Relationships: Traits of emotionally unavailable people |

Relationships: Traits of emotionally unavailable people

Neil Rosenthal
Vail, CO Colorado

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Dear Neil: I’m a college student, and I started seeing a guy that already had a girlfriend. The only time we would meet was when he wanted a booty call. When he finally left his girlfriend, he bailed on me as well, telling me that he never really falls in love. Now he has a new girlfriend. Do you think he is now going to become a faithful man to this new woman? Is he emotionally unavailable? Do emotionally unavailable cheaters ever change?

Rejected in Silver Spring, Md.

Dear Rejected: The man you refer to was clearly interested in sex, not a relationship with you. Don’t make the mistake again of confusing one for the other. A relationship implies that he is interested in you and in getting to know you. Sex does not imply either.

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He was indeed emotionally unavailable toward you, and it sounds as if he is with all women, at least for the time being. It appears that he thinks that this is a good time to sow his wild oats and to experience many different people and experiences, and is not looking for a commitment or an exclusive relationship at this time.

So the problem isn’t him. It’s you. If you are looking for something other than a purely sexual relationship, don’t date guys that already have a woman, and don’t allow yourself to be available solely for sex.

For the record, here are the traits of an emotionally unavailable person. S/he:

Is more of a taker than a giver.

Has trouble committing, falling in love or giving his/her heart.

Is insecure, anxious, depressed or angry a lot.

Is substance addicted.

Has an emotional wall up, and is unable to be truly vulnerable to another person.

Does not feel worthy of love.

Is not at peace with a previous relationship or is grieving the loss of a previous relationship.

Is in another relationship and is therefore encumbered.

Cannot resist other romantic or sexual temptations.

Is self-absorbed. Tends to his/her own needs, feelings and desires first. Rarely puts him/herself second.

Doesn’t listen well and doesn’t hear you well.

Is deceptive, dishonest or misleading. Does not say what s/he means, or does not mean what s/he says.

Pushes away when things are close and intimate.

Doesn’t have time for you, places you as a low priority or is routinely preoccupied with other things.

Does not make a strong emotional connection with you.

Doesn’t know herself. Isn’t in touch with his/her own feelings, needs or wants.

Lacks self-confidence or self-esteem. Doesn’t believe in him or herself, or has low self-worth.

Is an obsessive worrier.

Is self-destructive or self-sabotaging.

Is loaded with regrets.

Is highly critical or judgmental.

Is emotionally unstable.

Is intensely possessive or jealous.

Cannot tolerate reasonable criticism or requests that s/he alter a behavior without getting angry, defensive or reactive.

Doesn’t put a lot of effort into a relationship. S/he expects the other person to put forth most of the effort.

Even one of these traits can represent an emotionally unavailable person, but the more of these traits that fit, the greater the degree of emotional unavailability because all these traits push people away or keep you emotionally insulated.

Why would someone do this? It keeps them safe, and protects them from getting hurt or rejected.

Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 21st year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777 or contact him through his website at He is not able to respond individually to queries.

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