10 Ways to Tell if Someone is Emotionally Unavailable
We all hate it when we invest in a friendship or romantic relationship, only to realize later that our friend or lover was “emotionally unavailable.” “Emotionally unavailable” isn’t about the ability to make commitments.
Actually, it is worse than that.
You can easily end up in a committed relationship for various reasons with someone who is emotionally unavailable. So what does emotional unavailability look like?
1. The Relationship is One-sided. You do the great majority of the planning, sacrificing, and communicating without a proportional response.
2. The Relationship is Fair-weather. It’s great when things are going well, but when you have setbacks and bad days, the other person is AWOL.
3. The Relationship is Sporadic. The relationship is “on-again, off-again” for no apparent reason.
4. The Other Person is Deeply Addicted. It could be a range of “addictions” from video games, gambling, porn or substances. But the addiction is the person’s way of being emotionally unavailable to you.
5. The Other Person has Many Exits. This is similar to #4 but the exit from intimacy relies on more acceptable means. The other person may be a workaholic, sports-a-holic, shop-a-holic, hobby-holic, or always physically ill. If you find yourself feeling abandoned by the other person who is too often “doing their own thing,” they may be emotionally unavailable.
6. The Other Person has Severe Emotional Disorders. I’m not just talking mild depression here. If a person is in active psychosis, actively suicidal, incapacitated by anxiety, or personality disordered (borderline, antisocial, narcissistic, etc), these are indications that the person has significant struggles. While we can have tons of compassion on struggling people, we should not expect people who are in this position to be able to support us in our times of need. And if we are repeatedly drawn to partner with people struggling at this level, we should get some counseling to figure out why.
7. The Other Person Is Smothering/Controlling. As seductive as it is to be wined-and-dined and overwhelmed with gifts and attention, this pressure is actually a red flag. These are possible indications that the other person views you as someone to manipulate. First, it may start with the “good stuff”, but the desire to control will eventually deteriorate into the “bad stuff.” When you are viewed as a target to manipulate, this indicates the other person will not be genuinely emotionally available to you.
8. The Other Person Can’t Empathize. When you are distressed, they appear unmoved or personally wounded. They focus on themselves instead of you. Instead of reaching out to comfort you, their actions say, in essence, “I’m hurting too! What about me?”
9. The Other Person is Physically/Emotionally Abusive. This one should be obvious, but it is amazing how many of us get snared in these unhealthy relationships. Get support to get out as soon as possible.
10. The Other Person is Repeatedly Dishonest. Lying is a way to hide their authentic self from true intimacy. It won’t get better without counseling or a major spiritual awakening.
So, is there a way to sharpen our “Emotionally Unavailable Detector”? For sure, take this list and watch for indicators that could be a concern.
Along with that, you can run a little test for Emotional Availability. It consists of gently reaching out for support and seeing what the response is. (This will often backfire if you have a pattern of neediness in your relationship, so be aware of that fact). A person who has never learned to be vulnerable can learn to be emotionally available, but it is a long process that usually involves therapy and lots of safety in the relationship.