Characteristics And Traits Of Emotionally Unavailable Men

Updated September 19, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

For some, the desire to build a deep, emotional connection plays a big part in their search for someone to date. But what happens when you find yourself investing time and effort into a relationship where your partner doesn’t seem to be reciprocating your desire for an emotional connection? It could mean that you’re dating someone who is emotionally unavailable. Dealing with people who lack emotional connection can be tricky when you both want different things; it can leave you feeling alone, sad, unimportant, and undesirable. Read on to learn what causes people to become emotionally unavailable, and tips on what to do if you find yourself in a relationship with someone who lacks an emotional connection with you.

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Is Your Partner Emotionally Unavailable?

What Causes Unavailability?

Many different things can cause someone to be emotionally detached. However, these reasons fall under two main categories: temporary or chronic.

Temporarily emotional unavailability is due to a life event. They could have something else in their life that they dedicate their time and effort to, such as his job, family, furthering education, or even a health concern. People who are recently divorced or widowed often find themselves becoming emotionally detached for some time while they grieve the lost relationship. This situation is also possible for those who have recently ended a long-term relationship. Sometimes a breakup can lead to a person to be emotionally unavailable. They may still want to date – but aren’t ready to be in a long-term relationship.

While these reasons are likely to subside with time, that doesn’t mean you can force someone who is emotionally inept or emotionally unavailable to open up . They  will have to decide when they are ready to invest emotionally into a new relationship.

Chronic Emotional Unavailability has underlying causes that are more severe and often lead to chronic emotional issues. For example, research has shown that parents who aren’t emotionally available for their children have a higher risk of raising adults who are emotionally unavailable themselves. Some people with mental health concerns may also experience difficulties with emotions. In addition, those who have been burned by love before may find it challenging to get over the hurt and are afraid of making an emotional connection again.

Chronic emotional unavailability  is more challenging to overcome. Often, the best solution is treatment from a mental health professional who can help the assess these concerns and find ways to overcome them to be comfortable with emotions again.

Characteristics Of An Emotionally Unavailable Partner

There are specific characteristics of emotionally unavailable partners to look for when assessing relationships. These traits can vary depending on both the person and the situation. If you just see one or two of the characteristics listed, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are emotionally detached. But if you notice that your significant other has more than a couple of the traits listed, there is a chance that they might have a problem with emotion.

  • They Don’t Like to Open Up to You

One of the most common characteristics of an emotionally-unavailable person is the reluctance to reveal their feelings to you. Discussing how you’re feeling is a normal part of a healthy relationship, but a detached partner will not be comfortable doing this. Showing feelings means letting your guard down, which is what emotionally-unavailable people absolutely do not want to do.

For instance, they’ll avoid confiding even everyday occurrences from their week, like how a tough meeting with their boss went or disappointment about having plans cancelled. Instead, an emotionally-unavailable partner will keep these thoughts and feelings inside rather than confiding in you.

They’ll choose to discuss more mundane topics instead of emotional ones, sticking to facts rather than anything that touches on feelings.

  • They Don’t Respond To  Your Emotional Side

Emotionally distant people have trouble with all emotions, not just their own. If they change the subject when you try and talk about your feelings, or if they become withdrawn, frustrated, or even annoyed, these are signs they are emotionally unavailable.

Healthy relationships involve vulnerability and having someone willing to listen to you and help you through tough times. Emotionally-distant people aren’t willing to deal with emotionally-charged situations, making them unable to maintain normal romantic relationships.

  • They Don’t Talk About Their Past

An emotionally unavailable person is rarely, if ever, open and honest about events in their past when it comes to relationships and life experiences. While no one needs to confess every single detail about their past and their failed relationships, being able to give details about yourself is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship.

You can’t expect someone to tell all of their intimate details when your relationship is new. 

Still, if your partner keeps you in the dark about his past even after you’ve been together for a while, this may be signs of a lack of emotional vulnerability.

  • They’re Often Sarcastic or Defer to Joking. Have you noticed that your partner manages to turn every serious moment into a joke or responds with sarcasm? Another characteristic of emotionally unavailable men is that they often chose this tactic to avoid expressing 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 their emotions or yours. So if you notice that they react to bad news with a joke or your expressions of emotion with sarcasm, these can be signs of emotional unavailability. 
  • They’re Reluctant to Commit.  Some people are either not able or unwilling to commit to another person in a relationship. They’ll do their best to keep things casual – even avoiding calling you their partner – to avoid committing to you. Commitment involves an emotional investment from both people in a relationship, which is exactly what they are trying to avoid. If your partner is emotionally immature, they will often have short relationships, never staying with a partner long enough to require any investment on their part. If you’ve approached the idea of taking your relationship to the next level and they’ve been unreceptive or tried to change the subject, there is little chance of your relationship becoming any more than what it is now.
  • They Replace 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 they’ve established an emotional connection. The difference with emotionally-unavailable men is that they will replace emotional connections with physical ones. If they deflect your attempts to talk about your relationship or your emotions by initiating physical intimacy, there is a good chance that they are emotionally unavailable.
  • They Aren’t Just Awkward. The difference of whether or not someone is just awkward at handling emotions is if they try to avoid them entirely. Avoidance is the key factor that defines an emotionally distant person. If your partner avoids “labeling” your relationship, discussing their feelings, or reacts negatively when you express your emotions, it’s likely they are emotionally detached and that your relationship is unlikely to progress any further than it already is.

What To Do If You’re With An Emotionally Unavailable Person

The traits of an emotionally unavailable person aren’t hard to read, but they can be hard to deal with, especially if you’ve found yourself married to an emotionally distant person. There is a difference between being emotionally unavailable and simply being bad at handling emotions.

An emotionally distant partner isn’t necessarily broken; they may have just not learned or forgotten how to deal with emotions. Dealing with an emotionally unavailable partner isn’t impossible. You can approach the idea of going to couples counseling or individual therapy to try and address the concern.

There is a good chance, however, that they’ll refuse.  If you approach it straightforwardly, they may be receptive. Tell them that you’re interested in continuing your relationship and mention how you believe you two are a good fit for each other. If your partner is the type who is willing to try and change, they should be willing to address their issues. If not, you’ll know it may be time to move on from the relationship.

Is Your Partner Emotionally Unavailable?

One form of couples therapy that is growing popularity due to its success is emotional focused therapy, or EFT. The American Psychological Association explains that during EFT sessions, “the therapist helps the client to become aware of, accept, make sense of, and control emotions as a way of resolving problems and promoting growth.” EFT’s focus is on emotions and emotional communication and how it plays a key role in improving relationships. A systemic review of 19 years of EFT studies related to couples found that EFT improved marital satisfaction and that satisfaction was sustained during follow-up appointments. 

Unlike in-person counseling, Regain offers 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.

Therapist Reviews

Austa Murray, LCSW

“Austa has been wonderful thus far. She has helped my partner and I during an unimaginably difficult time... She has also guided us in communicating effectively and setting appropriate boundaries in our relationship. I was hesitant to pursue counseling at the beginning, but I truly believe that it is making a difference for our relationship. Austa is easy to talk to and she is a great listener. I would wholeheartedly recommend her as a counselor.”

Natalie Alexander, LPC

“Sessions with Natalie are very insightful and give practical advice on implementing new habits and changes. Be prepared to engage and be challenged to think in a different way. I know that my partner and I can already see improvements in our relationship and feel more positive about working through our issues together.”


Having an emotionally unavailable partner can be frustrating, but it doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed. If you’ve found yourself in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable partner and aren’t sure what to do,  you can set up an appointment with a licensed therapist here at  Regain. We connect people with therapists that can help deal with many types of relationship issues, including those that can arise from dealing with emotionally distant partner. Contact Regain to start strengthening your relationship today. 

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