Heartbreak

Emotionally Unavailable Men Share These 7 Characteristics

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emotionally unavailable man with his fingers in his ears

I don’t know about you, but looking over the list of guys I've tried dating, emotionally unavailable men account for about 95 percent of the total queue. And, if I hadn't finally met the man I'm with now, you could round that up to a perfect score of 100.

I know many women out there can relate to falling in love with men who possess certain personality traits and characteristics that, once finally looked at closely, they can see were glaringly bright red flags all along.

You may also ask yourself fairly often why you're so attracted to guys who are emotionally detached — possibly even incapable of love — when all you want, more than anything in the whole, wide world, is to be be loved by someone you can count on to be there for you, no matter what.

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In order to understand what attracts you to this type of man, it's helpful to understand which signs you may be able to see in advance that indicate he is afraid to fall for you (or anyone else, for that matter).

7 Common characteristics of emotionally unavailable men

1. They're insecure.

Years ago, I had a boyfriend who really struggled with his self-confidence. He'd been abused as a child, struggled to hold a job, had a terrible temper that got him into trouble and had a failed marriage. His confidence had never been high, but the past decade had really worn him down.

When we first got together, he was emotionally available in a big way. He couldn't believe that "someone like me" could love him, and he relished it. He showered me with words of love and tons of affection. I'd never felt so loved.

As our relationship progressed, however, his emotional availability gradually decreased. He still held on to me like a life preserver, but he stopped giving me what I needed to feel loved. He couldn't love me, but he refused to let me go.

After we broke up, I came to learn that this man most likely didn't believe that he deserved to be loved by me and so he wouldn't even try. Perhaps he also believed that, because he failed at everything, our relationship would fail, and so he sabotaged it.

I saw potential in him, so breaking up with this broken man was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Doing so was important, however. His emotional unavailability made me really question my own self-worth in the world, and that is not okay.

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2. They're incapable of honest communication.

When I first met my now ex-husband, two things struck me about him in particular — that he could drink — a lot — and that he was wonderfully physically affectionate. Both of these were traits I was looking for in a man.

As the years went on and I stopped drinking, things emerged that were unsettling.

When it came time to address feelings, my husband couldn't cope. At the first sign of a discussion about emotions, he would head to the fridge for a beer. Trying to talk to him about how I was feeling was impossible. As a result, I felt lonely in the marriage, and we grew further and further apart.

The other thing that emerged was that my husband used physical affection as a way to communicate his emotions. He was always touching me, but his touch soon made my skin crawl.

Looking back, I realize it was because he was so out of touch with his emotions that his physical touch felt false. This way of trying to express his feelings when he really was emotionally unavailable was one of the things that ultimately destroyed our marriage.

3. They're narcissistic.

The dictionary definition of 'narcissism' (as opposed to the clinical diagnosis of someone with narcissistic personality disorder) is, someone with an "excessive preoccupation with or admiration of oneself." Someone who is narcissistic is so preoccupied with him or herself that any kind of consideration or emotional availability is simply impossible.

Everything that happens in their life or their world is reflected back on themselves. If they are angry, they scream. If they are sad, they lash out.

Because they are so self-obsessed, they don’t feel the need to connect with their emotions. They are just fine, they believe.

Furthermore, to look at the emotions of another and feel empathy simply doesn't happen. Instead, they take note of how the other person’s emotions might be affecting them, and that’s all they care about.

If the man you love is preoccupied with himself to the exclusion of others, he is narcissistic and unlikely to ever have the emotional availability you desire and deserve.

4. They're workaholics.

We all know that person — the person who works obsessively 24/7, who never has time for anything else, who is obsessed with their own personal success, and who doesn’t understand the need to turn away from their work towards another person.

Many people who are workaholics are like alcoholics in that they use their work to self-medicate whatever feelings they might be feeling. To feel feelings, or to understand the feelings of others, is just too painful, so they pour their energy elsewhere.

Another problem with workaholics is that they are rarely truly present. Their physical bodies are always out of the house, and when they are home, they are usually preoccupied with work.

Someone who isn't present with you is never going to be emotionally available. You can try, repeatedly, to get through to them, but most likely without success. And that will leave you feeling lonely and ignored.

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5. They're emotionally immature.

Men who don’t have good relationships with their mothers are often the most emotionally unavailable of all. The mother-child bond is the earliest and the most profound in the human experience.

Boys (and girls) who don’t have that bond with their mother have stunted emotional development. They don't learn the inherently female traits of empathy, affection, trust and communication. Not learning those things sets them up for a life time of not knowing how to love and be loved in return.

In contrast, the man I am currently dating has an amazing connection with his mother. He visits her twice a week and watching them together is amazing. The love and respect that he has for her and what she has done in the world is written all over his face. The pride and admiration she takes in who her son has become in the world is palpable.

The very bedrock of my man’s emotional availability was created by a woman who loved him unconditionally and who taught him what he needed to do and be to truly express and receive love.

6. They never let their guard down.

Emotionally unavailable men will resist any situation that puts them in a place of vulnerability. It makes them feel exposed, perhaps even weak, and it's especially terrifying because revealing his "true self" means he will also be forced to show his true emotions.

He may feel societal pressure, or perhaps he was raised to believe that showing vulnerability is a shameful and emasculating experience.

Or, maybe, he's been burned in past relationships — even beyond romantic relationships; for example, having a fractured relationship with a parent or a friend with whom he was once very close. By keeping up his guard, he likely believes this is a tactic for self-preservation.

Not only could this cause him to be emotionally immature, but he will be unable to open up and be more comfortable with displays of vulnerability until he grows out of the constructs in which he was raised, or heals and grows from the experiences that made him close himself off emotionally.

While resisting any opportunity to be vulnerable may protect him from being hurt again, it also prevents him from being able to form deep connections and truly experience what it feels like to love and the magic of being in love.

7. They're defensive — to a fault.

Emotionally unavailable men may have a tendency to be narcissistic but that doesn't mean they lack self-awareness and the ability to self-reflect — especially when it comes to their actions, feelings, and flaws.

If the emotionally unavailable man senses a threat, or an intrusion that puts him in a state of feeling vulnerable, powerless, dominated, or emotionally overwhelmed, he is quick to go into defense mode. He will attack you like a snake you inadvertently stepped on and express his anger, deflection, blame, and anything else in his arsenal so you don't push his buttons again.

Not only will he be defensive, but deflection and blame are common, as well.

Deflection helps keep the attention off of him and his inability to express his feelings. He will often deflect whatever you are saying right back onto you in an effort to shut down the conversation.

Because he lacks any sense of self-awareness, he is unable to understand how his actions may be hurting others.

The importance of both partners being emotionally available in a relationship cannot be understated.

If your man shows signs of the personality traits listed above, tread carefully. A man who lacks self-confidence, cannot express himself, is overly focused on work, is self-obsessed, has issues with his mother, won't let his guard down, and is overly defensive is a man who is — and most likely always will be — emotionally unavailable.

If you want to have a healthy, happy relationship, a guy who is not emotionally available is not the guy for you. Let him go, move on and find the guy who makes your heart sing.

I did ... and you can, too!

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Mitzi Bockmann is a New York City-based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate whose writing has been published in The Huffington Post, Prevention Magazine, The Good Men Project, and others.

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