Let’s get this out of the way: Dating an emotionally unavailable man doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s abusive, manipulative, or a jerk.
More often than not, these men can be good guys. They can make you laugh until your abs hurt. They can be polite and treat you with respect. They listen. And over time, as conversation flows, it can start to feel like you’ve met a new best friend.
On one hand, you’re having a good time. The relationship is exclusive and things seem like they’re steadily progressing, which keeps your hope alive. Yet then he pulls away very suddenly. Maybe you can’t put your finger exactly on how he’s pulled away, but you feel it. Sure, you’re still seeing him, which keeps your candle burning for him. And you convince yourself that he’ll be able to give you that emotional intimacy needed to build a meaningful relationship, if you give him a little more time….
Sadly, here’s the hard truth. Many of these men may never be able to meet your need for closeness (at least not without months or even years of self-initiated serious self-work). If he’s showing several of the following 21 signs, chances are, he’s emotionally unavailable — and, sadly, probably no longer worth your time.
- He won’t contact you every day. Do you go days without hearing from your man? If you’re in a serious relationship, it’s normal to touch base every day. Not connecting with a text or phone call isn’t good manners—it shows that he’s not all that worried about your emotional needs.
- You feel excluded from his life. He may attend a wedding without you, despite your request to go with him. He requests time to hang out with friends without you—and not just a “guys’ night” but includes co-ed instances too. Do you feel like his friends would even know who you are?
- You haven’t met the family. You’ve been dating for months and you haven’t met one single family member yet. You may rationalize it as he’s just not ready — but this isn’t normal.
- He won’t leave any of his things at your place. Leaving things at your place makes him uneasy. This is because this just means too much commitment. He likely won’t give you a drawer at his place either unless you ask.
- He won’t go on vacation with you. Getting away together can transform relationships and bring you closer. This makes him wary. He doesn’t like the idea of traveling just the two of you.
- He’s a penny pincher—but only with you. He’ll spend money on himself and be generous with others, but will make comments when you’re with him about not wanting to spend too much money.
- He talks about how much he values his independence. He says he’s always been independent and values being self-sufficient. And more often than not, this is code for: “I don’t need you.” In tandem, he’ll probably say you’re “too needy” or “dependent” — for simply asking for basic relationship interactions.
- He avoids physical closeness. He won’t hold your hand in public. As far as others around you are concerned, the two of you are just friends, because there are no signs of affection between the two of you. He may also walk ahead of you. Sure, you may be a slow walker, but walking ahead of you creates distance, and that distance will make him feel comfortable.
- He won’t put up photos of the two of you. You’ve been dating for months and he crops you out of his profile picture. He’ll post a picture to Instagram to take a pic of his food and show off his dish—but won’t include the babe sitting across the table from him.
- He takes more than he gives. Good relationships are about give and take. Not in a tit-for-tat way, but both of you want to meet each other’s needs. If you’re with an emotionally unavailable guy, you feel like you’re doing way more for the relationship than he is.
- He doesn’t consider you. He gets dinner for himself but doesn’t pick up anything for you. He decides to apply for a job out of state without asking how you would feel about it. When it comes to his decision-making, it just doesn’t feel like you’re in the equation.
- He changed. When you first met, he was charming, swept you off of your feet, and let you know that you were the only woman he wanted to be with. And now, he does the minimum to keep the relationship going. Gone are the declarations about his feelings and your future. Sometimes you may wonder why he’s even still with you since he doesn’t seem to care.
- He avoids talking about the relationship and your future. He gives you just enough to think you do have a future, but you’re not 100% sure where you stand in his life and what his intentions really are.
- He avoids difficult talks in general. Emotionally unavailable men will avoid difficult talks. Working through conflict can bring a couple closer together, and closeness is exactly what he wants to avoid.
- You have sex but you don’t make love. When you’re together physically, you feel like he’s still not fully present or connected. You may still have fun having sex, but there’s still a part of him that he’s holding back. You may even be the one who wants sex more often than him.
- He has unrealistic views of a relationship. Maybe he believes in the Hollywood I-always-want-to-take-your-clothes-off kind of relationship. Or maybe he believes good relationships should be effortless. Or that the fun feelings should just always be there. Basically: he wants the “X factor” and doesn’t realize he needs to do the work.
- His exes’ descriptions say it all. If you were to talk to his ex-girlfriend, you might hear words like, “emotional zombie,” “human popsicle,” or “iceberg,” or they’ll describe hitting a “wall.”
- He nitpicks. He focuses on small things like the way you talk or dress. You feel criticized over things that don’t matter and don’t feel accepted by him. Nitpicking is a way for him to diminish his feelings toward you, to assert his independence, and ultimately create emotional distance.
- He’s hot and cold. After a particularly intimate time spent together, he distances for a few days. It’s as though the man he was when he was with you is gone, and you’re left thinking: what the heck is happening?
- He won’t spontaneously say those three little words. He rarely, if ever, says “I love you” unless you say it first. And if you’ve been dating your guy for years, spending more time with him won’t increase the frequency.
- You’ve become anxious. You’re normally confident, happy, and have a positive attitude. But with him, you’re over-analyzing, spending time wondering about your relationship, and your friends are sick of getting screenshots to help you decipher his texts. Likely, you’re experiencing more anxiety and uncertainty than you do when you’re single.
So, what should you do?
My advice? You either need to lower your expectations because he can never give you what you need (at least not without that serious self-work), or just cut him loose so you don’t waste your time. You’d be better off finding a man who has the ability to be and give you what you need.