Emotionally unavailable men are not just the handsome, superficial charmers. They come in all looks, shapes, and personality types. They have a variety of backgrounds and life experiences.
Some can have bursts of real intimacy and passion, followed by periods of pulling back and coldness. Others never reveal an intimate, authentic desire for closeness.
Here are 16 common characteristics of emotionally unavailable men:
1. Difficulty Expressing Deeper Feelings
No matter how hard you try, you can’t scratch the surface of this guy’s emotions. He is uncomfortable talking about his true feelings of love, pain, shame, guilt or any other feeling that might make him appear “weak” and vulnerable.
He has learned to ignore and deny his negative emotions in particular, and has become emotionally “color blind.”
He has a protective wall around his emotions and can get angry, confused, or defensive if you try to penetrate it. Sometimes he may give you a glimpse of his interior world, only to pull back and block you out once again.
2. Slow to Commit
These men often fear commitment because they know it will require more of them than they are capable of giving. Committing to one person means revealing more of themselves and taking the risks involved with intimacy.
This fear of commitment is more than just wanting to keep their options open. It’s a systemic fear of being overwhelmed by uncomfortable emotions and the needs of their partner. They need a quick escape route which commitment prevents.
3. Acts Distant, Above It All, Too Cool
In an effort to protect himself, the emotionally unavailable man will create a persona that initially seems mysterious and cool. But over time, you want and need to know the person behind the mystery man.
Unfortunately, this guy has spent a lot of time and energy crafting the way he presents himself to the world, and he’s not about to drop the facade.
It is an attractive barrier that keeps others, even you, at arm’s distance so he doesn’t have to cope with the uncertainty and discomfort of too much closeness which makes him feel vulnerable or overwhelmed.
4. Inability or Unwillingness to Be Vulnerable
The fear of vulnerability is the fear of showing your true self. This fear often stems from a deeper fear of abandonment.
If he reveals his inner world and less-than-confident emotions, you may see him as weak and unattractive and want to leave him.
He may also have a fear of engulfment, the feeling he is losing himself in the relationship. By revealing his true self to you, he may lose control of himself because he unconsciously worries you may control or dominate him.
5. Uncomfortable Discussing Emotional Topics
You want your love partner to be there for you when you are dealing with painful or confusing emotions. Sadly, the emotionally distant man has difficulty being fully present with your feelings.
He can’t simply listen with empathy and support your feelings. Either he deflects his discomfort by offering practical solutions, or he dismisses your feelings altogether by diminishing them or not listening to you.
6. Defensive and Quick to Anger
Anger is a socially acceptable emotion for men, and often it is the go-to reaction when things get too “touchy feely” or intimate with your guy.
If you suggest something like, “You seem really sad today,” his response is reactive and defensive. “I’m not sad. Don’t tell me how I’m feeling. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
This defensiveness and anger can pop up any time he feels threatened, vulnerable, or trapped.
7. Suggests You Are Too Sensitive or Needy
Deflecting the blame on to you is a common strategy for emotionally unavailable men.
Rather than accepting or acknowledging his inability to connect and share his feelings, this man will turn the tables to suggest your needs are unacceptable or over the top.
Your desire for closeness and intimacy reflects a weakness on your part, not a deficiency on his.
8. Quick to Blame Others
When someone says or does something that reflects poorly on your guy’s demeanor or behavior, he is quick to blame the other person rather than examine the possibility of his own flaws.
Often emotionally distant men are lacking in empathy and view the world through the lens of their skewed perceptions. They can’t or won’t see how their words and behaviors are impacting other people.
When someone highlights this issue, the emotionally unavailable man will deny and attack.
9. Rarely Self-Reflective or Self-Aware
Emotionally unavailable men don’t spend much time reflecting on their own behaviors and personal growth. They aren’t motivated to become more self-aware and empathic.
These men have trouble stepping back to look at themselves and how they are impacting others, particularly you. They are much more comfortable with achievement, action, and control.
10. Difficulty Showing Non-Sexual Affection
Emotionally distant men can view physical touch as overwhelming or unnecessary unless it leads to sex or is part of sex. They don’t often initiate hugging, cuddling, or hand-holding.
They might feel uncomfortable with public displays of affection or act put upon if you request physical affection.You might notice they pull away or stiffen up when you are affectionate with them.
They might even appear disgusted or agitated when you touch them because it feels like an invasion rather than an intimate, loving gesture.
11. Disinterested in Your Feelings and Needs
If you try to express your relationship needs — for more intimacy, affection, and closeness — he will either give you lip service, diminish your feelings, or blow you off entirely.
He doesn’t want to hear that he’s not enough and that you need more from him. That’s either a blow to his ego or a confusing conundrum that he doesn’t understand. “What does she want from me? I don’t get it, why am I not enough?”
12. Often Self-Centered and Needing Attention
Men who are emotionally unavailable are often too busy with themselves to have much more to give to you.
They want constant attention, affirmation, and praise, and they may view you as an extension of themselves whose sole purpose is to make them look good.
Your needs and desires are a distraction that puts the focus on the wrong person: you rather than him.
Behind this need for attention may be a deeply insecure, needy person who needs constant propping up. This is sad, but it’s not a healthy foundation for an intimate relationship.
13. Overly Focused on Sex but Not Emotional Closeness
The only time this emotionally detached man can connect is through sex. But sex for him is not a mutual expression of love and intimacy, it’s a physical release or a conquest.
Sex becomes a way to unburden himself of the tension of keeping it all together and staying in control, but tenderness, intimate expressions, cuddling, and affection are rarely part of the scenario.
Once sex is over, this man will quickly move on his next project or fall asleep right away.
14. Avoids Sex Altogether
Some of these men will avoid sex or initiate it infrequently because sex itself is too intimate and requires too much from him. This can affect his libido and performance.
He may know that you want more from him during a sexual encounter, and he can’t or won’t give it. So he simply avoids having sex with you. It feels like too much trouble.
Because he is unable to let down and be vulnerable with you, his stress levels may be so high that he is rarely in the mood for sex. It just feels like another chore.
15. Spends Too Much Time with Pornography
Looking at pornography doesn’t require an emotional commitment or intimacy. He can find sexual gratification without the discomfort and demands of a real relationship.
A man’s addiction to pornography can contribute to his lack of interest in you sexually. It further diminishes any intimacy between you.
16. Inability to Deal with Conflict
Conflict is inevitable even in the closest relationships. But a man who is emotionally detached will do everything he can to avoid conflict because it involves expressing emotions.
He may clam up, leave the room, or shut you down with yelling and anger. He can’t have a healthy conversation where you both express your concerns, fears, and needs in the relationship.
Are you noticing some of these traits with your boyfriend, partner, or spouse? Have they been going on for a long time? If so, I urge you to talk with a counselor to share your concerns.