Being with an emotionally unavailable man can make a woman doubt herself and question whether or not her guy really trusts and loves her.
It's extremely painful to feel shut out by your partner and unable to connect on a deep and intimate level.
Most women want to be in a relationship in which they can fully express themselves and feel heard and understood. They also want a man who is willing to share his emotions and show some vulnerability.
When he does this, a man is showing his woman that he trusts and cares for her enough to reveal his inner world. When the woman doesn't judge or criticize when her guy opens up, he feels validated — and she feels loved and respected. It's a win for both partners.
- Is He Emotionally Unavailable?
- How the Emotionally Unavailable Man Impacts You
- 21 Emotionally Unavailable Men Characteristics
- 1. Difficulty Expressing Emotions and Feelings
- 2. Resistant to Committing
- 3. Has a Hard Time Saying “I Love You”
- 4. Acts Distant, Above It All, Too Cool
- 5. Inability or Unwillingness to Be Vulnerable
- 6. Uncomfortable Discussing Emotional Topics
- 7. Can't Be Vulnerable During Sex
- 8. Gets Defensive and Quick to Anger
- 9. Suggests You Are Too Sensitive or Needy
- 10. Quick to Blame Others
- 11. Rarely Self-Reflective or Self-Aware
- 12. Difficulty Showing Non-Sexual Affection
- 13. Disinterested in Your Feelings and Needs
- 14. Often Self-Centered and Needing Attention
- 15. Overly Focused on Sex but Not Emotional Closeness
- 16. Avoids Sex Altogether
- 17. Spends Too Much Time with Pornography
- 18. Inability to Deal with Conflict
- 19. Gives You Mixed Signals
- 20. Let's You Do All of the Relationship Work
- 21. Avoids Talking about the Future
- Do Emotionally Unavailable Men Change?
Is He Emotionally Unavailable?
You may be wondering, “How does an emotionally unavailable man behave?” Your guy seems to be an unemotional man, and it's normal to question whether or not this is temporary or part of his personality.
If you have an emotionally unavailable boyfriend, it's quite possible he's holding back to feel more confident in your commitment to each other before he reveals more of himself.
But when you're in a romantic relationship, you expect it to deepen over time. You expect your boyfriend, partner, or husband to grow closer emotionally so that you create a “couple bubble” of intimacy between you.
If you are open, trustworthy, and authentic, you expect the same from your partner.
But when your man can't open up, can only focus on himself or on superficial topics, and he refuses to reveal his “softer underbelly,” the relationship is bound to stagnate and will eventually wither away.
How the Emotionally Unavailable Man Impacts You
A relationship with an emotionally unavailable man can be deeply traumatizing.
Whether it's intentional or not, emotional unavailability is a form of emotional abuse. For the woman involved with an emotionally unavailable man, it feels as though you're being deprived of the one thing you need most in a relationship — real love.
- Even if your partner says he loves you, his behavior and demeanor make you feel unworthy of love.
- You do backflips trying to win crumbs of connection and closeness until you believe crumbs are the best you'll ever get and all you deserve.
- You keep trying harder, thinking you can somehow reach him and unlock his emotions.
Emotionally unavailable men are not just the handsome, superficial charmers. They come in all looks, shapes, and personality types and have a variety of backgrounds and life experiences.
Some can have bursts of real intimacy and passion, followed by periods of pulling back and coldness. Others never reveal an intimate, authentic desire for closeness.
Emotional unavailability doesn't necessarily mean a man is shallow, selfish, or intentionally unavailable. He may long for closeness, but he simply doesn't know how to achieve it.
Says writer Sile Walsh for The Good Men Project . . .
“Being emotionally available is not that easy for any of us. And for a man in a society where we give our men such mixed messages, it’s no surprise that both the people asking men to be emotionally available and the men who are trying to achieve it are confused. My strong male clients desperately want to connect with friends, lovers, and family in a very real way. But often they have no model of what that looks like and how to do it.”
Whether they are impacted by societal expectations, their childhood experiences, or a narcissistic personality, emotionally unavailable men are missing the most rewarding and blissful facet of a love relationship: intimacy.
All too often, it takes a long time for women to figure out they're involved with this type of man. They invest vast chunks of their time and emotional energy trying to “win” love and affection, only to realize it's not forthcoming.
Before you invest any more time with a man who can't or won't allow closeness and intimacy, it's important to recognize the traits of this type of guy.
Quick note: Are you feeling drained and worn down from living with a verbal abuser? Check out this resource that can help you discover all the signs of emotional abuse.
21 Emotionally Unavailable Men Characteristics
1. Difficulty Expressing Emotions and Feelings
No matter how hard you try, you can't scratch the surface of this guy's emotions. He is uncomfortable talking about his true feelings of love, pain, shame, guilt or any other feeling that might make him appear “weak” and vulnerable.
He has learned to ignore and deny his negative emotions in particular, and has become emotionally “color blind.”
He has a protective wall around his emotions and can get angry, confused, or defensive if you try to penetrate it.
Sometimes he may give you a glimpse of his interior world, only to pull back and block you out once again.
2. Resistant to Committing
These men often fear commitment because they know it will require more of them than they are capable of giving.
Committing to one person means revealing more of themselves and taking the risks involved with intimacy.
This fear of commitment is more than just wanting to keep their options open. It's a systemic fear of being overwhelmed by uncomfortable emotions and the needs of their partner.
They need a quick escape route which commitment prevents.
3. Has a Hard Time Saying “I Love You”
If he does commit or sticks around long enough for you to feel like a committed couple, he can't or won't say, “I love you.”
You've been ready to say it to him for ages. Maybe you've already said it. Many times. But he gets embarrassed, changes the subject, or pulls away.
Saying those three little words is another form of commitment to him that he can't abide. Those words mean something, like, “I'm here for you and plan to stick around.”
So the fact that he can't say them, especially if you've been together for six months or more, should be a red flag he's hedging his bets or just can't cope with that much closeness.
4. Acts Distant, Above It All, Too Cool
In an effort to protect himself, the emotionally unavailable man will create a persona that initially seems mysterious and cool. But over time, you want and need to know the person behind the mystery man.
Unfortunately, this guy has spent a lot of time and energy crafting the way he presents himself to the world, and he's not about to drop the facade. He may not even know who is behind it.
It is an attractive barrier that keeps others, even you, at arm's distance so he doesn't have to cope with the uncertainty and discomfort of too much closeness which makes him feel vulnerable or overwhelmed.
5. Inability or Unwillingness to Be Vulnerable
The fear of vulnerability is the fear of showing your true self. This fear often stems from a deeper fear of abandonment. It also reflects a cultural attitude about how men should behave and never show weakness.
If he reveals his inner world and less-than-confident emotions, you may see him as weak and unattractive and want to leave him. Or you may shame him just as other men have done in the past when he's opened up or shown emotion.
He may also have a fear of engulfment, the feeling he is losing himself in the relationship. By revealing his true self to you, he may lose control of himself because he unconsciously worries you may control or dominate him.
6. Uncomfortable Discussing Emotional Topics
You want your love partner to be there for you when you are dealing with painful or confusing emotions. Sadly, the emotionally distant man has difficulty being fully present with your feelings.
He can't simply listen with empathy and support your feelings. Either he deflects his discomfort by offering practical solutions, or he dismisses your feelings altogether by diminishing them or not listening to you.
You may notice your emotionally unavailable guy looking at his phone, checking the time, or changing the subject when you talk about something he finds uncomfortable.
7. Can't Be Vulnerable During Sex
If there were ever a time to show your deeper emotions, express your feelings for one another, and ask for what you want, it's during sex.
Making love is exactly that — a physical expression of your feelings for one another that manifests in words, expressions, and touch. But no so much for men who are emotionally distant.
- During lovemaking, does your partner avoid eye contact and intimate talk?
- Does he get right to business without kissing you or engaging in foreplay?
- Does he get up quickly to shower after you finish, leaving you confused about your desirability?
- Does he refuse to to talk about your needs in the bedroom or his disconnection during sex?
When your man can't be intimate during your most intimate time, you feel like there's something wrong or that you're turning him off in some way. But his demeanor makes it impossible to talk to him about it.
8. Gets Defensive and Quick to Anger
Anger is a socially acceptable emotion for men, and often it is the go-to reaction when things get too “touchy feely” or intimate with your guy.
If you suggest something like, “You seem really sad today,” his response is reactive and defensive. “I'm not sad. Don't tell me how I'm feeling. You don't know what you're talking about.”
This defensiveness and anger can pop up any time he feels threatened, vulnerable, or trapped. He uses this anger to prevent you from trying to poke around in his emotions again.
9. Suggests You Are Too Sensitive or Needy
Deflecting the blame on to you is a common strategy for emotionally unavailable men.
Rather than accepting or acknowledging his inability to connect and share his feelings, this man will turn the tables to suggest your needs are unacceptable or over the top.
In his mind, your desire for closeness and intimacy reflects a weakness on your part, not a deficiency on his.
Even if you are more sensitive or need more emotional connection than your guy does, he needs to step up and be there for you. A couple can learn how to accommodate each other's needs without losing themselves.
10. Quick to Blame Others
When someone says or does something that reflects poorly on your guy's demeanor or behavior, he is quick to blame the other person rather than examine the possibility of his own flaws.
Often emotionally distant men are lacking in empathy and view the world through the lens of their skewed perceptions. They can't or won't see how their words and behaviors are impacting other people.
When someone highlights this issue, the emotionally unavailable man will deny and attack. Quite often, the object of his attach is you. Because, after all, you are the one person trying the hardest to get through to him.
11. Rarely Self-Reflective or Self-Aware
Emotionally unavailable men don't spend much time reflecting on their own behaviors and personal growth. They aren't motivated to become more self-aware and empathic.
These men have trouble stepping back to look at themselves and how they are impacting others, particularly you. They are much more comfortable with achievement, action, and control.
He likes the idea of having you around. You may provide him with comfort, security, and a sense of belonging. But he can't (or won't) provide the same for you. He may long for a deeper connection, but the pain of letting down his walls is too great to risk it.
12. Difficulty Showing Non-Sexual Affection
Emotionally distant men can view physical touch as overwhelming or unnecessary unless it leads to sex or is part of sex. They don't often initiate hugging, cuddling, or hand-holding.
They might feel uncomfortable with public displays of affection or act put upon if you request physical affection. You might notice they pull away or stiffen up when you are affectionate with them.
They might even appear disgusted or agitated when you touch them because it feels like an invasion rather than an intimate, loving gesture.
13. Disinterested in Your Feelings and Needs
If you try to express your relationship needs — for more intimacy, affection, and closeness — he will either give you lip service, diminish your feelings, or blow you off entirely.
He doesn't want to hear that he's not enough and that you need more from him. That's either a blow to his ego or a confusing conundrum that he doesn't understand.
“What does she want from me? I don't get it, why am I not enough?”
14. Often Self-Centered and Needing Attention
Men who are emotionally unavailable are often too busy with themselves to have much more to give to you.
They want constant attention, affirmation, and praise, and they may view you as an extension of themselves whose sole purpose is to make them look good.
Your needs and desires are a distraction that puts the focus on the wrong person: you rather than him.
Behind this need for attention may be a deeply insecure, needy person who needs constant propping up. This is sad, but it's not a healthy foundation for an intimate relationship.
15. Overly Focused on Sex but Not Emotional Closeness
Some unemotional guys want sex all the time. Just sex — not lovemaking. The only time this man can get close to you is through sex. But sex for him is not a mutual expression of love and intimacy, it's a physical release or a conquest.
Sex becomes a way to unburden himself of the tension of keeping it all together and staying in control, but tenderness, intimate expressions, cuddling, and affection are rarely part of the scenario. Once sex is over, this man will quickly move on his next project or fall asleep right away.
16. Avoids Sex Altogether
Some of these men will avoid sex or initiate it infrequently because sex itself is too intimate and requires too much from him. This can affect his libido and performance.
He may know that you want more from him during a sexual encounter, and he can't or won't give it. So he simply avoids having sex with you. It feels like too much trouble.
Because he is unable to let down and be vulnerable with you, his stress levels may be so high that he is rarely in the mood for sex. It just feels like another chore.
17. Spends Too Much Time with Pornography
Looking at pornography doesn't require an emotional commitment or intimacy. He can find sexual gratification without the discomfort and demands of a real relationship.
A man's addiction to pornography can contribute to his lack of interest in you sexually. It further diminishes any intimacy between you.
18. Inability to Deal with Conflict
Conflict is inevitable even in the closest relationships. But a man who is emotionally unavailable will do everything he can to avoid conflict because it involves expressing emotions.
He may clam up, leave the room, or shut you down with yelling and anger. He can't have a healthy conversation where you both express your concerns, fears, and needs in the relationship.
19. Gives You Mixed Signals
Your guy may be able open up and be close to you on occasion. And these occasions give you a lot of hope. He is capable of showing his emotions. He can give you an loving look during sex. He wants to hear about your problems.
You've been given a glimpse of his inner world, and you want more. You deserve more. But as soon as you think you've finally won his trust, he closes back up and pulls up the barriers.
These mixed signals are almost more painful than him being unavailable 24/7. You know he's in there somewhere because you've seen it. But when he shuts down, it feels like yet another rejection.
20. Let's You Do All of the Relationship Work
You've tried to have talks about improving your relationship. You've suggested counseling, books, and courses. But he's never interested. Or he aggressively dismisses the idea.
When conflict arises, you are the first to apologize or make repairs. You accommodate his moods and lack of availability by trying to win him over or make him laugh.
His efforts at improving or maintaining the health of the relationship are minimal. The idea of talking about “problems” or even admitting they exist is unthinkable to him.
21. Avoids Talking about the Future
You see a future with your guy, and why not? You've been together for a long time. You've been thinking about marriage, a family, and a lifetime together.
But he seems to be living in a different time zone. Or planet. Every time you bring up the future or what his intentions are, he clams up or shuts down. He doesn't want to talk about it.
And why should he? Things are just fine right now. At least they are for him. Your needs and desires are secondary. Or thirdary. Or nonexistent. Talking about the future means he has to address the real emotions and concerns you have — and that might mess up everything.
Do Emotionally Unavailable Men Change?
The answer is maybe. But the harder realization is that you can't change him. He has to desire change on his own. If you end the relationship, he might realize what he's lost and do the work to become more available. But that would likely take:
- Serious work with a counselor.
- The desire to address past issues that have impacted his ability to be vulnerable.
- The willingness to accept how his unavailability has impacted you (and other women in his life).
- Consistent actions to show he has changed and wants to be emotionally available.
If you've been married for years to your tuned-out guy, you may be willing to invest more time to wait for him to grow and connect with you.
If you're not married or officially partnered, and you're not sure he is willing to invest time and work into changing, then the onus is on you to make the change and end the relationship.
Maybe things will work out down the road; maybe they won't. But either way, you've prioritized yourself and your legitimate need for a real relationship. And you deserve nothing less.
Now you know the signs of an emotionally unavailable man. What will you do?
Are you noticing some of these traits with your boyfriend, partner, or spouse? Have they been going on for a long time?
If so, I urge you to talk with a counselor to share your concerns.
If your guy is highly motivated to improve his emotional skills, there's hope for your relationship and your ability to enjoy a deeper, more intimate connection.
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However, if he is defensive, emotionally abusive, and unwilling to work on himself through counseling, this is a huge red flag that you may never find the love you want and need with this man.
The longer you allow him to remain emotionally unavailable, the more difficult it will be to extricate yourself.
As hard as it may be to cut the cord with someone you may still love, letting go is the best thing you can do for your self-esteem and ongoing happiness.