You must have heard of the term “emotionally unavailable” quite a while in your life, especially if you have dated someone in the past or have seen your friends dating someone.
Emotionally unavailable is a term used to describe people who have difficulty opening up to people or forming a healthy intimate relationship with someone where both of them feel safe and comfortable being vulnerable and sharing their feelings out loud.
Usually, when you are in your “dating phase” or are trying to understand which person suits you the most, you come across many people who are emotionally unavailable.
Now, let’s see how you can notice an emotionally unavailable person and how to change yourself if you are one too.
What Does It Mean to Be Emotionally Unavailable?
If you are trying to understand “what does emotionally unavailable mean?" then here it is, emotional unavailability is described when someone is not willing to be open about their feelings and finds it really difficult to be vulnerable and in touch with their emotions.
Such people are mostly hard to read, reserved, and do not like interacting with people. They tend to cover themselves up by saying they are private or do not like opening immediately, but in reality, they are usually running away from being emotionally available.
Emotional unavailability has a tendency to give birth to toxic relationships. That’s why it is quite important to understand when you or someone close to you is emotionally unavailable, because it always has a deeper meaning behind it.
Signs of an Emotionally Unavailable Partner
It might be difficult to interpret if you have an emotionally unavailable partner, if you have just started dating or if their personality is that of a reserved person. However, there are several signs that can help indicate if someone is emotionally unavailable. Here are some:
1. They have commitment issues
If you are dating an emotionally unavailable person, they will have anxiety and fear about committing to the relationship or anything that requires them to be consistent and be there all the time.
2. They don’t communicate consistently
An emotionally unavailable person has a hard time communicating properly and tends to change the topic or run away from conversations when they start becoming difficult or serious.
3. They have intimacy issues
Emotionally unavailable people tend to be closed off and do not like intimacy, whether it is physical or emotional. They may start pulling away the moment they see themselves becoming vulnerable and they usually prefer sexual affairs in the name of intimacy as a cover to run from things troubling them.
4. They avoid labels
Emotionally unavailable people tend to avoid labels and insist on not defining the relationship and keeping it open so they can explore other potential people.
5. They are confused about what they want
Emotionally unavailable people are usually confused about what they want out of a relationship and also keep the other person in a state of dilemma, which creates friction in the relationship.
6. They are inconsistent
Emotionally unavailable people are inconsistent with their actions and words. They might make you huge promises but run away when it actually comes to fulfilling them. They are more likely to apologize and compensate with gifts.
7. They have trust issues
Emotionally unavailable people tend to have an invisible shield in front of them that they are too scared to let go of and it keeps them from letting people in or trusting them again. When they see themselves slipping away, they run off or leave the other person hanging.
8. They get defensive
Emotionally unavailable people get very defensive when someone criticizes them or makes them realise that they were in the wrong too. They start refusing any allegations profusely and shutting off like anything.
9. They don’t empathize
When it comes to empathizing with and understanding other people’s needs, emotionally unavailable people do not understand anything that goes in-depth. They only see the surface signs and tend to zone out when it comes to understanding the intricacies of a person’s feelings or situation.
10. They do not make any efforts
Emotionally unavailable people do not make any strong effort to stay committed or consistent in their relationship. They tend to slack off and not care if the other person is hurting and they usually end up taking the other person for granted.
Signs That You Are Emotionally Unavailable
There are signs that also indicate that you might be emotionally unavailable to yourself and your partner. Let’s see what they are they:
1. You want an open relationship
If you are emotionally unavailable, you might be more inclined towards exploring other people and keeping the relationship open where there are not many heart to heart conversations.
2. Relationships feel like a job
If you see your relationship as a job or task list rather than something that fulfills you, you will stay out of them and wouldn’t want to commit to one, as that feeling might make you feel burdened.
3. You have relationship anxiety
If you have been hurt in the past or didn’t have healthy role models for a relationship, you might suffer from relationship anxiety, which means never getting involved with people and staying in your own shell even though you feel a pull to explore.
4. You have commitment issues
If you are someone who finds it hard to stick to someone, whether it is a person or a plan, you might be suffering from commitment issues that will lead you to leave the person before they can leave you, making you emotionally unavailable.
5. You find it hard to trust
If you have had experience with mistrust or, in general, find it difficult to trust someone, you might not come into a relationship with anyone and might be okay with hooking up, turning you into an emotionally unavailable person.
6. You worry about getting tied down
When it comes to commitment, you might think of it as getting tied down with somebody or as a hindrance to your growth, because of which you might only be into open relationships and reject the idea of commitment or marriage, making you emotionally unavailable.
What Causes Someone to Be Emotionally Unavailable?
1. Attachment style
While growing up, children tend to develop certain attachment styles by looking at their parents and the kind of love and care they get from them. These attachment styles differ from secure to avoidant, resistant, and disorganized. So children who grow up with insecure attachment styles tend to become emotionally unavailable, leading to problems in forming relationships in adulthood.
2. Trauma or emotional conflicts
Children with heavy emotional baggage or unhealed trauma might be more prone to becoming emotionally unavailable, as that makes them protect themselves and not get hurt again.
3. Past relationships
If a person has been in bad relationships in the past or has been hurt before, they tend to become emotionally unavailable in order to protect themselves and not get hurt again.
4. Life circumstances
A person becomes emotionally unavailable if they have been through struggling times like providing money to the family, not having a good family, or not getting proper care and attention in childhood.
5. Unhealthy role models
People who have seen unhappy marriages or have had role models who were not keen on having a stable relationship but had casual relationships tend to think this is what love looks like and make relationships like that in their future.
Is It Bad to Be Emotionally Unavailable?
There is nothing bad or good about emotional patterns; however, carrying this emotional unavailability with yourself for the rest of your life can become burdensome and cause a deep hindrance in your relationships, affecting your overall quality of life.
So while it is quite normal to be emotionally unavailable because of getting hurt, having life struggles, or learning lessons, you can always unlearn this pattern and become more open towards new experiences and embracing life.
While it may be hard to do that, getting deep into the void of emotional unavailability will only harm you in the long run. So take a few steps and seek professional guidance to give your inner child a rest and live life without feeling any anchor around your neck.
How Can Therapy Help?
Therapy can help you understand the root cause of your emotional unavailability. Although you might be aware of it in your subconscious, your therapist will help you empathize with the root cause and not become hard on yourself for it.
It might be anything from attachment style to getting hurt in the past, but the best way to find that is with the help of a therapist so that you are able to navigate through this difficult road in a smooth and healthy manner.
If you are new to therapy and find it extremely hard to talk to someone new or want an answer for “am I emotionally unavailable?" then you can opt for your first chat for free with Now&Me and see how therapy works. Moreover, you can also try taking short therapy sessions to find your best fit, starting at Rs. 30.
Not only this, but if you wish to see how therapy has helped other people, you can join the Now&Me community and interact with like-minded people and learn about their therapy experiences.
Therapy is an important tool that can help you understand yourself better and find a healthy and safe home inside you. So download the app and start your healing journey now!
Emotionally Unavailable: What It Means & 15 Signs To Look For. Published March 2023. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/emotionally-unavailable-what-it-means-and-15-signs-to-look-for
Emotionally Unavailable: What It Means, Signs, & What to Do About It. Published June 2022. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/emotionally-unavailable/
Now&Me articles are written by experienced mental health contributors and are purely based on scientific research and evidence-based practices, which are thoroughly reviewed by experts, including therapists and psychologists with various specialties, to ensure accuracy and alignment with current industry standards.
However, it is important to note that the information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individual circumstances vary, and it is advisable to consult with a qualified mental health professional for personalized advice and guidance.