3 Red Flags The Person You're Talking To Is Emotionally Unavailable

Trying to navigate the dating world as we know it requires a lot of work. You're not just dealing with a whole boatload of dating trends, many of which are toxic, but you're also trying to read people early enough on so as to dodge a bullet later down the road. Dating has become so trying that according to a 2020 survey by Pew Research Center, 47% of U.S. adults report dating is harder now than 10 years ago, with 26% of women citing the emotional and physical risks contributing to this difficulty.

While any relationship expert is likely to tell you that dating and falling in love requires taking a risk, there are just some risks that aren't worth it. One such example is letting yourself fall for someone who's emotionally unavailable — especially if you're currently emotionally available and ready for something serious.

"When we say someone is emotionally unavailable, we mean that they are not comfortable feeling their own emotions, sharing emotions with others, or being present and responsive to someone else's emotions," licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Lindsay Jernigan tells PsychCentral. "Many people, particularly male gender-identified people, receive culturally reinforced messages that emotional vulnerability is 'weak,' and in response, they develop patterns of emotional unavailability in an attempt to live up to cultural gender expectations."

Although anyone, no matter their gender identity or sexuality, can be emotionally unavailable, it's important for you as a dater to know the red flags of emotional unavailability so you can spot them sooner rather than later.

They're consistently inconsistent

When you first start dating someone, it's not always easy to know where you stand. In many ways, dating is a waiting game as you ride out how you and the person you're dating feel about each other. While most people will give you some sort of indication as to what's going on in their head by responding to texts in a somewhat timely manner and not bailing on plans, those who are emotionally unavailable do no such thing. In fact, where emotionally unavailable people really excel is in being consistently inconsistent in communication, committing to plans, and interaction in general.

What's important to realize is that this behavior has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the emotionally unavailable person. Because they have no idea what they want in regard to a relationship, they struggle with communicating their thoughts, so they end up sending mixed messages or making plans with you only to flake at the last minute.

According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, future successful relationships as well as relationship satisfaction are very much affected by how people communicate in the early stages of dating. In other words, if you feel like the person you're dating is calling the shots on the communication front or you're never really sure what's going on or where you stand, then that's a red flag. Don't dismiss this type of behavior if you're looking for something long-term and serious.

They're easily triggered by emotion-related subjects

If someone can't get in touch with their emotions or they fear being vulnerable around others, you can't expect them to have a healthy response to the topic of feelings. Like someone who lacks emotional intelligence, someone who's emotionally unavailable doesn't know how to monitor their reaction to your feelings or their feelings, so they're likely to lash out. The ability to process human sentiments as a whole, and to realize how you might be affected by what they say or do, simply isn't there.

"The emotionally unavailable partner can make someone with very healthy views of intimacy and closeness feel bad about their needs," marriage therapist Marni Feuerman, Psy.D. tells Women's Health. "[If you] push for closeness, [it] may feel uncomfortable or scary [for them]."

When this happens, hope for a productive dialogue about emotion-related subjects is lost as it turns into an unnecessary argument in which the emotionally unavailable person becomes defensive. Then you're forced to feel misunderstood and confused by their behavior, leading to you not even wanting to initiate intimacy and discussions around it because there's a lack of empathy for you and what you need.

They're looking for perfection

Although the idea of perfection is silly and doesn't exist in the real world, someone who's emotionally unavailable believes otherwise. For them, perfection makes everything so much easier to handle. If we take a lovely person, then strip them of their complications, their feelings, their interests, their baggage, and everything else that makes them human, then what you're left with is perfect because it's just a shell.

But because no such being exists (except in AI world), emotionally unavailable people push their unrealistic expectations on those they're dating. That way, when you don't live up to their idea of what makes a perfect partner or perfect relationship, they can use it against you. Your perfect imperfections are then given as reasons why things aren't going to work. You're then faced with either changing yourself to fit their twisted idea of perfect (don't do that), or being the one who walks away first (do exactly that).

While emotionally unavailable people are fairly undateable, with enough therapy they can make progress in their availability to others. However, no matter how attractive, charming, and interesting an emotionally unavailable person is, it's not your job to stick around and wait for them to do the necessary work to be better equipped for dating and relationships. So take these red flags seriously and move on in your search for love. Maybe someday, when they're better, you can pick up where you left off.