How To Tell If Your Partner Is Emotionally Unavailable: Nine Red Flags

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated May 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

One of the most important aspects of a dependable partner can be their emotional availability. Those who are not emotionally available may not understand how you are feeling, and as a result, they may be unwilling or unable to support you emotionally. Emotional unavailability refers to signs like mixed signals, avoidance of long-term plans, arrogance, and a lack of emotional support, among others. If you’re in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable person, it can be vital to evaluate the relationship and determine whether you’d like it to continue. It may be time to end the relationship or, if you’re interested in trying to improve things, you might decide to work with a licensed psychotherapist in person or online.

Common traits of emotionally unavailable partners

Many emotionally unavailable individuals experience low self-esteem and feelings of insecurity. Due to these difficulties, they may not be able to sustain the type of emotional bond that healthy relationships usually require. Emotional unavailability can be displayed in a variety of characteristics.

It can be possible to overcome emotional unavailability

1. They give you mixed signals

Emotionally unavailable people may give their partners mixed signals, which can quickly feel overwhelming. They might act very invested in the relationship one week and make you feel shut out the next week. It’s possible that your partner may be giving you mixed signals because they are unsure about whether they want to be in the relationship. There may also be a possibility that they are seeing someone else.

Often, those engaging in infidelity act emotionally detached because they’re aware that the relationship may not last in the long term. However, if they have recently gotten out of a long and perhaps meaningful relationship, they may not want to settle down yet. They could still be grappling with emotional baggage from their past relationship history. As a result, they may not want to jump into another serious relationship.

If you are hoping for a long-term relationship, these mixed signals may become a significant challenge, which could harm your emotional health and well-being. If this person were to communicate their goals—should they have any—regarding your relationship, you could likely make an informed decision based on this information. However, emotionally unavailable individuals often fail to make firm decisions when it comes to their relationships. In some cases, your partner may mislead you as to their intentions. As a result, it may be up to you to develop a deep emotional awareness and make up your mind regarding where you believe the relationship may go.

2. They don’t offer emotional support 

One of the most common types of emotional unavailability in people can be that they frequently fail to support you or make you feel heard when you’re going through a difficult situation. If you’re dating an emotionally unavailable man, an important part of deciding how to proceed may involve separating what they say from what they do.

3. They always have excuses not to spend time with you

Some people refer to this as “ghosting,” but no matter what you call it, you may have noticed that your partner seems to be creating space between the two of you by taking more time to reply or failing to spend time with you. The act of ghosting can be one of the most common characteristics of emotionally unavailable people. Being ignored or stonewalled can cause significant harm to your mental health, with some people saying they feel worthless or abandoned when their partner shuts them out.

Emotionally unavailable individuals can also be quick to find excuses to explain why they are late to visit you, do not show up to dates, or have not spoken to you in a while. They may say that they are busy. But if they are constantly “busy” doing things and hanging out with people aside from you, this could be a red flag.

4. They avoid making long-term plans with you

Emotionally unavailable partners tend to avoid making long-term plans or displaying affection in public. Some of this can be a matter of timing, but if you have been with a person for several years and they are still hesitant to refer to you as their partner or even broach the subject of commitment with you, then you may need to reevaluate your relationship.

5. They are arrogant

The next time you are out in public, pay attention to how your partner treats other people. One of the telltale signs of an emotionally unavailable person is that they may be experiencing pent-up anger or an oversized ego can be their quickness to disrespect service workers or anyone they believe they hold power over.

An emotionally unavailable person often displays arrogance stemming from a lack of self-esteem. In order to feel the power and control they believe they are lacking, they may feel the need to show others that they are “better” than them. Arrogant people with self-esteem difficulties may also display narcissistic traits and frequently seek external validation.

Ilona Titova/EyeEm

6. It’s always their way or the highway

Emotionally unavailable people tend to despise compromise. They may believe that all their personal relationships should revolve around them and cater to their individual needs. This often leads them to be controlling in relationships so that things either go their way or no way at all. 

7. You only see each other on their terms

An emotionally unavailable partner may only want to see you when it is convenient for them. They may want you to spend time together when it is convenient for them, but make excuses whenever you attempt to make plans. Many people who are emotionally unattached can be takers, not givers. When they need help, they may know you will be there. But whenever you seek emotional support, it may seem as if you’re on your own.

8. They disguise themselves as the perfect partner

If a partner seems too good to be true, they sometimes are. People who flirt through over-the-top flattery are often focused on finding short-term physical intimacy rather than committed, long-term relationships.

To reel people in, an emotionally unattached person might put on a façade of being vulnerable and open. But should you ask them questions about their past or future goals, they might change the subject altogether. Some emotionally unavailable people can be genuinely afraid of vulnerability and avoid it at all costs.

9. They are only interested in sex

A person who is emotionally unavailable might express a desire to become sexually intimate with you shortly after you meet. Some emotionally unavailable individuals are only interested in the pursuit. Once they have achieved their sexual goal, and your relationship with them starts to grow, they may wish to move on to someone new.

Sometimes, a person struggling with emotional availability may express a primary interest in sex because they believe they have nothing else to offer in a relationship, or they may be afraid of getting close to someone.

Does your partner seem emotionally unavailable?

Step 1: Honesty

If you’ve decided to end the relationship, the first step typically requires you to be honest with yourself. You must generally acknowledge that you are dating an emotionally unavailable person. In your heart of hearts, you may have suspected as much. Consider taking a moment to remind yourself that you deserve a happy and fulfilling relationship.

Step 2: Reflection

The second step typically involves taking inventory of all the times your partner let you down or displayed emotional unavailability in a way that hurt you. You may find yourself feeling angry or sad as you go through this list. It can be okay to be angry with someone who has taken you for granted or actively misled you. It can also be disappointing to acknowledge that, although you felt you held a connection with this person, the connection may not have been mutual.

It can be possible to overcome emotional unavailability

Step 3: Separation

Finally, consider cutting off contact.  This may mean no calls, texts, emails, or “dropping by.” You might wait to see how long it takes for them to reach out to you and discover that you were the one keeping the relationship going. 

If they do reach out to you, you may want to stay strong and avoid contact. If the two of you are really done, then you deserve a chance at happiness. It may help to refer to the list that you made earlier to remind yourself why you ended the relationship. 

Seeking help for emotional unavailability

If you’re interested in salvaging the relationship, a couples therapist may be able to help you strengthen your communication skills. This type of therapist is usually trained in listening to and understanding couples and can help partners better communicate. 

Benefits of online therapy

Some people in romantic relationships are leery about going to therapy. They may not want to reveal delicate information about their relationship with a stranger. Online therapy can help individuals feel more at ease talking about these intimate matters. Perhaps that’s because you can seek this form of remote therapy from the comfort of your home. Talking with someone online versus in a more clinical, office-based environment can feel less intimidating.

Effectiveness of online therapy

A 2020 study investigating online couples therapy found that the majority of participants found the experience to be beneficial and positive. For many, it was easier to form a strong therapeutic alliance with their therapists due to the perceived distance involved in online therapy. 

Counselor reviews

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 have improved immensely, which have really improved my relationship with my husband.”


Characteristics of emotional unavailability can include avoidance of long-term plans, arrogance, initial excessive flattery, and constant excuses not to spend time with you. Being in a relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable can be difficult, and you may wish to spend time considering whether you’d like to work through these difficulties or end the relationship entirely. If you and your partner are both willing to make an effort, then couples therapy may prove to be helpful.
Build healthy relationship habits with a professional
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started