February 7, 2014

3 Signs of an Emotionally Unavailable Person.

Danger sign keep away

Out of all the emotional vampires out there, being in relationships with emotionally unavailable people is the worst.

Some people who have never had the experience ask, “Well, why did you get involved with someone like this in the first place?”

It’s a fair question and a good one because it points out a common misconception that many have about emotionally unavailable people.

Despite what some think, emotionally distant people don’t always come across that way—at least, not at first. Indeed, many of them are fans of self-help or members of the mind and body community and on the surface appear to be emotionally available people.

They often show great moments of tenderness and intimacy. For the people who end up falling in love with them, that is what lures them in and why they stay. Those moments do not last long.

Therefore, if you are in a new relationship with someone who seems more mercurial than the weather, read ahead.

You may be in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable individual if:

1. There’s a tendency to have relationships with people who are physically unavailable.

Many emotionally unavailable people have a history of long-distance relationships or a habit of falling in love with people they have known for only short periods of time. (Think of the classic, “I met the girl/guy of my dreams on vacation.”) The fact that the person they long for is out of reach is often the spark that keeps the relationship going. However, once they get them—say, the person moves closer to be with them—the relationships tend to quickly fizzle out.

It’s easy to “love” someone we don’t know a lot about. It’s easier not to have to deal with those quirks and faults on a daily basis which over time may end up bothering us.

For the emotionally unavailable, there is the added benefit that they can have some of the perks of a relationship without actually having to be around them most of the time. There is literally distance between them.

This ties in closely to number two on the list.

2.  There’s an unwillingness to commit.

While some immediately think the above statement means: won’t commit to a long-term relationship or marriage, it goes deeper than that. Often, they will not commit to anything, even in the short-term. They may say, “Let’s not talk about the future” or “Let’s live in the present.”

On the surface, statements like these appear reasonable. After all, who can disagree that we should live in the present? While it is nice to live in the present, at some point all of us have to look to the future. If you’ve been seeing someone for a while, it’s not unreasonable to want to know if there is a possibility for a future.

Another big clue may be how often (or little) they say, “I love you.”

While some people are just naturally more comfortable saying the “L” word than others, the emotionally unavailable type may actually get upset even if you say it. When they do say it, often it’s “I love you, but. . . ” (That “but” could be anything from “but I am not in love,” “but I am not sure what love is,” or “but that doesn’t mean forever.”)

If the person in your life cannot say, “I love you” and simply leave it at that, it may not be the sort of love you need or want.

3. They appear insensitive to the needs of others or have highly unrealistic expectations.

Often when the emotionally unavailable person leaves a relationship, there is no warning. It’s common for people on the receiving end to say, “It came out of the blue.” They may also express genuine surprise that you are not happy for them if they are leaving you for another love interest.

I know of one case where a woman who dumped her partner (who had moved across country to be with her) was genuinely surprised that he was not happy when she shared that her new love interest was the greatest person in the world.

Sometimes it seems that they are lacking sensitivity or even basic human empathy but unlike someone who is deliberately trying to be mean or invoke a jealous reaction, they simply do not grasp they may be hurting someone.

In that case, be prepared for the fact that they may never “get” that they hurt you or anyone else. As frustrating as it can be, it may be more useful to try and move on. While it’s good to try to get  some closure and “get it all out,” your closure may be accepting that this is a person who will never get it.

While everyone can be emotionally distant at times, the emotionally unavailable person is a different creature entirely.

Should you find yourself with one of these types, realize that without professional help and the desire to want to change for themselves, these sorts are never going to change because of you.

Lastly, you’re not a failure. It’s likely that others have tried before you and were met with defeat as well.

May you move on to better things, and may you find someone who will allow themselves to be emotionally available to you.


Relephant reads:

Are You Dating Someone Who’s Married to Their Job? 

Finding Freedom From the Pain of Rejection. 

Relationship Intelligence: The Key to Picking a Life Partner.



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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Leo Reynolds/Flickr

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Nuria Oct 23, 2015 12:38pm

Thank you so much for posting this. I'm a young girl, 18 years old, and all these years I didn't know what was "wrong" with me. I saw everyone fall in love and get into relationships. I too, fell in love a few times. But at the last moment, when they came too close, I panicked. I shut down and pushed them away. It as an afwul feeling. Now, I got into my first serious relationship. He is an amazing boy, he is really kind and we are taking things slow. But at some moments, I still feel panic. But I really don't want to hurt him. But anyway, I started searching on the internet about these feelings. And then I read about emotional unavailable persons. And I realize I'm an emotional unavailable person. What should I do now? Should I go and talk to someone professional? I had a troubled childhood, I think this is the mainly reason of my behavior. Please, I can use some advice 🙂

cathy Oct 8, 2015 10:13am

Hi i feel like my boyfriend is closed off emotionally a little one side. I wanted to get some advice.  So we have been together for 1yr and 6mths both 37 both work m-f live 10 no kids for either of us.  (he has never been involved a long term relationship longest it has been is 6mths.  So we see each other 3 nights a week, i have been asking for more time with him but every time I do it causes a major fight and he claims that he feels like i think that he doesn’t do enough for me and he does but I simply want more times with him meaning staying the night and when i say that it is not always for the physical reason it is because I enjoy his company.  He gets fustrated, so he finally compromised not happy about it gave me 1 extra night a month  (and he of course brings it back up like look at what i did for you).  He counts the number of nights he has stayed at my house.  So i have a long weekend coming up and won’t see him for 5 days because we don’t see each other until Thursday night and I won’t get back until Monday so I asked him if he would see me the Tuesday night and he had a fit.  I would think any normal boyfriend or girlfriend would want to see there boyfriend or girlfriend after a few days of my not seeing them.  It is weird to me and unsettling.  So that is an issue,  another issue is he shows no public displays of affection and when i did hold his arm he told me that i wrinkled his shirt, all i am asking for is a hand hold, and if I want to cuddle in private i have to initiate that he has cuddled me but he does cuddle me when he feels like it, so i feel that alot of things are done when he feels comfortable.  I iniate all forms of texts and phone calls.  if i did not contact him, he would not contact me, and talking about the future is not really talked about, i have brought the subject and he will say, “lets not dampen the night by talking about the future lets just enjoy the night”.  Which annoys me he makes it sound likes it is a bad thing to bring up.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Dana A. Chamberlain Jul 20, 2015 5:28pm

I just went through the heartbreak of a beautiful woman that fits the description of an emotionally unavailable individual. I have come to believe that she has suffered a great amount of trauma at the hands of a emotional and verbal abuser. He was killed in a snowmobile accident about a year after their breakup and I believe she has never recovered from it. As well as denying that she is depressed and riddled with stress. What sort of therapy is there available to help a person that is so tortured by this. She must do this on her own and I hope and pray she one day recognizes that she needs help and it IS available.

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Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework, travel, and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.