Social Question

nikipedia's avatar

Is the stereotype of the emotionally unavailable man accurate?

Asked by nikipedia (28080points) November 27th, 2009

My female friends and I have noticed that lately we have been meeting men who fall into the stereotype of the Emotionally Unavailable Man. This is a man who, (in the context of dating):

*actively dates women, but never seems to get very intimate with them emotionally
*wants to hang out consistently but not very often
*does not talk about his feelings for you or about most things that make him feel vulnerable
*does not make you an important part of his life

I don’t think these are bad guys, and I don’t think they’re just out for sex. We have met enough of these that I think it constitutes a pattern. So what I want to know is:

First, are we actually seeing a pattern, and there are lots of guys like this, or is it just a coincidence?

If this is a real phenomenon, the He’s Just Not That Into You theory suggests that these guys just haven’t met the right woman yet and their behavior will instantly change when they do. In your experience, has this been the case? Have you been the Emotionally Unavailable Guy, or The Woman Who Changed It All, or The Woman Who Got Really Frustrated Because This Guy Was Being So Weird?

I have phrased this in terms of heterosexual relationships because those are the only ones in which I have observed this phenomenon. I would be very interested to hear if this happens in homosexual relationships too, and if the gender divide holds up or not.

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28 Answers

gemiwing's avatar

It’s funny, talking to Hubbs and my guy friends the Emotionally Unavailable seems to cross all genders and orientations.

I think it’s such a complicated, and case-by-case, issue that trying to generalize anything about it won’t lead to a good answer. I’m eager to see other Jellies’ thoughts.

trailsillustrated's avatar

I think it’s the way they were raised. They do date alot and often marry and make good husbands, just don’t expect alot of introspection

sebastian_von_tulu's avatar

I’d tell you. However, there’s something on the TV just now…

evil2's avatar

like most stereotypes there is some truth to it, as a man i know that when i date women like that its more to keep my options open like in case of emergency break glass , in essence i am not really interested in you just what you can do for me ie friendship , someone to hang with or even sex. when a guy is really interested you’ll know.. in my defence it has happenend very few times when i was younger and if a guy is giving you that vibe maybe your pursueing the wrong guy….

Glow's avatar

Well, there is no certainty to anything in life, but I do feel that this type of man you describe is quite common, based off what I have seen, heard from others and experienced. From a personal stand point first, my man is some what one of these guys. He does do things like get romantic, intimate and emotional with me, but he is also some one who fears it heavily, as he fears that by getting closer to me we are emotionally solidifying a relationship he may not be ready for. Maybe like a commitment-phobe? He loves me, he says it every day, but he: *wants to hang out consistently but not very often and *does not make me an important part of his life (in that to him, we are not married, so thus we should not act it, such as sharing finances, living together, seeing each other every single day, etc). From another stand point, the observer one, I have also noticed how many guys and gals have trouble in their relationships due to the guy not giving enough emotion and love to the other, or from the guys viewpoint, the girl is asking for too much emotion and love. I know girls who have cheated because their guys are not there, emotionally and intimately, when they need them, which is quite often. I also know of guys who have broken up with their girlfriends because the girl is being too emotional and asking for more than the guy is willing to give (commitment, devotion, loyalty to the extreme, sensitivity, etc).

So all in all, I think this is a common problem amongst men, but we must also look at ourselves, as women, that maybe we are not helping by asking so much, emotionally, of the guy, since he may not be ready to give as much as we ask. Relationships are a slow process. You should start off innocent and sweet in the beginning, then let intimacy come later.


Man, I write a lot…

WhatEvil's avatar

Well I don’t think you can generalise about 50% of the people on the planet. Some men are emotionally unavailable, some aren’t.

Maybe you should look at the way you’re meeting men. It could be that you’re meeting them in an environment that would attract more emotionally unavailable men than men who aren’t. I don’t know what such an environment might be, but still, maybe try another way.

To put it another way, if you go to meet men at the bowling alley, you’re only ever going to meet men who like bowling.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I’m usually really good with generalizations but as many guys as I know as friends, co workers and otherwise, I don’t think I’ve run into one of these sort. I’ve met a few who tried to play as though emotionally unavailable but it was more a preliminary screening mechanicism so they’d feel protected from and not pressured by women they were newly going out with.

nikipedia's avatar

@WhatEvil: You raise a couple good points. I tried to word this carefully so it was clear that I am not talking about all men—just asking if the category “emotionally unavailable man” exists, or if that is simply what women are (mistakenly) calling it when they meet a man who just isn’t that into them.

As far as meeting them, I think this experience has spanned multiple dating sources, but interestingly, many of them have come from online dating. I would think this would minimize guys who are not actively looking for a real emotional commitment, but in fact seems to have the opposite effect…not sure what to make of that.

flameboi's avatar

is not a coincidence, not at all, it’s a whole phenomenon… (75% of my friends can be categorized as emotionally unavailable)
But here is the trick, is not that they, sorry, we are looking for the right woman…
I’ve been the emotionally unavailable guy for a very (very) long time until I met my gf, then I became available and is just that, I was not ready to be available, and for the right woman, I was not looking for that, my gf showed up when I was ready, that’s all and yes, I’ve been told that I was just being sooo weird Believe me when I say, men who are looking for the perfect woman are wasting their time, most men marry when they feel they are ready with the woman that happened to be there, have you ever asked yourself “how did that guy married THAT girl???” Well, you just read the answer…
Let’s put my friends as an example, they all are in a very well position, college educated young professionals, handsome, cultured, interesting, well educated, etc… But they just don’t want to be involved in anything serious right now, they all believe that when they get to the point of changing their lifestyle, they will, and if the girl that happened to be there is the waiter in our favorite restaurant/coffee shop, then fine! They will…

WhatEvil's avatar

@nikipedia I know that my brother has used online dating sites to pick up girls to sleep with, only to never see them again. He actually seems to have found many women who use them for exactly the same thing.

Darwin's avatar

Some men are emotionally unavailable because that is how they are wired, some are until they decide it isn’t their thing any longer, some are until they mature enough to realize that sometimes it is worth it to take a risk and open up, and some never are.

Perhaps if you are meeting only emotionally unavailable men you need to change how and where you meet men, or what criteria you are using to decide a man is attractive.

Of course, it may depend also on the age of the men you are meeting. Very young guys are sometimes emotionally unavailable because all they want is sex and no complications, and divorced men are sometime emotionally unavailable because the pain of the failed marriage is still too strong, or because all they want is sex and no complications. OTOH, some men are divorced because they were and still are emotionally unavailable and shouldn’t have married the one they did to begin with.

nikipedia's avatar

As another point of clarification, I am in some regards less concerned for the women in this situation than the men. For women, it is pretty apparent what has to happen—if it’s really not enough, move on. But what are the Emotionally Unavailable Guys to do? Wait for The One and plan to suddenly become Prince Charming? Or do they need therapy? Or will they grow out of this normally?

The specific men I can think of are all in their 30s. Is their situation entirely hopeless?

tinyfaery's avatar

I think the idea of the “right woman” is just as much of a cultural myth as the “knight in shining armor”. It’s a nice idea that will bite you in the ass in the end. Relationships take work. Many women are willing to sacrifice true intimacy and attention for commitment and security. I find it sad. Maybe this is why so many relationships fail. I find that most men will offer you what you are willing to accept. If you don’t accept the lack of intimacy a man might just surprise you. We teach people how to treat us.

What kind of relationship do you want to have? Let him know and don’t accept anything less.

When I dated men, which I did for most of my dating life, I never became emotionally intimate with those who were unavailable. Men like these are for fun, only. The few men who I loved were willing to make themselves vulnerable because we developed a relationship where they felt safe. Most men are not so forthcoming, so if you care enough to dig, and don’t accept their unwillingness to share and be intimate, I believe a lot of men can become emotionally available. Maybe the “right woman” is the woman who won’t accept a one sided relationship.

There are so many reasons why gay relationships do not follow typical gender norms and stereotypes. Way too many to go into. But let me say, as a person who is attracted to both sexes, I chose to be with my wife because we never had to work at being intimate.

Female gendering allows and even teaches women to be open and emotionally available. Some lesbians are just as emotionally retarded as men, don’t get me wrong. But what I like about being with women is the closeness. A same-sex relationship has fewer walls and barriers.

I’m sending MacBean this question.

Glow's avatar

I’d like to point out that there is NO absolute truth, as everyones opinion on this matter varies, and everyones opinion is credible.

Like that makes things easier huh?!

poofandmook's avatar

I have been in three serious relationships since the age of 18.

The first was Emotionally Unavailable. You were a “pussy” if you expressed anything resembling vulnerability. 5 years with him, and the only time I saw him vulnerable was before we were together. Once we got together, that never came out again.

The second showed vulnerability at times, but then almost seemed to feel like he had to make up for it by being overtly macho during other times. It was really annoying. He couldn’t seem to make up his mind or find a balance between the two.

My third, and current, wears his heart on his sleeve. He freely shows vulnerability, all emotions. It’s refreshing and wonderful.

Each relationship was better and more committed than the last, and I don’t think this progression in ability/willingness to show vulnerabiltiy matching the progression of my relationships is a coincidence.

That made sense in my head. O.o

Darwin's avatar

“what are the Emotionally Unavailable Guys to do?”

The ones I have known generally dated very young women, usually just legal age. That way they get sex and someone to go places with, but they don’t have to have actual conversations. This was explained to me by a male friend who never seemed to date anyone over age 20.

mary84's avatar

I think @flameboi nailed it; The majority of these emotionally unavailable men/guys are simply at a point in life where they’re just not interested in being a part of a serious, committed relationship, because they value other things in life more at that point and aren’t interested in being tied down. Then of course, some of these emotionally unavailable men are “emotionally unavailable”, meaning “not that into you”, so of course it could also be that they are just not interested. But most of the time I actually (and especially if they are under 30) think they are not ready for a committed relationship. So, to sum up: I think that emotionally unavailable men really do exist, as a parallell to men who are “just not that into you but act like they are emotionally unavailble”. Both categories probably exist, but it can be difficult to separate the two kinds.

These men will (probably) eventually become emotionally available, probably when they are 40 and realize that all their friends are married with families and they are left alone.

(Coming from a female who’s dated a lot of emotionally unavailable men).

I also want to add; Some females, me included, tend to attract emotionally unavailable men all the time, so it could also be a pattern that you need to break.

MissAnthrope's avatar

So, I date women. The last two women I dated have had the following complaints about me:

*actively dates women, but never seems to get very intimate with them emotionally
*does not talk about his feelings for you or about most things that make him feel vulnerable

It’s just very, very difficult for me. I can discuss things with my therapist, but found myself blocked when it came to talking to either of these women. Now, I think I’ve only really, truly been in love twice, even though I’ve dated probably 8 or 9 women.

It’s interesting the “He’s Not That Into You” theory states that with the right woman, the behavior would change instantly. I say it’s interesting because both times I was really in love, it was naturally sooooooo easy to talk to them. Not only did I find it easy to talk about anything, but I really wanted to.

MacBean's avatar

Oh, hi. I was pointed in this direction… (Hello, @tinyfaery)!

Um. But I don’t really have anything to add! Everyone else has already said everything I have to say. The Emotionally Unavailable Man definitely exists. But so does the Emotionally Unavailable Woman. And so does the Emotionally Unavailable Genderqueer! I’m female-bodied but don’t identify as female and don’t solidly identify as male, either (which, I suspect, is why I was flagged down for an opinion here) and I’ve definitely been emotionally unavailable in relationships at times.

The main part of my issue is that people tend to come to me with their problems, so even if I do trust them to hear mine, I feel obligated to look strong for them. It’s rather like the pressure society puts on men not to be “pussies.” You’d think that, since the pressure is coming entirely from me instead of from outside sources, I’d be able to get over it with some work, but… no luck so far. Probably because the other part of my issue is that I have trouble visibly expressing emotions in the appropriate way, so rather than be misinterpreted and have to explain myself, I just keep my thoughts in my head. I find it much easier to communicate my feelings effectively online (and through writing in general) because I can throw in a :) at the end of something and even if my face is more like :| in real life, people know I’m pleased or just joking around.

I just thought of something else. How long are you dating these guys before you feel they can officially be given the EUM label? Because I know even when I’m not emotionally unavailable, it takes me some time to work up to that point. And I get a free pass from society since I’m female-bodied; I don’t have to worry about being picked on for being “girly.”

tinyfaery's avatar

@MacBean See. I knew you’d have an interesting take. When discussion gender norms and construction I always want to hear a trans point of view.

Zen_Again's avatar



le_inferno's avatar

My man certainly doesn’t fall in this category. I’m very fortunate.

casheroo's avatar

I think the worst part of anyone who is emotionally unavailable, is that they still want and get the companionship…but they hurt the person while doing so. I’m not sure if it’s intentional with all, but I know some it seems quite intentional.
I just don’t understand. If you’re EU, then stay the heck out of relationships….but, emotions do get involved when sleeping with someone. It’s instinct.
Okay, I’m just talking in circles.

I will say, I’m sure everyone has encountered a person who is EU…no matter their sex. And it usually sucks to go through that.

faye's avatar

Orrrrrrrrr There is the man who can’t stop f**king about every thing he’s felt over and over and- but it’never going to matter. he’d a’ve said the same to anyone that had liquor for him And oh he loves you, you know

mattbrowne's avatar

I think psychologist Mary Ainsworth would classify ‘emotionally unavailable’ as avoidant attachment, see her attachment theory:

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

lots of people are that way – I wouldn’t date them

janbb's avatar

I certainly have met many emotionally unavailable men, including my husband.

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