12 Signs You’re Involved with an EUP (Emotionally Unavailable Person). ~ Judith Orloff MD

Via Judith Orloff
on Aug 31, 2014
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First of all, what is an available person?

Relephant read: Love is Selfish.

Whether this is your spouse or a new love, he or she wants to know your feelings, your sensitivities, what scares you, what you adore, who your family and friends are. The person is single and open to commitment. There is no pattern of hiding, compartmentalizing, ongoing ambivalence, or sneaking around. This person’s motives are straightforward.

You don’t have to go into a mind spin or try to decode with friends “what they really mean.” He or she doesn’t keep you hooked in with mixed messages or intermittent reinforcement of passion or caring—an addictive pattern that drives both sexes crazy in a bad way. He or she makes a plan with you and shows up, no cat and mouse games or habitual canceling.

In all other cases, think twice about getting involved.

A confusing part of being attracted to unavailable, commitment-phobic people is that the emotional or sexual chemistry can feel so strong. You accept behavior that you’d never tolerate in friends. Why? The electricity can feel so incredible and rare, you mistake intensity for intimacy. You make compromises you wouldn’t typically consider in order to give the relationship a chance.

Still, connection or not, you must take a sober look to determine if someone is truly available for intimacy. 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, as unfair and confounding as that reality can be.

To start, here are some red flags to watch for. Even one sign warns you to be careful. The more that are present, the more danger exists.

12 Signs of Unavailable People from “The Ecstasy of Surrender.”

1. They are married or in a relationship with someone else.
2. They can’t commit to you or have feared commitment in past relationships.
3. They have one foot on the gas pedal, one foot on the brake.
4. They are emotionally distant, shut down, or can’t deal with conflict.
5. They’re mainly interested in sex, not relating emotionally or spiritually.
6. They are practicing alcoholics, sex addicts, or substance abusers.
7. They prefer long distance relationships, emails, texting, or don’t introduce you to their friends and family.
8. They are elusive, sneaky, frequently working or tired, and may disappear for periods.
9. They are seductive with you but make empty promises—their behavior and words don’t match.
10. They send mixed messages, flirt with others, or don’t give a straight answer—you’re always trying to “de-code” what they really mean.
11. They’re narcissistic, only consider themselves, not your needs.
12. They throw you emotional crumbs or enticing hints of their potential to be loving, then withdraw.

Over the years, I’ve worked with many perplexed, lonely patients to uncover why they keep holding a torch for unavailable, commitment-phobic partners and how to surrender this sabotaging pattern. Most of us aren’t purposely drawn to these kinds of people—their mixed messages combined with our particular susceptibilities, conscious or unconscious, can lure us in.

Also, it helps to understand that unavailable people rarely choose to be this way. It’s an unconscious defense against trauma or some emotional wounding of the past. Research has shown that many are afraid of being clung to or smothered which stems from having had a controlling, engulfing, or abusive parent.

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. Rather, they see themselves as macho dudes who think women always need more than they can give. Thus, they prefer to play in shallow water, not go deep.

If being in a relationship with an unavailable person feels like love to you, I urge you to look closer. To bypass these relationships, see where you get snagged so you don’t repeat the same mistakes.



The above is adapted from The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life Harmony Books, 2014 by Judith Orloff, MD.

Relephant read: Love is Selfish. Or, Toxic Relationships.

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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Wiki Commons

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About Judith Orloff

Judith Orloff, MD is the author of  The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. In the book she educates readers about empaths, highly sensitive people, and offers strategies for anyone who wants to avoid narcissists and transform difficult emotions to positive ones. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist and an empath who combines the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly highly sensitive people. She is a New York Times best-selling author of  Emotional Freedom, Positive Energy, Guide to Intuitive Healing, The Power of Surrender, and Second Sight. Connect with Judith on Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about empaths and her free empath support newsletter as well as Dr. Orloff's books and workshop schedule, visit her website. Republished with explicit written permission from the author. Join her empath Facebook community for sensitive souls Here. Read more from Judith here.


41 Responses to “12 Signs You’re Involved with an EUP (Emotionally Unavailable Person). ~ Judith Orloff MD”

  1. Jey says:

    Are they typically unavailable in most of their (romantic) relationships? Or is it that they are simply unavailable to that particular person? Maybe that shouldn't matter, but if they found their Mr./Mrs. Right does the unavailability disappear? Curious on Judith's thoughts & experience with this.

  2. judith says:

    Unavavailablity is usually an overall emotional patternswith romantic relationships rather than just with one person. Friendships might be different. EUPs are terrified of intimacy and will do the push-pull thing forever. However, as a psychiatrist I've seen that if an EUP works on the pattern it can be healed. Read this section in my book The Ecstasy of Surrender. Judith

  3. Joy says:

    This is totally spot on!!! I've experienced it more than once and finally broke the pattern.

  4. Ariana says:

    "They are elusive… frequently working or tired, and may disappear for periods." … "They’re narcissistic, only consider themselves, not your needs."
    … No, I've never been any of those things… Lol! I've certainly been on both sides ~ I've been attracted to the same elusiveness I've put out… Coincidence?… Good reflection 🙂

  5. sallysue says:

    How did you break the pattern? Just by being aware of it and looking closely for it the next time or did it take more than that?

  6. I've been on both sides, too. Makes me wonder if being attracted to an EUP is… well, kind of a good way to remain unavailable to true intimacy.

  7. ramiefal says:

    Thank you for this essay, it reveals a lot. I realized with "the macho dudes" comment that this was mostly written with men in mind. I related this to women as well, as I saw this play out in one in my life.

  8. ramiefal says:

    Thank you for your answer. I relate to Jey's question – is it that with the 'right person' this pattern will disappear, which makes the current lover not it, or is this a myth, and there is no 'right person' to the EUP? Could this myth be part of the syndrome?

  9. judith says:

    Please check out the section on unavailable people in The Ecstasy of Surrender to find more information about healing this pattern forever. You need to heal it first, then the available soul mate can come in.

  10. judith says:

    yes being with EUPs will keep you away from intimacy.

  11. judith says:

    Thank you for your great comments everyone. In my book The Ecstasy of Surrender I write in more detail about this topic of EUPs. Please delve deep into that section to find out more cures. This pattern of being attracted to EUPs can be healed permanently. Then you'll be able to attract true lasting available love in

  12. judith says:

    I wrote a lot about this in The Ecstasy of Surrender. Very important that you don't keep trying to heal a relationship with an EUP parent by trying to convert an EUP in romance. It never works.

  13. Donna says:

    Do you think someone who is EUP may begin to want to change? I ask because I have been seeing someone for 5 years and we have gone through most of this … But recently he says I am revealing things he has not been able to put his finger on or put into words. I have discussed that he is a functional addict, who pushes people away when he starts having feelings. He also is usually seeing at least two people. I think some of that is so if one leaves it doesn’t hurt as much because he has a replacement. He says I get him more than anyone, probably because he begins to talk and drops his filter (he doesn’t drop the filter) … I get him because I know people and I have some of the same issues. He says he isn’t going to stop me from seeing him any more and I say I am going to keep coming until he stops me … So here we are?? He lost his father at 16. Left for the army at 18 because he did not get along with his mom; got married to an LPN in the Army (he was a medic). She stayed in he got out … Divorced after 19 years (I think he cheated often) his wife may have messed with his self esteem. We have great chemistry and although I have been married three times (I’m not as bad at marriage as that sounds) I think he is the first man I don’t want to imagine losing! I guess I want someone to say – oh there is hope – but who knows?!

  14. Joy says:

    This is what I call a narcissist! It can be much more serious and dangerous than a non- committal , emotionally unavailable person. There's much more to those with a narcissistic personality disorder that some of us have fallen victim to. Do the research and know what (and who) you're really dealing with.

  15. These 12 behaviours are in fact just part of the dysfunctional expression of the psychopath/sociopath/narcissist type –Just remember though, that the psychopath is actually the ideal evolutionary adaption to the prevailing competitive culture. Ruthlessness trumps loving kindness in competition any day. Whether governance, economics, education or relationships its the invisible emotional lake of competition in which we human 'fish" swim that is the real problem — Seriously isn't it time we drained the freaking swamp!

  16. Jasmine says:

    Is it ok if you both are EU? I'm not ready for a LTR, I am still learning about me, but I enjoy the lesson my other eu is teaching me.

  17. judith orloff says:

    If an EUP wants to change immediately find a coach or therapist who can guide to person to opening his/her heart to love

  18. rwt says:

    I love Elephant Journal, but just as with other articles on this site, this article doesn't take into account those of us involved with polyamorous people. I have no expectations of a full-time commitment from a poly person, and expect a certain amount of secrecy. Are there any modifications you would make to the above signs for those of us dealing with poly people but still desiring an intimate relationship with emotional availability? Thanks!!!

  19. Lisa says:

    This article is an answer to prayer. I have been asking myself if my fiancée has truly ever been in love. after reading this article, it answers many questions that I had and tells me that my intuition about him is probably right. He has had me so confused and I thought it was me, but this helps me understand it's probably not me, it's him thank you for writing this, it helps me a lot!

  20. survivor of NPD says:

    these ppl have NPD,Narcissistic personality disorder,it is more insidious than they cannot commit.They deliberatly get you hooked as that is where they get needs met,then discarding you or making you feel inecure,making you try harder,apologize,even when its them that do harm to you.
    To the inevitable ending ,and you are left in pieces,thinking you had found your soul mate,then they move on to there next"soul mate"

  21. Terry says:

    This could be me,,, eu,, how do i tell ?and if so how do I change ?

  22. Gabriel says:

    But how about if YOU are that EUP, but you really wanna change that. Where or how to start?. Thank you very much 🙂

  23. kelly says:

    From an unavailable standpoint… It does not matter how much you feel you are the "one". If a person has fear about love, their walls do not magically come down. Their intent isnt hurting you, its protecting themself. Usually their hearts are deep, their wounds happen to be deeper. It takes patients. Still with all the patients in the world, you may end up hurt. Risky business. On the other side.. These people want and deserve happiness just the Same as anyone else. Deep down they long for a companion but easily get carried away with fear, and limited self belief. Is it a lost cause? No! But yoy better b ready to roll with the punches.

  24. sad says:

    I am engaged to a man that fits this description perfectly. I live in total denial of his unavailability because when it's good with us its REALLY GOOD.

    It never lasts though. I'm pathetically waiting for the next good. I sit here depressed and meek.

  25. Cathy Adams says:


    I was once engaged to a man who fit 11 out of 12 of these traits. (Or at least I thought I was. I know now he never had any intention of marrying me.) I was like you. I was in denial of his unavailability because the good time were so good. This man lied, cheated, and was emotionally bullying when I tried to call him on his behavior. Then he’d turn around and be so sweet and intensely loving I would actually apologize for doubting him. Our relationship was a roller coaster, and I had blinders on. He was a master at telling me what I wanted to hear and though a voice deep inside told me I should doubt his honesty, I kept thinking that if I worked hard enough I could make the relationship work. I was wrong. He was never going to change. In the end, he found another victim and dumped me. It was the only kind, albeit inadvertently, thing he ever did for me. Trust me. I’ve been there. If your partner fits the description on the list above, he is not someone you want to stay with. You can not fix him, and it will not get better. The relationship is toxic and it will diminish you and break you down inside. Get out because you deserve better.

  26. karen pelletier says:

    I was involved with an EUP and full blown Narcissist for almost 4 years (of course off and on always at his discretion ). It was a long distance relationship and hence easy for him to be evasive, dishonest and manipulative. At some point I knew but was in too deep to be truly honest with myself. The breaking point was him calling me from an airport in South America to tell me he loved me, as he was about to board an Antarctica cruise with a woman he had cheated on me with in the past. He felt no shame towards her or me and tried to convince me it was just a friendship and he had no interest in her…..That was my last voice to voice conversation with him and I have since ended all communication. It has been months of finding myself, forgiving myself and healing. I have learned from my experience and wont be fooled again.

  27. Andrea R. says:

    I would agree with most of what this article says, however I would like to point out that what we consider healthy ways of relating to someone emotionally (first few sentences in this article) that behavior can easily be disingenuous by a pathological person who wants to find out all about the other person in order for him/her to appear healthy/normal. What is important to look for I think, is human blunders, that would point more to sincerity. Someone’s charming behavior and relating incredibly well to the needs of others (saying all the right things ect.) could be a red flag that this person is emotionally unavailable but have learned to appear sensitive, caring and understanding, serous about commitment.

    ” There is in their tone, a dangerous gentleness – so much gentleness that the safe reserve of their soul is broken.” – D.H. Lawrence

  28. Does your book address the reasons why a person may attract an UAP in the first place? What it says about their own fears regarding intimacy and relationships? That is just as important as to identifying a UAP.

  29. she can relate x says:

    what a fabulously calm and spot on comment. All this relates to an ex… I knew deep inside of this.. But to read it and hear others define it to a tee ..! Gives me strength in self belief and helps me see. Thank you. Xxx

  30. Kellie says:

    I needed to hear that. Thanks.

  31. Jo Long says:

    I have been seeing a man for a year. I love him but he does not love me. He is uncommitted. He calls all cute girls baby, right in front of me. He introduces me as his agent not his girlfriend. He doesn't call me for a week at a time. I am the one always calling him. He is tired often and doesn't want me to come up and see him. We live about 100 miles away. Sometimes when I plan to see him his back hurts and wants to rest alone. So I wait till the next week. Then I call him and make plans. How ever when we are together we have so much fun. He is charismatic and fun and hard to leave.
    Just lately he is starting to introduce me as his girlfriend. He traditionally has dated girls half his age that are bimbos. Give me your thoughts. I really love him and we have so much in common . He is giving and sweet in many ways. He has the same interest as myself. When we are together for the most part I feel he does care but it is very confusing.

  32. mercy says:

    thank you. i was involved with someone who was 11 out of 12 too – and he did the same thing. as painful as it was, it was a gift. the best gift he ever gave me. thank you so writing this so well. may you find someone as lovely as you.

  33. Julia says:


    I was in a relationship like that for many years, and I kept waiting for him to want to be with me. It finally ended and I met a man who loves being with me, all the time. He’s undeniably in love and every second we’re together is amazing, without any mind games or drama. It’s possible to find someone who makes you feel valued and loved always. Don’t settle for less. This guy is not worth your time!

  34. Amanda says:

    You are having a relationship with a narcissist – get out now! He will never change… I have just walked away from such a man – we too had great chemistry – and it's the best thing I did 🙂

  35. Maggie says:

    Upsetting because I'm realizing more and more that I'm the one that's been EU in my latest relationship. A lot to do with being with or pining for other EUPs, absent parents, and insecure friendships. Still trying to figure out if I should tell my partner to go on without me while I sort out the self-love side. Of course, I'm worried I'll actually be left behind or that I'll give up…or he will find someone better. I have deep feelings, but also deep wounds. Because of that, I can't tend to his much deeper, much more hidden pain either.

  36. Roxanne says:

    Lol, I'm not Judith:) But I believe many have had more than a few relationships in the past which reflect consistent patterns of being emotionally unavailable to those they profess to love. I feel their emotional unavailabilty may stem from a lack of feeling loved and having their needs met as a child from one or both parents. Of course, there are other possible contributing factors to be considered beyond parental influences including trauma, abuse, depression, and substance use.

  37. Carol says:

    I’m applaud at the same thing to go about this too. When I read the EU or about it here I know that myself and the person I have been with for four-years. He’s been in and out of my life off and on. I really truly didn’t want to be involved with him, but he started off with a hand shake, from there it was a card, then we both started talking to each other and sharing. I believe I was and still is more honest with him then he is to me. A few weeks ago he asked me why don’t I have a photo of him ? I have been to his place and he doesn’t have a photo of me either displayed. It really never dawned on me that I don’t have one of him, we have of each, but in the phone . We have been off and off on since day one. He disappears. I calls him he don’t answer his phone I leave messages. He sometimes responses to a message to automatically say something about me being wrong. My ex and I had the same problem. It’s all a lot of confusion and I don’t even know how to go about this , and we’re both up in age. I feel bad, because I didn’t have it so good in any relationship. Now as I write this its me more so than the person I m with. I’m applaud at myself for not being more of a considerate person. Thanks for sharing.

  38. Missy says:

    After reading the article I am the EUP. While I’m not in a relationship and haven’t been for six years now, I push people away when I see them getting too close. I was married to my best friend. He ended our marriage suddenly. 6 yrs later I still can’t trust anyone to be in my life, not in a romantic way.

  39. rose purnell says:

    AI have a friend who calls me when at his leisure he called to tell me his father died and now he won’t call me or he won’t answer to my calls if I suggest me hanging out with him then he says I’m controlling so we have a phone relationship

  40. LilyRose says:

    What do you when you’ve been with an abusive addict who was also emotionally unattached for a decade and now you yourself are emotionally unattached. I don’t want to be this way, I don’t know how to not be 🙁