8 ways to quickly tell if someone is emotionally unavailable

by Lachlan Brown | February 11, 2024, 1:00 pm

Ever met someone who seems perfect but just can’t seem to open up?

It’s like they’re there, but not really there.

You might be dealing with someone who’s emotionally unavailable.

Before you get too deep, it’s good to know the signs.

Here are eight ways to spot them quickly.

1. They Avoid Deep Conversations

Whenever you try to dive into meaningful topics or discuss feelings, they swiftly change the subject or make a joke to lighten the mood.

It’s as if they have a shield up, preventing any emotional depth.

They’re masters at staying on the surface, discussing day-to-day matters or trivial topics.

But when it comes to sharing personal stories, fears, or dreams, they remain a closed book.

This consistent avoidance of emotional intimacy is a clear sign that they might not be ready or willing to connect on a deeper level.

2. They’re Always “Too Busy”

Remember that time you tried to plan a cozy movie night, but they suddenly had a last-minute work thing?

Or when you wanted to have a heart-to-heart chat, but they were “too tired” or had plans with friends?

It’s natural for everyone to be genuinely busy sometimes, but if they’re consistently unavailable or making excuses, it might be more than just a packed schedule.

I once knew someone who would always prioritize their gym routine over meaningful conversations.

It felt as though their bicep curls were more important than our connection.

When someone is emotionally unavailable, they often use busyness as a convenient escape from emotional bonding.

3. They Ghost, Then Reappear

It’s a pattern that’s as frustrating as it is confusing.

One moment they’re showering you with attention, and the next, they’ve vanished without a trace.

No calls, no texts, no explanation. Just when you’ve started to come to terms with their absence, they pop back into your life as if nothing happened.

It’s a rollercoaster of highs and lows.

The truth?

This isn’t just them being “mysterious” or “unpredictable.” It’s a clear sign of emotional unavailability.

They retreat when things get real, only to return when they feel the coast is clear of any emotional responsibility.

It’s raw and it hurts, but recognizing this behavior is crucial for your own emotional well-being.

4. They Keep Past Relationships a Secret

When the topic of past relationships comes up, they become notably evasive.

It’s not about respecting privacy or avoiding unnecessary drama; it’s a consistent and deliberate effort to keep that part of their life hidden.

They might give vague answers, change the subject, or even become defensive.

While everyone has a right to their personal history, a complete refusal to discuss or acknowledge past relationships can indicate a fear of vulnerability and a pattern of avoiding emotional intimacy.

It’s as if they’ve built a wall around their past, ensuring that no emotional baggage—or lessons learned—can seep through to the present.

5. They’re Overly Romantic… At First

Surprisingly, some emotionally unavailable people can come off as the most romantic souls you’ve ever met—at least in the beginning.

They’ll sweep you off your feet with grand gestures, surprise gifts, and passionate declarations.

It feels like a fairy tale. But here’s the catch: it’s all surface-level.

These extravagant displays are often a smokescreen to distract from the lack of emotional depth.

As time goes on, the grandeur fades, and the emotional distance becomes evident.

It’s counterintuitive, but sometimes the most “romantic” beginnings can be a red flag for emotional unavailability.

6. They Fear Commitment Like It’s a Plague

It’s not just about avoiding labels or hesitating to move in together.

It’s the palpable anxiety they exhibit when things start to feel “serious.”

Maybe you’ve noticed they pull away after particularly intimate moments or conversations.

Or perhaps they’ve even admitted, during one of those rare vulnerable moments, that they’re terrified of getting too close to anyone.

They might have a history of short-term relationships, always finding a reason to exit before things get “too real.”

It’s a raw truth: their fear of commitment isn’t about you—it’s about their own internal battles and their inability to truly open up and trust.

7. They’re Great Listeners, But Never Share

At first glance, they seem like the perfect confidant. They’ll sit with you for hours, nodding and listening intently as you pour your heart out.

It feels good to be heard, and you might mistake this attentive behavior for genuine emotional connection.

But here’s the twist: they rarely, if ever, reciprocate.

While they know your life story, dreams, and fears, you realize you know next to nothing about theirs.

It’s counterintuitive because being a good listener is often seen as a sign of emotional availability.

But in their case, it’s a one-way street—a tactic to keep the focus on you and deflect any deeper exploration of their own emotions.

8. They’re Masters of Deflection

Whenever the spotlight turns to them, they artfully dodge and weave, ensuring that their true feelings remain buried deep.

You might ask them a direct question about their emotions, only to receive a sarcastic remark or a change of topic in return.

It’s not just playful banter; it’s a defense mechanism.

The raw truth is that they’re terrified of being seen—of revealing the messy, vulnerable parts of themselves that they’ve locked away.

They’d rather wear a mask of indifference or humor than admit they’re hurting or scared.

And while it might seem like strength on the surface, it’s often a cover for deep-seated pain and fear.


Navigating the waters of emotional availability can be challenging, especially when the signs aren’t always clear-cut.

While it’s essential to recognize these indicators, it’s equally important to approach individuals with understanding and compassion.

Everyone has their journey, and for some, emotional walls have been built as a means of protection.

If you find yourself connecting with someone who shows these signs, remember that patience, open communication, and self-awareness are key.

However, always prioritize your emotional well-being.

Relationships should be a source of support and growth, not constant confusion.

Trust your instincts, value your feelings, and never settle for less than the genuine emotional connection you deserve.

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