Dating Men Who Can’t Love
You’ve asked the question that led you here for a reason – you suspect you’re dating or married to an emotionally unavailable man who can’t love.
You’ve twirled your hair into circles, chewed your nails and cried to your friends until they’ve stopped talking to you about him.
Still. The answer is elusive. Will your emotionally unavailable man change?
The truth is that unless he wants to change, the odds are against you.
Why tell you this so early on in the article?
Because, I want you to understand more about an emotionally unavailable man so you can make the necessary changes in your own life moving forward.
I know you firmly believe that if you change something, he will be motivated to change.
How many times have you said this, to yourself or someone else, “If I could just…”. Fill in the blank:
- If I could just make him see how great we are together
- If I could just understand why he’s closed off to me
- If I could just dig into that sensitive brain of his
And, perhaps the most dangerous,
- If I could just change him
This man is an adult, he is not a child. And change does not come easy to an adult. When you see an emotionally unavailable man, you often immediately perceive him as childlike. Perhaps he is, but this shouldn’t be your automatic assumption.
And so what if he is. Do you really want to date a man-child? Don’t you deserve a man who acts like an adult?
Of course you do!
Let’s dig into emotionally unavailable men and see what we can unearth in our expedition.
It’s Different in Men and Women
Since boys and girls are raised differently when it comes to emotions, it stands to reason that emotionally unavailable men and women have different characteristics.
As you will see, there are overlapping traits, but for the most part, men and women are different.
While a woman can be open with someone and still be emotionally unavailable, for men, it is the openness that is part of the problem.
Yes, being emotionally unavailable is about not being able to engage emotionally, but a man is more likely to shy away from the discomfort of emotions he isn’t familiar with or make him uncomfortable.
It impedes his ability to connect and grow a relationship into deeper and deeper intimacy.
A healthy relationship continues to build emotional depth but if one or both parties are emotionally unavailable, there is no emotional depth.
Emotionally Unavailable Men Characteristics
He Doesn’t Like to Talk About Deep Topics
An emotionally unavailable man doesn’t want to engage in any conversation where feelings are involved. This not only applies to his feelings of love for you, but also to his feelings of pain, shame or guilt, to name a few.
In fact, this guy has become the master of ignoring his negative emotions. When you might expect him to feel sad, as in the death of a loved one, he is stoic and seems unengaged.
When he does show emotion is when someone tries to climb over or dig under the emotional wall he has built. He won’t tolerate intruders.
An emotionally unavailable man exhibiting this characteristic can be tricky to spot. He might show you glimpses of emotion from time to time, but rest assured, he will pull back quickly enough!
He’s Hot and Cold
Emotionally unavailable men will sometimes text you, all day, every day for a few weeks. You get the feeling he’s totally into you.
Sex is great and everything seems hunky dory.
Then, like a tidal wave, the silence hits.
You can’t get him to respond, even if you tease him with a sexy text. He seems to be MIA.
Of course, just when you’re about to give up, Mr. Hot and Cold will return, hotter than ever, reassuring you (in your own mind) that everything is fine. This was all your imagination.
This pattern will continue infinitely.
As frustrating as it is, I beg you not to blame yourself. He isn’t dashing away because of anything you’re doing. He’s just had as much display of emotion as he can handle for a few weeks.
He’s Suffering a Loss
A man who has recently suffered a devastating loss is going to be emotionally unavailable. The good news is that this reason may pass with time, if he was emotionally available before.
Most of the time.
Loss is difficult for men to deal with and it comes in all shapes and sizes.
Men feel a sense of loss if they lose a job, don’t get a promotion, get demoted, lose a loved one (including a pet) or even lose a prized possession like that Corvette he had to get rid of because he can’t afford the insurance, now that he has a family.
A man needs to crawl into his man cave and deal with these things on his own. He will come out, eventually, ready to love again, if he is able to deal with the loss.
He’s Married or in a Committed Relationship
A man may be looking for a hookup, but he doesn’t want to come off as that guy, so he fakes his feelings to woo you in.
While this is totally scumbag material and I make no excuses for my gender, it’s still true.
A married or committed guy will be emotionally unavailable when he is not.
Oh, he might say he wants to be with you, but things never come to be.
He is guarding his emotions because he’s already in a committed relationship. You are something he has, on the side, to feel like he’s in chase mode again or to find challenge.
When a man won’t reveal his relationship status to you or seems to be evasive when it comes to meeting family or friends, you might want to do some digging.
Men Who Can’t Love | He is Conveniently Missing during Your Times of Need
Where was Mr. Wonderful when your grandma died?
When you had to take your 15 year old dog to the vet to be put down, where was he?
When you’re experiencing highly emotional times, is he there?
That’s because he doesn’t want to deal with your emotional moments any more than he wants to deal with his own.
Other times this guy will be unavailable include the time you need someone to change your flat tire or put together your new bookshelves.
I often tell women men show their love. A man who loves you will not only change your tire for you, he’ll drive your car to the dealership to get a new one.
The same guy will put your shelf together, fix your plumbing leak or do anything else to help you.
Is He the Master of Excuses?
Does he make plans with you, only to flake and not show up?
Then, after you spend hours trying to text and call him, you finally give up, deciding he’s dead on the side of the road somewhere.
Oh, he’s dead alright. Emotionally dead.
This guy disappears but, when he resurfaces, there is always some elaborate excuse. Not only did his dog die but Fido did it in glorious fashion.
Or his best friend’s ex wife showed up on his doorstep and he just had to be there for him.
Perhaps his kid had an emergency that required his undivided attention…but for hours, days or weeks?
No. This guy panicked and flaked on you. Period.
Things got too close, he started feeling something and BAM he needed to get out of it and fast!
Is He Quick to Blame or Anger?
Blaming is the emotionally unavailable man’s game. Nothing is his fault.
You expect too much of him – it isn’t that he can’t give. It’s your fault.
You shouldn’t have asked him to help you. You know he’s super busy. You’re disappointment is your own fault.
Nothing he does is his own responsibility.
This includes his angry outbursts when someone tries to permeate the wall he has built around himself.
Why am I Attracted to Emotionally Unavailable Men
You too are Emotionally Unavailable
The painful truth you may need to face is that you too might be emotionally unavailable. Likes attract likes. We attract into our lives those who are most like us.
A relationship between two emotionally unavailable people is just about as dysfunctional as it can be. The good news for you is that it’s also rare.
Your intentions may be honorable. You may truly love him and he you, but if neither of you is emotionally unavailable, the love doesn’t matter. You will never connect deeply.
How do you respond to these questions:
- Do you shy away from conflict?
- Does your life feel as if it’s in a constant state of chaos?
- Are you a workaholic?
- Do you, yourself, avoid commitment?
- Do you feel as if you don’t even know who you are any longer?
- Do you develop bonds with people? Do you invest your emotions in someone else?
- Do you love yourself?
- Have you just exited a relationship?
- Do you use perfectionism to cut people out of your life? They just don’t hit the mark so they’re out…
- Do you behave elusively? You drop out of plans last minute, refuse to commit until the last minute? Are you known as the one nobody can count on to show up?
If you responded “Yes” to a few of these, you may have your answer.
You are an Emotional Chaser
An emotional chaser is someone who chases love and affection from men who can’t love and never finds it. You invest time and energy in men who are only partially interested or capable of a real relationship.
When you are an emotional chaser, you:
- Fall for men who will cheat on you, won’t commit and refuse to settle down
- Are emotionally committed to the relationship while he is not, regardless of how hard you try
- Believe the men you date are more desirable than you are
- Live in a constant state of fear that he will leave you so you work twice as hard to keep him interested in you
- Morph into who you think he wants you to be, completely casting aside your own values and beliefs
You are looking for the Wrong Things in a Man
Women too often fall for the good-looking guy with the smooth lines.
When said smooth-talker focuses his attention on you, you feel lucky to have been chosen by him. All intelligence and reason flows out of you.
The problem is this guy is a player. He’s smooth because he’s practiced a lot.
He wants to sleep with you and use you for whatever he can but he does not want and cannot make an emotional connection with you.
When you are looking for a man, your better bet is to look for traits like kindness, reliability and emotional stability.
Look for someone who brings out the best in you and vice versa. You should complement one another and make each other feel stronger.
You Don’t Believe You Deserve a Great Man
If you have low self-worth, the idea of dating someone who thinks you’re wonderful scares the daylights out of you.
How can you be with someone who thinks you’re all that if you don’t believe it yourself? You would never believe anything this guy told you and, in fact, it would make you really uncomfortable.
Having low self-worth comes with a lot of anxiety and fear.
You always fear you won’t measure up to someone’s expectations.
Because of this, it’s easier for you to seek a man who is also emotionally broken. He won’t be puffing you up and you don’t need to invest more than you can.
Fixing others is easier than Fixing Yourself
It’s always easier to see the flaws in someone else. Likes attract likes, but we don’t often recognize this in ourselves.
You like emotionally unavailable men because it gives you a project to work on that isn’t yourself.
You can focus your energy on his flaws, rather than on your own. It’s easier to point out what he should do to fix himself than to turn that finger back on yourself.
To face our perceived inadequacies is scary to say the least. Our minds will help us avoid this, thus keeping everything intact.
All of the negativity you’ve heard others say to you, along with what you’ve said to yourself is deeply seated in your unconscious mind – buried deep. Only through reprogramming will this change.
You must change your own narrative and avoid those who put you down.
There are many Emotionally Unavailable Men to choose from
Sadly, the concentration of emotionally unavailable people on the dating market is pretty high.
This type of person is often the relationship ender and they quickly are able to rejoin the dating scene because they had nothing invested in the relationship.
When an emotionally unavailable person divorces and remarries, their odds of getting divorced a second time are very high. Not to worry, they’ll be right back out there, looking for you!
An emotionally unavailable man will be looking for a woman who craves closeness, which can be a form of anxiety.
Dating Emotionally Unavailable Men Reinforces Your Insecurities
Let’s take a brief detour into some Attachment Theory.
According to Attachment Theory, our relationships with our parents help to shape our expectations about our romantic partners later in life. This is a changeable expectation.
Here’s where this comes into play for you. If, in your childhood, being close and connected to someone brought you pain and neglect.
You crave the closeness you never received, but what happens is you make too many sacrifices with a disappointing end result.
You commit to the relationship and draw closer but the emotionally unavailable person reacts by putting you down or telling you you’re needy.
Now, you believe the problem is all yours and down goes your self-esteem…again.
This emotionally unavailable man confirmed your beliefs about yourself, which were formed in your youth. Being close and connected brings pain and neglect.
You Miss the cues of Healthy Love
Emotionally unavailable men who can’t love are often quick to sex and tend to be real firecrackers in the beginning of a relationship. This is how they can draw you in.
Their high energy and focus on the relationship leads you to believe they’re all in, 1000%.
The problem is that if you’re accustomed to dating this type of guy and you meet an emotionally healthy man, you might miss the cues.
You’re looking for the anxiousness of an unhealthy attachment and miss signals of a healthy one, which is calmer. There is no tension. There is no playing hard-to-get.
The man you’ve just met is secure in who he is and he has chosen you.
When you too are emotionally healthy, you choose men and you see healthy, not unhealthy men, as the goal of your pursuit.
How do I stop Dating Emotionally Unavailable Men?
It’s time to figure out why you keep attracting this type of man into your life.
I’ve given you a few reasons but you have to dig deep for your particular reason.
The truth is that, in all of those relationships, you are the common denominator. There is a reason you are choosing this same type of man, over and over.
What is common to most of the reasons for choosing emotionally unavailable men who can’t love is that your self-esteem is in the dumper.
Take a break from dating and work on your confidence:
- Listen to and adjust your self-talk so it is positive
- Set boundaries which stop people who abuse you in some way
- Read some great books on building yourself, like these
- Take a confidence course, perhaps something like Build Yourself and He Will Come
Recognize the Signs Early On
An emotionally unavailable man has some signals you can detect. In addition to those I’ve listed above, here are a few more:
- Tethering – a man who texts but never wants to make plans with you – he’s happy with phone-dating you
- He has no range of emotions – it’s normal to get angry or frustrated but someone who doesn’t show any emotion when he should is sending strong signals
- He avoids commitment – any discussion on any form of commitment is met with resistance
Often, women fall hard and fast for a man. This, combined with the rocket-like start many emotionally unavailable men will give to a new relationship, is a bad combination.
By the time you realize there are signals, you think you’ve got too much time and energy invested. Your new goal becomes wanting to fix him, which is probably what brought you here today.
Don’t Try to Rescue Men
Some women like to rescue others.
Your tendency to be a nurturer leads you here, and while your nurturing side is comforting to a child, it’s not to a man.
Aside from that, you cannot fix someone else, regardless of his problem.
The problem is that it feels good to imagine you played a role in someone becoming a better person.
If you want to do rescue work, go to an animal shelter. You can feel good about walking a half-dozen cute pups around the yard to give them some exercise.
Leave men to rescue themselves.
Ask Yourself if You’re in a Good Place for a Relationship
Society tells us we need to be in a relationship. If you’re not in a relationship, there’s something obviously wrong with you. Right?
There are times in your life when you may not be ready for a relationship:
- Just after you’ve gotten out of a long-term relationship
- When your focus is on your career or education
- When your confidence and self-esteem are low
- When you notice a pattern of choosing broken men
There are others, but these are the times people most often do the opposite and seek a relationship.
Then, because they’re not in a good place to be a good partner, things go sour and confidence and self-esteem take a nosedive.
Make Change a High Priority in Your Life
The biggest thing you must do to change this pattern is to make change a high priority. Recognizing that you’ve got a problem in choosing men is just the start of fixing things.
Now, the hard work begins.
Not only do you need to rebuild your confidence and self-esteem, but you also need to make other changes as well.
You may need to change the friends you hang out with when you’re on the prowl. You may need to look for men in new places.
All of the activities you need to do to begin making positive choices require a commitment of time and energy.
You must prioritize this, just like you prioritized your education, career, children or developing any talents you may have.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions
When you’re dating someone new, ask him questions. A great informative question is “How did your last relationship end?”
If he waves his hand and says something like, “Oh, she was a real bitch” or “She was too needy”, he’s telling you he exited.
If you find out he exited last week, chances are he wasn’t emotionally invested and he probably won’t be with you either.
Become Comfortable sharing Your Own Emotions
We often attract emotionally unavailable people because we don’t want them to ask us to share our emotions.
Childhood and early adult life has taught you that sharing your emotions results in pain and disappointment, therefore you don’t feel comfortable doing it any longer.
Start where it’s safe – with a good, trusted friend. Share with her an emotion you’ve struggled to share.
Feel the love that comes back to you and let it wash over you. Enjoy how great this feels.
Learning to share emotions comfortably is tricky but it leads you to healthy relationships where you can not only give love but receive it.
Right now, you’re finding men who don’t give it so you don’t have to feel uncomfortable receiving.
Remember, Love is a Verb
Think about it, in the sentence “I love you”, there are two nouns and one verb.
To love someone is to care for them, to feel deep affection for them, to hold them very dear to you and to be devoted to them.
Infatuation is often mistaken for love. By definition, infatuation is short-lived passion or admiration for someone.
When you love someone, you want your life and theirs to be better together. You truly care if they experience a loss, have a bad day, get a great promotion or experience other landmark events in their life.
You grow together, emotionally, into a deeper, committed relationship because you take action toward one another that show caring, affection and devotion.
Boundaries define where you end and someone else begins. A boundary helps you define what is acceptable behavior by people in your life versus unacceptable.
Someone who always berates you breaks a boundary.
A man who demands sex too early in a relationship is breaking a boundary, or he should be.
Too often, we are afraid to set boundaries because we don’t want to hurt people. We don’t want someone to be angry with us.
Here’s the deal. You cannot control how someone else will react to what you do. If a boundary crasher gets angry with you for setting a boundary, that’s on them!
Having healthy boundaries helps you recognize when someone isn’t treating you in the way you deserve to be treated. This person needs to be removed from your life, or at least have limited exposure to you.
How to Date (Temporary) Emotionally Unavailable Men
Poke His Emotions When He Should be showing Them
If your guy experiences a loss but is coming off as being pretty stoic, poke his emotions a little bit.
You can say something like, “I remember when my grandmother died. I was so sad. She meant so much to me. You seem to be handling this really well, but I wonder how you really feel about it.”
He still may not respond while you’re around, but with any luck, maybe he will at least feel something when he’s alone.
You may not know it, of course, but you might start to see some twinge of emotion from him.
Feed Him Information Anyway
Some men who can’t love are very self-centered. He couldn’t care less about how you feel about something so he’s not going to ask questions like “How did your presentation go?” or “How are you doing since your dog died?”
He simply does. Not. Care.
So, your alternative is to offer the information anyway.
“Hey honey, that presentation I did today went great! My boss loved it and I think the clients are on board!”
“I can’t believe it’s been a month since Rover died. I still miss him so much.”
Match His Self-Centered Nature
Your emotionally unavailable man might be a narcissist. They often are, and truth be told, if he is, you just need to exit.
Every time your guy shares something about his day, you match it.
Him: “Boy I had a terrible day. My boss is a real jerk. I never get credit for saving his ass”
You: “I know what you mean. I did that presentation today and barely got a response from my boss and the clients loved it!”
When he ignores the things you say, either by poking him or by matching what he says, he is most likely narcissistic, and you need to cut your losses.
Know When He Just Needs space and when He’s Completely Unengaged
Yes, a man needs space when he is dealing with something emotionally difficult.
All men do, but there is a difference between needing a few days to sort things out and needing forever to avoid dealing with the pain.
It’s fine to give a guy the space he requires, but within reason. Ask him how long he feels he needs to deal with his stuff.
If he’s still not coming around at that point, he’s not going to. It’s time to boot him to the curb!
Allow His Schedule to Prevail
To draw out an emotionally unavailable man who can’t love, you must allow the relationship to advance at his pace. This can be very difficult for you, because women like to prod men along but heed my advice!
Allow him to determine how fast things go:
- Let him call you
- Don’t try to touch him to get him to engage
- Don’t send him sexy texts and photos to seduce him
- Don’t invite him to places you know he loves to go
Your goal is to create a space in which he feels safe. He doesn’t see you as someone who is forcing him into something he doesn’t want.
This requires a level of patience that is difficult for many people, but it also requires you being open to his advances when they do come.
It also requires you to show your emotions, even if they’re negative, but in a way which tells him he can fix it and it’s not so bad.
If he’s late, for example, you can express your disappointment without making him feel horrible.
“Gee, Mike, since you got here so late, we’ve missed the 8:00 movie. Too bad because I really wanted to see it. What can we do instead?”
You’re giving him an option to make it up to you here by allowing him to choose another activity – hopefully one he knows you’ll enjoy.
Do Emotionally Unavailable Men Change?
The unfortunate truth I have to share with you is this – emotionally unavailable men can change, but it is only through their own efforts that they will accomplish this.
It is possible that an emotionally unavailable man is deeply in love with you but still, he is unable to connect on that deeper level you crave.
What underlies this unavailability is fear, plain and simple. Fear is what keeps us from making most of the changes we need to make in our lives.
For the emotionally unavailable man, it is fear of rejection, fear of getting hurt and fear of not being good enough.
Being emotionally unavailable is a protective measure we place in our lives. It keeps us feeling safe in the place we’ve existed in for most of our lives.
Whether you are the emotionally unavailable one or he is, or perhaps both, what you need to understand is that becoming emotionally available means facing many fears, sitting with many uncomfortable feelings and altering the self-talk that’s been used for a lifetime.
To be emotionally unavailable is to try and keep vulnerability at bay.
Vulnerability shows the soft underbelly most of us try to hide from others, again for fear of rejection, hurt or finding out we’re not good enough.
Someone who is emotionally unavailable can certainly change, but it isn’t an overnight change and there is little you can do to change someone else.
An emotionally unavailable man who can’t love must see his closed-off emotions as a problem and want to make a change. Men do it, and so do women, but not without extensive work.
If you are dating or married to an emotionally unavailable man, your best hope is that he sees the problem and seeks help. This may require him to pull back from your relationship while he works on himself. It may be the end of your relationship, but that is yet to be determined.
What he requires of you, when he decides to change, is patience and understanding. He needs acceptance and the knowledge that he is enough.Share