Protect Yourself: 5 Warning Signs Your Partner is Emotionally Unavailable

By Georgia


Last Updated: September 30, 2021

Emotional availability is a crucial yet underappreciated aspect of healthy, successful relationships.

Although a partnership may persist it cannot really prosper unless both people are able to be vulnerable in this way.

But how does someone know if they are emotionally available? And how can they find out before investing years of their life in something that isn't slated to succeed?

Emotional availability describes the ability to sustain emotional bonds in relationships. - Healthline


5 Warning Signs of Emotional Unavailability

1. Needs vs. Needy

Emotionally unavailable (EU) partners tend to confuse having needs with being needy.

Every person in a relationship has needs, and successful couples know how to voice theirs and listen to their partner's.

Are you being called out when you ask for any of these things? 

  • Being called needy in response to stating one's needs
  • Having pretty much any emotions at all
  • Suggesting intimacy beyond sex
  • Requesting quality time
  • Reminding them that a partnership means working together, etc.

You need to know that having a negative reaction or calling you needy is typical of EU people and toxic behavior.

Of course neediness does exist in some relationships, but as long as someone's needs and expectations are reasonable and not excessive, willingness to meet these needs comes down to compatibility.

But an unavailable person will try to shut down and shame their partner for having needs and asking them to be met, deterring future requests and alleviating this expectation from the relationship.

Sometimes the toxic partner will admit their significant other's needs are valid, but that they don't have the capacity to fulfill them.

2. Intolerant of Emotions

EU people tend to respond to their partner's emotions negatively.

They either become angry and aggressive, try to shame and guilt their partner out of their feelings, or escape the situation and leave the conversation or location.

Most EU people, and very often sexists/misogynists, love to call out other people's anger as hysterical, but don't consider their own anger to be an emotional outburst.

They think anger is only an emotion for others. But in any case, if your partner responds to vulnerability, sadness, crying, anxiety, etc. with anger, shame, guilt or abandonment, you've got an EU person on your hands.

3. Shallow and Sheltered

EU partners tend to hold back on their personal details and important information about their past.

They usually resist deep conversations, shun being vulnerable, and avoid talking about trauma. They may be tolerant to hearing others discuss deeper issues, but won't volunteer their skeletons or secrets no matter how long they've shared their life with someone.

On the contrary, just because a partner does volunteer important information about their past and trauma doesn't always mean they are emotionally available. They can re-write history to favor their side or use it to gain sympathy and manipulate the situation and their relationship in general.

4. Deep Disagreements

In the same vein, EU partners often avoid arguments about real issues.

Fights, conflicts and disagreements may be frequent, but the underlying issues that really need to be discussed are not.

These include:

  • Maturity
  • Mental health
  • Self-control
  • Respect
  • Values
  • Expectations
  • Boundaries
  • Communication
  • Trust 
  • Investment in the relationship

Instead of finding solutions to legitimate problems, EU partners often don't fight fair, resorting to screaming, name calling, deflection, blame shifting, low blows, and leaving, or refusing to discuss the issues at all.

5. Emotional Affairs

EU people tend to consider nothing except intercourse with someone other than their partner as cheating.

Non-monogamous arrangements may have more rules around sexual activity outside of the primary relationship, but once boundaries are established they will still often be crossed.

It doesn't matter how flexible and permissive the relationship is, EU partners will find a way and reason to cross boundaries when they can.

Read this next: The Most Common Boundaries You Should Know & Set in Your Relationships


Have a Boundary Conversation Early On

Each relationship is different, but what are considered acceptable and unacceptable interactions with other people needs to be discussed and decided on early in the relationship.

If both partners cannot agree on what cheating is, it is bound to happen and cause further problems down the road; seriously violating one partner and completely dismissed by another.

Emotional availability may seem hard to pin down. We may recognize it when it's there but don't quite know what is missing when it's not.

Someone who is emotionally available is open, vulnerable, honest, mature, secure, and communicative.

They don't run hot and cold, they understand their emotions and make the effort to understand their partner's, they care about what their partner needs, and set reasonable boundaries for themselves and the relationship.

Self-help or professional counseling can help unlock someone's own emotional depth and help them determine early on if a love interest is emotionally available.

Selecting a healthy partner and developing an emotionally satisfying relationship becomes much easier and less dramatic when you know what to look for.

Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay 


4 comments on “Protect Yourself: 5 Warning Signs Your Partner is Emotionally Unavailable”

  1. Wow I have been dealing with a bad relationship for so long I have just desided to ignore it. and its not working for me, I feel so alone. But I blame it on myself because I cant reach anyone, I can't seem to find a balance. always lonely.

  2. Reading my partner is like reading a map,as soon as i have the right coordinates he changes and blame shift.Name calling,shouting,anger comes,and it seems as if i go along getting pushed.I show up,as him.What to do?

  3. My mother is emotionally unavailable. Perhaps that is why I chose partners with the same issue. I know now that choosing men who are EU is a way for me to overcome the deep wounds left by my relationship with my mother. I just divorced an emotionally unavailable husband. There were many red flags but I was sure that they would dissolve as our relationship grew and he learned to trust me. The thing is, a relationship can not grow and his trust in me will never be an element of the relationship. The love I felt was irrelevant. Or it would be in the end because it will never be reciprocated. I have found myself here on more than one occasion and the lesson has finally sunk in. EU is real and can't be healed by a partner. There is more to the infliction than one person can imagine. Each unhealthy relationship left me feeling only one thing... I wasted my life believing in this person.

  4. I can so relate to all of this. I am still dealing with the aftermath of a 14 yr relationship with an EU partner that keeps reeling me back in only to go from having emotionally deep conversations that seems like things are different now. And then all of a sudden the same process starts all over again. She suddenly backs off and won't talk to me for days and doesn't want to see me for days to a couple months. The signs were always there and like many of us I always thought it would get better over time . Until the day that she crossed the line and it went from her having another emotional affair with an old bf to moving out and having a physical relationship with him and at the same time playing the same game with both of us . And now that she has pretty much lost both of us she is already on the hunt for her next victim.

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