Emotionally Unavailable Men Characteristics And Traits

Updated July 07, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Amy Brown

When it comes to being in a relationship, emotional connections are what takes things from fun to serious. For many women, the desire to build a deep emotional connection with a man who plays a big part in their search for the right guy. But what happens when you find yourself investing time and effort into a relationship where the guy doesn’t seem to be reciprocating your desire for an emotional connection? It could mean that you’re dating an emotionally unavailable man. Dealing with emotionally unavailable men can be a tricky thing when you both want different things; it can leave you feeling alone, depressed, unimportant, and undesirable. Read on to learn what causes emotional unavailability, traits of emotionally unavailable men, and tips on what to do if you find yourself in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable man.

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What Causes Emotional Unavailability?

Many different things can cause someone to be emotionally detached. These reasons all fall under two categories: temporary or chronic.

  • Temporary Emotional Unavailability

These are reasons that have come about due to a life event. He could have something else in his life that he is dedicating his time and effort to, such as his job, family members, furthering education, or even a health concern. Men that have been recently divorced or widowed often find that they become emotionally detached for some time while they grieve the lost relationship. This situation is also possible for men that have recently ended a long term relationship. Sometimes a breakup can lead to emotionally unavailable men who simply want to date for some time before trying to find another severe partner.

While these reasons are likely to subside with time, that doesn’t mean you can force a man who is emotionally unavailable out of his habits. He will have to decide when he is ready to be open to investing himself emotionally into a new relationship.

  • Chronic Emotional Unavailability

For some emotionally unavailable men, the underlying reasons are more severe and lead to a chronic issue with emotions. Research has shown that parents who aren’t emotionally available for their sons have a higher risk of raising men who are emotionally unavailable themselves. Some men suffering from mental health concerns may also experience difficulties with emotions. In addition, men who have been burned by love before may find it challenging to get over those hurt feelings, and are afraid of making an emotional connection again.

These more chronic reasons that lead to emotionally unavailable men are more challenging to overcome. Often the best solution is treatment from a mental health professional, who can help the man assess these problems and find ways to overcome them to be comfortable with emotions again.

Characteristics of Emotionally Unavailable Men

There are specific characteristics of emotionally unavailable men that a woman can look for when trying to assess her relationship. The traits of emotionally unavailable men can vary depending on both the man and the situation. If a man shows just one or two of the characteristics listed, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is an emotionally detached man. But if you notice that your significant other has more than just one or two of the traits listed for characteristics of emotionally unavailable men, there is a chance that he might have a problem with emotion. Here are some characteristics of an emotionally unavailable man that you can look for:

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  • He Doesn’t Like to Open Up to You

One of the most common characteristics of emotionally unavailable men is their reluctance to reveal their feelings to you. Being able to discuss how you’re feeling is a normal part of a healthy relationship, but a detached man will not be comfortable doing this. Sharing feelings means letting your guard down, which is what emotionally unavailable men absolutely do not want to do. For instance, he’ll avoid confiding even everyday occurrences from his week, like how a tough meeting with his boss went, or disappointment about having plans canceled. Instead, an emotionally unavailable man will keep these thoughts and feelings inside rather than confiding in you. He’ll choose to discuss more mundane topics instead of emotional ones, sticking to facts rather than sharing anything that touches on how he is feeling.

  • He’s Uncomfortable When You Express Your Emotions

Another characteristic of emotionally unavailable men is that they are either not interested in or uncomfortable with you expressing your own feelings or emotions. Emotionally unavailable men have trouble with all emotions, not just their own. If a man changes the subject when you try and talk about your feelings, or if he becomes withdrawn, frustrated, or even annoyed, these are signs of an emotionally unavailable man. Healthy relationships involve vulnerability and having someone willing to listen to you and help you through tough times. Emotionally unavailable men aren’t willing to deal with emotionally charged situations, which makes them unable to maintain normal romantic relationships.

  • He Doesn’t Talk About His Past

Emotionally unavailable men are rarely if ever open and honest about events in their past, when it comes to relationships and when it comes to their life experiences. While no one needs to confess every single detail about their past and their failed relationships, being able to share details about yourself is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship. You can’t expect someone to share all of their intimate details when your relationship is new. Still, if your boyfriend keeps you in the dark about his past, even after you’ve been together for a while, these are signs of an emotionally unavailable man.

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  • He’s Often Sarcastic or Defers to Joking

Have you noticed that your boyfriend manages to turn every serious moment into a joke, or responds with sarcasm? Another of the characteristics of emotionally unavailable men is that they often chose this tactic to avoid having to express any strong emotions, such as anger, disappointment, fear, or sadness. They’ll find a way to turn any situation into a laugh as a defense mechanism rather than having to deal with emotions honestly, whether they are his emotions or yours. So if you notice that your man reacts to bad news with a joke, or your expressions of emotion with sarcasm, these can be signs of an emotionally unavailable man.

  • He’s Reluctant to Make Any Commitment to You

Emotionally unavailable men are either not able or not willing to make a commitment to another person in a relationship. He’ll do his best to keep things casual, even going so far as to avoid calling you his girlfriend, to avoid making a commitment to you. Commitment involves an emotional investment from both people in a relationship, which is exactly what he is trying to avoid. Instead, emotionally unavailable men will often have very short relationships, never staying with a woman long enough that it requires any sort of investment on his part. If you’ve approached the idea of taking your relationship to the next level and he’s been unreceptive or tried to change the subject, there is little chance of your relationship becoming any more than what it is now.

  • He Replaces Emotional Connections with Physical Ones

Physical intimacy is a natural part of a romantic relationship, and it isn’t uncommon for men to be interested in initiating a physical relationship before you’ve established an emotional connection. The difference with emotionally unavailable men is that they will replace emotional connections with physical ones. If your boyfriend deflects your attempts to talk about your relationship or your emotions by initiating physical intimacy, there is a good chance that he is an emotionally unavailable man.

What to Do If You’re With an Emotionally Unavailable Man

The traits of emotionally unavailable men aren’t hard to read, but they can be hard to deal with, especially if you’ve found yourself married to an emotionally unavailable man. There is a difference between being emotionally unavailable and simply being bad at handling emotions. The difference is whether or not a man is just awkward at handling emotions, or if he tries to avoid them entirely, avoidance is the key factor that defines emotionally unavailable men. If your boyfriend avoids “labeling” your relationship, discussing his feelings, or reacts negatively when you express your emotions, it’s likely he is emotionally detached, and that your relationship is unlikely to progress any farther than it already is.

An emotionally unavailable man isn’t necessarily a broken man; he just hasn’t learned or has forgotten how to deal with emotions. Dealing with an emotionally unavailable man isn’t impossible. You can approach the idea of going to couples counseling with him or having him go to individual therapy to try and address his problems. There is a good chance he’ll refuse, but if you approach it straightforwardly, he may be receptive. Tell him that you’re interested in continuing your relationship, and mention the ways that you believe make you two a good fit for each other. If he’s the type of man that is willing to try and change, he should be willing to address his issues. If he isn’t, you’ll know it is time to move on from the relationship.

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If you’ve found yourself in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable man and aren’t sure how to deal with it, try setting up an appointment with a licensed therapist here at  ReGain. We connect people with therapists that can help deal with many types of problems, including those that can arise from dealing with emotionally unavailable men. Unlike in-person counseling, we offer convenient online sessions that can be done from your computer, tablet, or phone, whenever it best suits your schedule. Don’t let dealing with emotionally unavailable men affect your mental well-being; let a licensed therapist help you learn how to work through this journey, even if your boyfriend isn’t willing to participate.


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