One of the challenges in dating and falling in love with someone new is the risk of getting involved with someone who’s emotionally unavailable.

If you’ve ever dealt with an emotionally unavailable person you know how painful, frustrating and difficult it is to get close to them. You also probably know what it feels like to be stuck in a weird ‘limbo’ stage of the relationship where you’re not really sure what you are or mean to them.

Why are people emotionally unavailable?

People become emotionally unavailable for lots of reasons, but usually they avoid commitment and emotional attachment to others because they fear losing their individuality and freedom or because they’re trying to protect themselves from a potential heartache. Often they build barriers because they’ve been hurt in the past and now find it hard to trust anyone for fear of going through the same pain again.

Emotionally unavailable people tend to distance themselves using various excuses or by being evasive every time you ask a question about the status of your relationship or about their feelings. Sometimes they might even resort to anger, silence, or criticism of your attempts to get answers, so they can further distance themselves. The deeper you find yourself in a situation like this, the lonelier and more rejected you’ll feel. This can become a vicious circle – you’re more likely to seek approval and affection when you’re feeling rejected, so you seek these things more and more from the emotionally unavailable person and allow them to continue treating you this way.

Keep in mind that there are various types of emotional unavailability, sometimes obvious and sometimes not; some temporary and some chronic. Some people develop emotional unavailability from a troubled childhood or difficult relationship history, while others temporarily choose to prioritise some things more than a potential relationship. Examples include children, career development, a health concern, family obligations or education.

People who are divorced or widowed or those who still have feelings for their ex may temporarily not be ready to start something new until they’ve fully moved on. The problem is that this could take months or even years, and your time is too precious for someone to give you half of themselves.

Why should you keep a close eye out for emotionally unavailable people on dating sites?

  1. Dating sites can provide emotionally unavailable people with more control, which is essentially what they need to avoid facing their feelings and keep their walls up.
  2. It’s easier to expect that there’s no attachment, especially at the beginning of a relationship on a dating site. Emotionally unavailable people tremble at the idea of being in a long-term relationship and avoid getting attached or developing genuine feelings for someone. So, online dating becomes a safe zone to them, and with so many dating sites available, they’re reassured that they can always move on to the next one if things become too serious.
  3. Once again, this relates to emotionally unavailable people not wanting pressure on a romantic level. Online dating creates a space for them where there’s no rush or urgency to contact someone or reply to someone quickly. This way they feel safe to take things at their own pace and if someone doesn’t like it, they can just move to the next profile.

Emotionally unavailable people are by no means ‘bad’ or ‘out to get you’. Most of the time they can’t help being this way because of their circumstances and past experiences. They might not even realise that the way they’re treating you isn’t fair or healthy.

How can you avoid getting hurt?

To avoid getting your heart broken by a person who’s not ready to love anyone, on dating sites or in person, our advice is to keep in mind these characteristics of emotionally unavailable people and make a conscious effort to distance yourself from any you come across before your feelings become too serious.

Clinging on to someone who isn’t ready to accept love, in the hope that they will one day change for you is an illusion and it’s only going to hurt you. You might think that you’re the person who’ll be able to “fix” them, but emotionally unavailable people need to solve their own issues before they’re ready to have a relationship.

To find more tips and advice on how to search for love online, Register today and check out our guide to how to create an authentic online dating profile, or see our list of 8 relationship goals you actually need.