Emotionally Unavailable Partners and How to Spot Them

Author Tracy Smith
June 2, 2019

The world of dating and relationships is described by some as a very scary place.  You often hear utterances that it is “a scary world out there.”  But, what makes it so scary?  Is it that your blind date may look like Mr. Magoo?  Is it the fear that your partner has some deep, dark secret?  Is it the other competition who is also vying for attention?  Or does it go deeper than that, when emotions come into play.  Are we afraid of loving somebody more than they love us, or are we simply afraid of getting hurt?  Are we afraid of falling in love with somebody who doesn’t love us back, or worse-who can’t love us back?  There are many things that make it so “scary out there”, but one of those things relates to emotionally unavailable partners.  What is perhaps even scarier is the fact that you may not be able to recognize an emotionally available partner until it is too late. 

emotionally unavailable

Thankfully, there are several telltale signs that can assist you in spotting an emotionally unavailable partner.

  • Past Relationships-A person’s past relationships and how they ended can provide important information regarding many things, but especially as it pertains to commitment, vulnerability, and emotional intimacy.  If past relationships tended to all end at the intersection of commitment and intimacy, it is probably a great indication of emotional unavailability.
  • Looking for Imperfection—An emotionally available partner will search high and low for an imperfection or for a reason why a relationship is doomed. If an obvious reason does not exist, they will conjure one up. This imperfection provides them with an easy out to avoid emotional vulnerability and gives them the perfect excuse to nix the relationship.
  • Intense Anger—A person who has difficulty controlling their anger, or who comes off as aggressive towards others may use anger and rage as a smokescreen for their true feelings and emotions.  They may not be in touch with their feelings, or may not want to explore or address them, and will use anger as a way to cover them up.  A person with this type of anger is also likely to be emotionally abusive towards their partner.
  • Evasive Tendencies—A person who is aloof or evasive may be purposely doing so to avoid more intimate conversations.  By keeping things light and airy, they may strive to avoid the emotional land mines that are present in deeper conversations.  If they continue to evade, they will keep their partner at just the right distance to prevent them from getting too close.
  • Admittance of Emotional Unavailability—Some people may be upfront and honest about their fear or dislike of intimacy, commitment, or long-term relationships.  Their viewpoints should be respected and not challenged.  It is too often the case where people may see these statements as a challenge. They hold the belief that they are different from all of the others and that they alone have the tools to break down all of their walls.

It is doubtful that anyone will disagree that the world of dating and relationships comes with its challenges. There are a lot of variables and unknowns that do indeed make it difficult, or even scary to navigate.  However, being mindful of those who are emotionally unavailable or resistant to intimacy or commitment can be helpful when choosing a partner.  If one can spot an emotionally unavailable partner early on in the dating process, it may help to make the dating process just a little less “scary out there.”

Author Tracy Smith

Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for a Community YMCA. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents.