How To Immediately Tell If A Guy Is Emotionally Unavailable

To break your pattern of dating toxic men, these are major warning signs to look for.

man looking at a mirror Unique Vision / Shutterstock

It's an unfortunate reality that many wonderful women find themselves in relationships with men who appear to be "the one", then turn out to be emotionally unavailable — or worse, emotionally abusive.

The repetitive pattern of dating toxic men is exhausting.

If you want to move forward and find true love in a lasting, healthy relationship, it's important to learn how to recognize signs of emotionally unavailable men, as well as the manipulative and dangerous traits associated with personality disorders.


RELATED: 5 Crazy Lessons Couples Learned From Meeting Each Other's Parents

Have you ever been with a man who shut down and became emotionally unavailable just at the moment when you needed him the most?

Did he seem emotionally mature and responsive when you first met, then began to freeze up, shut down, get distant and pull away just as you seemed to be growing closer?


You may have been upset with him when he wasn't there for you. Or maybe you justified his withdrawal. Maybe he told you that it was your fault, that you were too needy or over the top with your emotions.

Eventually, you probably began to wonder if he was the right guy for you and if you should break up with him. If this pattern continued for long enough, the relationship probably ended.

With time and healing, you found the courage to try again with a new guy who appears capable of giving you the love and support the last guy didn’t. You told yourself he was everything the old guy wasn’t, opened your heart all over again, and began expressing your feelings.

Then you couldn’t believe it. It was happening again.


The new guy began to freeze up and pull away — just like the last one. The voice in your head began to scream, "How could I let this happen to me again?!"

No shame, no blame. It's not your fault.

The problem you're having is common. Try not to torture yourself or go into a major shame spiral if this has happened to you.

Instead, let me teach you how to identify the kind of men who are most likely to do this to you.

They aren't necessarily bad guys. They're probably unaware of their inability to be emotionally available.

So, why do you keep falling for these emotionally unavailable men?

Dr. Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples and co-founder of Imago Relationship Therapy with his wife, Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt, has an interesting theory that we tend to be attracted to people who remind us of the negative attributes of our parents.


Seems crazy, right? Why would anyone be attracted to that?

Hendrix suggests it's because we are attracted to whoever looks and feels at home.

When a new person is attracted to us and reminds us of the parental figure who didn’t give us what we needed, we are super attracted to them because it fulfills our childhood fantasy that we will finally get the love of the mother or father we never had.

The best way to make sure you can spot signs of a guy who won't be emotionally available is to take things slow.

You won't be able to tell if he will be emotionally available or emotionally abusive until you've put in some time.

In fact, it takes about two years for the new love "dopamine high" phase of a relationship to wear off. Only once it does will the true personality of the person you're with be revealed.


Two years may seem like a long time to wait, but you need to dig deeper to understand who someone really is if you want to be sure they won't end up behaving in ways that are manipulative and dangerous.

It's also critical that you trust your own emotions.

What do you feel when you're with him during the everyday moments of life? Is he responsive to you when you are feeling sad, and not only when you're feeling happy?

It’s your job to look after yourself and tell yourself when a guy isn't good for you, no matter how tempted you may be to try making a relationship with his work by "fixing" him.

In order to simplify things for you, here's a list of personality traits divided into categories mental health professionals use to describe people with personality disorders that cause them to have difficulty connecting emotionally with others, as well as those common in men with avoidant attachment styles.


People with antisocial personality disorder, also known as sociopaths or psychopaths, are thought to comprise about one to four percent of the population.

You need to be afraid of this one.

Of the three types of emotionally unavailable men explained here, these are the most abusive and manipulative. They are dangerous and difficult to identify because they often rely on superficial charm and humor to draw people in and then manipulate their emotions.

Guys with this problem often end up in prison.

RELATED: The Bizarre Reason A Creepy Man Froze My Account

Men with antisocial personality disorder typically display the following traits, characteristics, and behaviors:

1. Disrespect

They lack respect for legal, moral, or ethical codes of right and wrong. They lack guilt and remorse when they break the law or hurt others.


2. Dishonesty

They lie repeatedly and use others for personal gain, as they see people as objects to profit from.

They have little or no concern about how their manipulation causes mental, physical, or emotional damage to anyone other than themselves.

3. Impulsivity

They tend to be impulsive and refrain from planning ahead. They live in the moment and have difficulty deferring gratification. Additionally, they often have addictive behaviors.

4. Aggression

They have a tendency to be irritable and aggressive, to the point of fighting with or assaulting others.

They can become enraged when they don’t get their way, and will use intimidation or physical violence to dominate others.


5. Recklessness

They pay little heed to either their own personal safety or the safety of others. They are often sensation seekers and will take dangerous risks.

6. Irresponsibility

They are likely not to honor their financial obligations, as they enjoy coming and cheating others to get what they want.

Traits associated with narcissistic personality disorder

People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are thought to comprise about 6 percent of the population. This is the personality type that is easiest to be hooked by.

These guys will give you the impression that they are highly successful. They often look bigger than life. They will charm you and use praise to suck you in. Once they have you, they will be dismissive and even belittling.


They have little capacity to be emotionally available. They demand admiration and are easily angered.

Men with narcissistic personality disorder typically display the following traits, characteristics, and behaviors:

7. Grandiosity

Being grandiose and expecting to be recognized as superior to others.

8. Unrealistic

Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

9. Self-obsessed

Believing they are "special" and should associate with high-status people.

10. Needy

Requiring excessive admiration and having a sense of entitlement.

RELATED: He Didn’t Like Me, So He Took Me For Laps Around The Block: A Tinder Date Horror Story


11. Predatory

Taking advantage of others to achieve their own ends.

12. Uncaring

Lacking empathy and being unwilling to recognize the feelings and needs of others.

13. Envious/paranoid

Envious of others and believing that others are envious of them.

14. Haughty

Having arrogant behaviors or attitudes.

Traits associated with an avoidant attachment style

People with an avoidant attachment style make up about 25 percent of the population.

This is not considered a psychiatric diagnosis. Rather, the roots of this style of relating in adult love relationships can be traced back to having non-emotionally responsive parents in childhood.

While these people can live normal productive lives, they have difficulty emotionally connecting in their adult relationships.


They will get overwhelmed with you when you have emotional needs. They will withdraw and become silent. And they will have more of a negative response to you if you are an insecure clingy person.

You will probably be attracted to this attachment style if you have an insecure anxious attachment style.

These guys look solid and reliable. The problem is that when you get close, they will have difficulty giving you emotional comfort. In turn, this will make you more insecure.

Men with an avoidant attachment style typically display the following traits, characteristics, and behaviors:


15. Social discomfort

They are somewhat uncomfortable getting close to others.

16. Untrusting

They want emotionally close relationships, but find it difficult to trust or depend on others.

17. Self-protective

They worry that they will be hurt if others become too close.

18. Emotionally inhibited

They often feel uncomfortable with emotional closeness.

19. Negative

They have negative views about themselves and the people they love.

20. Self-loathing

They view themselves as unworthy of responsiveness from their partners.

21. Suspicious

They don't trust the intentions of their partners.

22. Distant

They seek less intimacy from partners and frequently suppress and deny their feelings.


Understanding attachment styles and their impact on intimate relationships is one of the best ways to ensure healthy relationships.

Emotional availability is the key to what is called secure attachment. It is the emotional connection that creates strong attachment bonds and helps relationships last for life.

So know when to run ... and how fast.

Consider running from men with antisocial personality traits. And be cautious about staying in a relationship with a man with narcissistic or avoidant personality traits, especially if you are insecure in relationships.

The bottom line is this: don't settle.

Everyone deserves to have a loving emotional connection. We all want a soft place to land. A relationship where we are cherished and listened to. Being able to recognize those who are more prone to emotional unavailability gives you a huge advantage in choosing well.


Lifetime love relationships require knowing when, where, and with whom to invest.

Rather than falling into a relationship with the wrong guy, find a man who can give you what you need.

RELATED: Relationship Coach Reveals 5 Mistakes To Avoid While Dating

Michael W. Regier, Ph.D. is a highly trained and experienced clinical psychologist, Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist, and EFT Supervisor. He and his wife Paula are the authors of Emotional Connection: The Story & Science of Preventing Conflict & Creating Lifetime Love.

YourTango may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through links featured in this article.