey in order to sort things out. Thank you for all you do.”
“Izabela is AMAZING. Since I've started working with her I have begun to sort out my emotions revolving around past traumas, I've become more aware of what I'm feeling and my communication skills has e improved immensely, which have really improved my relationship with my husband.”
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