These signs of emotionally unavailable men will help you see him – and your relationship – more clearly. Also, here are the reasons women fall in love with men whose hearts aren’t available. The more you know yourself, the healthier your relationships will be.
The best way to stop falling in love with men who aren’t available emotionally is to understand them, and to understand yourself. So, I want to share not only the signs of emotionally unavailable men but also the reasons women tend to get involved in relationships that go nowhere. Most of this information is from Dr Orloff’s The Power of Surrender, which is an amazing resource for healing and acceptance in relationships. You’ll see more of it below…
I was inspired to write this article by a reader who is struggling with her boyfriend…
“I always fall for the wrong men, ever since I was 14,” says Phoebe on How to Stop Thinking About Your Ex and Get On With Your Life. “Mostly they’re emotionally unavailable, for some reason I’m attracted to men who can’t seem to love me. My last boyfriend wouldn’t even say he loved me even after four years together. He never talked to me, we just go together every couple of weeks to do it. Why do I do this? How do I stop?”
How to Know if a Man is Emotionally Unavailable
For a relationship to be healthy and happy, emotional connection must flow both ways. Your boyfriend or husband has to be in touch with his feelings, and be able to share how he feels with you. It may not be easy for him, but a truly emotionally available man will at least try.
I remember my husband once telling me that talking about our marriage – and his emotions – was like physical work to him. He found it tiring and draining, partly because he wasn’t used to it. Most men don’t find it easy or natural to talk about their feelings…but an emotionally available man will at least try. Many men won’t enjoy talking about their relationships, but men who are emotionally unavailable will check out before the conversation even starts.
In this article, I share the signs of emotionally unavailable men as well as the reasons women fall in love with men who aren’t available emotionally. At the end, I link to another article you may be very interested in: how to love a man who is disconnected from his emotions.
15 Signs of Emotionally Unavailable Men
“Some of these signs may be more obvious than others at first,” writes Dr Orloff in The Power of Surrender. “It’s tricky because we tend to show our best selves in the honeymoon stage of a romance. It can take time for a person’s unavailability to emerge.”
Men who aren’t available emotionally:
- Are married or in a relationship with someone else (Read How to Break Up With a Married Man if you already know this is you!).
- Can’t commit to you, or have avoided commitment in past relationships.
- Tend to be emotionally distant, shut down, or can’t deal with relationship conflict.
- Abuse alcohol, drugs, prescription medications, sex, or other substances.
- Are narcissistic (they only care about themselves and their needs).
- Give you emotional crumbs, such as tiny insights into how they really feel and think.
- Prefer long distance relationships, emails, or texting (classic signs of emotionally unavailable men).
- Are reluctant to introduce you to their friends, family, or coworkers.
- Are elusive, sneaky, or frequently working or tired. Workaholics may be emotionally unavailable men.
- May disappear for long periods of time (days or even weeks).
- Send mixed messages, flirt with other women, or don’t you give a straight answer when you ask questions about their actions or whereabouts.
- Force you to constantly try to guess or decode what they mean or how they feel.
- Are mainly interested in sex, not connecting to you emotionally or spending time with you in social situations.
- Veer between pushing you towards a relationship, and withdrawing from emotional connection or interaction with you.
- Seduce you, but make empty promises. Their behavior and words don’t match.
“Most of us aren’t purposely drawn to emotionally unavailable men,” says Dr Orloff. “Their mixed messages in combination with our particular susceptibilities, conscious or unconscious, can lure us in.” This is why it’s important that you become aware of why you’re attracted to men who aren’t available to commit to an emotional relationship. If you can identify patterns in your own life – which I discuss below – you’ll be better able to choose men who are healthy, strong, and loving.
Men who are emotionally unavailable don’t choose to be distant or uncommunicative. They’re unconsciously defending themselves against trauma or an emotional wound. Many men who aren’t available emotionally aren’t purposefully trying to trick or hurt you. They just can’t love a woman or be in a healthy, whole, happy relationship.
“Research has shown that many emotionally unavailable men are afraid of being clung to or smothered, which stems from having had a controlling, engulfing, or abusive parent,” she writes. “Commitment-phobic men, in particular, may just prefer sex without love. They are afraid of being controlled by feminine energy, though they don’t know it or couldn’t admit it.”
If you tend to chase your boyfriend or husband – or if he actually tells you that you’re smothering him – read How to Heal Codependency in Your Relationship.
5 Reasons You’re Attracted to Emotionally Unavailable Men
If you find yourself repeatedly falling in love with guys who are distant with their emotions and unable to commit to a relationship, you may be allowing yourself to get trapped. Here are a few of the most common reasons you may keep falling for men who aren’t emotionally available.
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1. You tend to surrender to a man’s “knight in shining armor” charm
Many women are attracted to men who are strong, tough, and able to save us. If you find yourself drawn to men who want to save you financially, emotionally, or spiritually, you may be more prone to falling for men who aren’t available emotionally. He may say he loves you and even act in loving ways, but when you really get to know him…you realize you don’t know much about how he truly feels or what he really thinks. White knights in shining armor are often on power trips, and not able to commit to an equal relationship.
The other thing about knights in shining armor is that they look really good, say all the right things, and even claim to be spiritual in a New Age sense. But when you get involved with them more deeply, you discover that they’re just showing a facade. One of the most common signs of emotionally unavailable men is their ability to hook women and reel them in.
2. Your self-esteem is low
Do you feel unworthy of love? Then you may not feel like you deserve a man who knows how to love and be loved in return. If your self-esteem is low, you may even believe that you don’t deserve love. If you think you’re worthless, stupid, unattractive, or unlovable then you’ll find yourself falling for men who are emotionally unavailable.
If you can’t accept yourself as a woman who is worthy and deserving of love, then you’ll be attracted to men who don’t know how to love. You don’t see yourself as lovable, so you choose men who aren’t available emotionally. The solution? Start working on your self-image. How do you see yourself? Who are you, and why did God create you? If you don’t feel loved or cherished by Him – or whatever you deem your Higher Power to be – then you won’t allow yourself to be loved by emotionally available men.
3. Your parents were emotionally distant or abusive
“You have inner radar for partners who mirror the unhealthy dynamics you had with a parent,” writes Dr Orloff in The Power of Surrender.
“In intimate relationships, you re-create the same dynamics in an attempt to receive what was lacking. For instance, if your father was emotionally unavailable you are drawn to similar men, hoping to finally win Daddy’s love. This is never going to happen because the men you choose aren’t capable of true loving.”
If your boyfriend doesn’t love you the way you need to be loved, it may have more to do with you than him. Is it possible that you’re attracted to men who aren’t there for you, who even reject and abuse you? Sometimes we learn these patterns of relating and communicating in childhood, and we carry them over to our romantic relationships.
4. You’re afraid of commitment so you choose emotionally unavailable men
Taking the risk to love a man can be scary, especially if you’ve been hurt in the past. One of the main reasons women are attracted to men who are emotionally unavailable is because the woman herself is afraid to get hurt. She doesn’t want to risk a breakup or divorce, so she “falls in love” with men who can’t commit emotionally.
“Once I fell hard for an emotionally unavailable younger man who’d just left a woman he couldn’t commit to. It was an obvious red flag that I disregarded,” writes Dr Orloff in The Power of Surrender. “Why? Mostly because I was aggravated to him and craved physical and emotional contact.”
You may also resist an emotionally healthy relationship because you had parents who were critical, abusive, or controlling. You protect yourself by loving men who aren’t can’t be emotionally intimate or close. You don’t want to be alone, but you’re scared to get hurt. So you choose the halfway measure of loving men who aren’t available emotionally.
5. You’re willing to settle for anyone – even an emotionally unavailable man
Maybe you think you’re too old to wait for a man who can love you the way you long to be loved. Maybe you feel like you’ve waited long enough – or maybe your parents or relatives are pushing you into marriage or a relationship. Maybe you think this man is your last chance at love, so you allow yourself to get involved with a man who isn’t really available. He’s there physically and mentally, but he can’t meet your emotional needs.
“A confusing part of being attracted to unavailable, commitment-phobic people is that the emotional or sexual chemistry can feel so strong,” writes Dr Judith Orloff in The Power of Surrender: Let Go and Energize Your Relationships, Success, and Well-Being.
“You accept behavior that you’d never tolerate in friends. Why? The electricity can feel so incredible and rare, you mistake intensity for intimacy….but, hear this: Not everyone you feel a connection with, no matter how mind-blowing, is your soul mate. You can fall for someone who is totally wrong for you.”
Are you settling for crumbs in your relationship? Do you know deep down that you don’t connect with this man the way you yearn to? Listen to still small voice within you, or your intuition. It can be difficult to admit that you’re in love with a man who isn’t able to connect or commit to you emotionally, but it’s better to admit the truth than continue fooling yourself. Look upwards and inwards, and you will find the strength and courage you need to end this relationship and find a man who can commit to you.
Are you in a relationship with a man who is disconnected from his and your emotions? Read How to Love an Emotionally Unavailable Man.
I’d love to hear what you think and how you feel about emotional disconnection in relationships. What is the reason you keep falling in love with men who aren’t emotionally available?
Laurie's "She Blossoms" Books
Growing Forward When You Can't Go Back offers hope, encouragement, and strength for women walking through loss. My Blossom Tips are fresh and practical - they stem from my own experiences with a schizophrenic mother, foster homes, a devastating family estrangement, and infertility.
How to Let Go of Someone You Love: Powerful Secrets (and Practical Tips!) for Healing Your Heart is filled with comforting and healthy breakup advice. The Blossom Tips will help you loosen unhealthy attachments to the past, seal your heart with peace, and move forward with joy.
When You Miss Him Like Crazy: 25 Lessons to Move You From Broken to Blossoming After a Breakup will help you refocus your life, re-create yourself, and start living fully again! Your spirit will rise and you'll blossom into who you were created to be.
While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.