One of the signs of a healthy relationship is both partners being on the same emotional level or frequency. Feelings can be scary and hard to process or deal with. But, for an emotionally unavailable woman or man, it just becomes ten times harder because they find it difficult to form genuine connections with people.
In such a scenario, you might wonder what to do when you are attracted to an unavailable woman. What are the signs you are dating such a person? How to win over an emotionally unavailable girl? To answer all these questions and more, we spoke to counseling psychologist Shivangi Anil (Masters in Clinical Psychology), who specializes in pre-marital, compatibility, and boundary counseling.
What Makes A Woman Emotionally Available?
Before we talk about what makes a woman emotionally unavailable, let us first understand what the term ‘emotionally unavailable’ means. According to Shivangi, “Being emotionally unavailable means not being able to share feelings and emotions. They often use their emotional capacity to cope with their own unfulfilled needs due to which they no longer have the emotional resources to tune into the needs of their partners.”
But no one is born this way. So what makes a woman emotionally unavailable? According to Shivangi, these could be the possible reasons:
1. Caregivers are/were unresponsive to emotional needs
A child’s relationship with her caregivers forms the basis of the quality of her adult relationships. If she was raised in an environment in which her caregivers were unresponsive to her emotional needs and feelings or expected her to take care of them herself, then she grew up thinking that to be the acceptable model of expression of emotions. She avoids getting close to people to keep herself safe.
2. Caregivers’ response to emotional needs is/was mistuned
Sometimes, when caregivers do respond to their child’s emotions, the responses are not in tune with the needs of the child. “When the child reaches out for support, caregivers tend to take a step back or become more reserved. Children learn early on that this is the only response to emotional needs and that’s what shows up in their adult relationships,” Shivangi explains. This is what happens when a child’s essential needs are perceived as neediness.
3. Expression of emotions was looked down upon in early years
This is where the whole ‘good girls don’t cry’ or ‘good girls don’t demand so much’ logic comes into play. When a child grows up in an environment where she feels unsafe while expressing her emotions, she “learns to believe that it is unacceptable and avoids them at all costs, leading to an avoidant attachment style,” says Shivangi
4. Parents’ own attachment style can make their child emotionally unavailable
When the parents don’t have the know-how to respond to the emotions of their children according to their abilities, individual needs, age, and the situation at hand, then this also leads to the kids growing up to develop an avoidant attachment style. They learn that expressing emotions is a bad and weak thing to do.
Shivangi concludes, “Emotional unavailability often reflects a lack of emotional profoundness. Intimacy is difficult to express, not because they don’t want to feel close to you, but because they simply don’t have the know-how.” This brings us to our next point where we talk about whether or not an emotionally unavailable woman can fall in love.
Can An Emotionally Unavailable Woman Fall In Love?
You’re probably attracted to an unavailable woman but given her emotional state, it is natural to wonder if she can ever fall in love with someone. How do you know if an emotionally unavailable woman is in love with you? More importantly, can such a person fall in love with anyone at all? Shivangi weighs in.
She says, “An emotionally unavailable woman can and does fall in love. She loves her partner. The lack or the inconsistency of responses from her primary caregivers makes it a terrifying experience for her to express her needs and read those of her partner. This is because she has been conditioned to believe that being ‘needy’ is unacceptable or bad.”
Related Reading: How Can I Overcome Feeling Insecure In Relationships?
17 Signs You Are Dating An Emotionally Unavailable Woman
“How do I know if I fell in love with an emotionally unavailable woman?” Imagine a situation where you’ve been seeing this woman for a while but you find it a task to read her emotionally. It’s difficult to understand her behavior or responses. She doesn’t take your calls or respond to messages for hours on end. You feel as if she doesn’t care about your feelings and keeps blowing you off. You end up wondering if you did something wrong to trigger such behavior.
Well, probably not. But what you did do is fall in love with an emotionally unavailable woman. Now that we’ve sorted your “Can an emotionally unavailable woman fall in love?” dilemma, let’s understand the signs an emotionally unavailable woman is in love with you or the fact that you are in a relationship with one. Here are 17 ways to know if you are dating an unavailable woman:
1. They give you tons of mixed messages
“An emotionally unavailable woman’s words and actions might contradict each other. She might pull you in with a bid for intimacy and closeness and then suddenly push you away. An important example of this is starting an emotionally deep conversation with you and then changing the topic entirely,” says Shivangi.
One of the signs you are dating an emotionally unavailable woman is that she will always send mixed signals. So you might always feel confused. They will say that they want to spend time with you but then, all of a sudden, pull away. They won’t be able to commit to anything – be it a date or the future of the relationship.
2. They keep you away from other important relationships in their life
According to Shivangi, an emotionally unavailable woman tends to keep you away from the relationships that matter to her. She won’t introduce you to her friends or family or invite you to social gatherings or work events. She doesn’t want you to share a relationship with them just in case things between you two go south. She might not be committed to you enough to let you get close to the people who are important to her.
“This is particularly seen in women. You might find them talking about their partner as if they were another random person, irrespective of how serious the relationship may be for you. This dehumanizes their partners and allows for a distance between them since emotional closeness is too threatening,” she says.
3. They make you feel like you’re the problem
Another sign is guilt-tripping you. She will make you feel like you’re in the wrong whenever there is a conflict or when she notices an increase in emotional intimacy. You might also feel unwanted or unimportant to her. An emotionally unavailable woman tends to not admit her fault and pins it on you instead.
She will try to play the victim card and make statements like “You don’t deserve me” or “You don’t value me”. Also, watch out for emotional abuse and manipulation when she tries to use your fears and insecurities against you. This behavior could even be an extreme case of ‘intimacy anorexia’.
4. You feel “clingy” even when there’s hardly been any intimacy between you two
“Any demand for emotional closeness is too threatening and risky for them. They don’t know how to respond to such a demand. These emotional bids from their partners are, therefore, dismissed as clingy,” Shivangi explains. This could be because they see expression of emotions as an intense and dramatic act and might even call you out on it.
5. They are the drivers of the relationship
“Given their difficulties with dependence, they might also avoid collaborations in decision-making. It is common for them to make important decisions like those regarding finances, personal moves, and careers without taking your viewpoint or needs into consideration. It always feels like they are on their own,” Shivangi explains.
An emotionally unavailable woman is fiercely independent. She is so used to handling things on her own or doing things the way she wants to without taking anyone’s help or advice that the thought of discussing important decisions with her partner might not even cross her mind. Another consequence of such behavior is the need to always have things in her control and to get them done her way.
6. They don’t know how to communicate well
Consistent communication is key to building a healthy relationship. Without it, your bond will cease to exist or will turn toxic. If you have communication issues in your relationship, then know that it’s a major sign that she’s emotionally unavailable. A few behavioral signs include:
- She will take hours or days to reply to your texts
- She will not meet you much, in an attempt to maintain a some emotional distance from you
- She finds it difficult to express herself or communicate her feelings even when she’s in trouble
- She avoids all forms of communication during conflict
Such behavior makes it difficult to form an actual emotional connection with them because their ability to communicate well is hampered.
7. They withhold significant information about themselves
According to Shivangi, an emotionally unavailable woman will “keep all her deep and important secrets like dreams, aspirations, life goals, regrets, joys, and hopes to herself. While she might happily share with you the minutest details of a meal she ate, she would never tell you about her dream of becoming a chef one day.”
This is because sharing significant information about herself might make her feel vulnerable or exposed and that is a ‘risk’ she is not willing to take, which is why she will try to evade any personal questions that you ask her. It is her defense mechanism.
Related Reading: How Saying Hurtful Things In A Relationship Affects It
8. They’re defensive and avoid confrontation
This is one of the most common signs you’re dating an emotionally unavailable woman. Given the fact that she isn’t in tune with her emotions, expressing her feelings is next to impossible for them. Hence, whenever there is any kind of conflict that requires her to verbally communicate, she tends to:
- Avoid or run away from it
- Turn defensive
- Blame others for her faults
A person with emotional availability will sit down and sort the problem or accept their mistakes instead of indulging in such actions. But an emotionally unavailable woman will do everything in her power to avoid confrontation.
9. They avoid any form of advancement or ‘labeling’ of the relationship
According to Shivangi, “Emotionally unavailable people tend to avoid conversations about labeling the relationship. They feel like taking the next step might make them get too attached to you and that can be a petrifying thought. They fear that they would be expected to be more emotionally invested in the relationship if it goes any further, and that is a kind of pressure they can’t handle. It’s just too scary to think about.”
While you might be trying to get emotionally close to the woman you love, she might be:
- Pulling away from forming any kind of intimacy or closeness with you
- Withdrawing or avoiding any talk of a future with you
- Finding ways to end things with you
- Finding the smallest of flaws and using them as excuses to create a distance with you
If she gets the slightest hint that the dynamic between you two is slowly turning into a serious relationship, she will pull back because she is too uncomfortable and scared to get involved in a romantic commitment.
10. They don’t put the same effort into the relationship or reciprocate yours
A relationship is a two-way street. Both partners will have to put in an equal amount of effort if they want it to work. However, when you’re attracted to an unavailable woman and seeing her, you’ll notice that she’s not living up to her end of the bargain. You will always be the one to initiate intimate conversations and express your love, plan dates, and care for her while she constantly lets you down by not reciprocating the same feelings.
11. Their expression of love is vague
One of the signs an emotionally unavailable woman is in love with you is that her expression of it will be vague and confusing. While you might be displaying your love clearly without beating around the bush, her way of doing it will be uncertain and cryptic. You might not understand how much you mean to her and where you stand when it comes to her feelings. Expressing love requires her to be vulnerable, something that an emotionally unavailable woman cannot handle.
12. They don’t respect your time
This is one of the most common signs that many people tend to ignore or let go of. A partner not respecting your time is a relationship red flag you shouldn’t take lightly. While it is okay to cancel once in a while (everyone has days when they’re too busy), making a pattern of doing so should not be acceptable.
However, the problem is that an emotionally unavailable woman tends to do it all the time. There are a few ways to gauge if she respects your time. Watch out for such behavior:
- She will cancel on you in an attempt to avoid spending quality time with you
- She will be available as per her convenience. The importance of the occasion or your wishes will not matter to her
- She would rather focus on her own commitments than spend time with you
This is usually because she doesn’t know how to care about or deal with her own feelings. If she can’t handle her own, how will she handle yours?
13. They do not want the relationship to be public knowledge
“I fell in love with an emotionally unavailable woman who does not want people to know that we are together.” – Is this what you’re dealing with? Well, you are not the first one to feel this way and you won’t be the last. Such people find it hard to commit – it’s a typical trait of an emotionally unavailable person. They will never want the relationship to be public knowledge.
Her inability to form a deep connection with you makes it difficult for her to maintain the relationship due to which she doesn’t want anyone to know about the two of you being together. She is not ready to handle the questions that will be thrown at her when people get to know that she is in a relationship with you. She wants to avoid the additional pressure of society, which is why she will keep you and the relationship away from the eyes of her loved ones and the general public.
14. They have difficulty asking for any form of support or help
More often than not, children who grew up in an unsafe or unhealthy environment, where their primary caregivers ignored or neglected their feelings, learn to be self-dependent. They get used to handling situations or doing things on their own, which is why it is hard for them to ask for outside support or help even if it is from their close friends and family.
Shivangi explains, “Emotionally avoidant women may be extremely independent, because any form of dependence comes with expressing needs that require them to be vulnerable. They are afraid their partners might leave if they get too dependent. Therefore, they feel it’s better to not rely on them in the first place. They found it hard to trust their early caregivers to fulfill their emotional and physical needs, which is why they believe they (themselves) are their only support system and they live by it.”
15. They become defensive or resistant when it comes to emotional intimacy
So your girlfriend gave you a rare glimpse into her heart and expressed her feelings to you but then immediately pulled away when you encouraged her to open up more. She changed the topic or spoke to you rudely leaving you confused. Well, this is again a typical characteristic trait of an emotionally unavailable woman. Emotional intimacy is unchartered territory, which is why she stays away from it as much as possible.
She will make every effort to destroy any attempt of you getting emotionally intimate with her partner. The more you try (through conversation, gestures, touch, or sex), the more it’ll backfire and you’ll be met with anger, rudeness, and resistance – to the extent that the relationship might start to feel more like a friendship. “They may almost put up a stone wall when it comes to discussing relationship problems,” says Shivangi.
You pick up food from her favorite restaurant on your way back home to make her happy. She’ll eat it for sure but won’t appreciate or express much of her feelings to you. You try to talk about your problems and fears or issues at work but she only gives half-baked sincerity in her responses.
“An emotionally unavailable partner won’t seem engaged during these chats, even when you want her ear the most. If you can’t bond over the real conflicts in your life, you won’t be able to form an intimate connection,” Shivangi elaborates.
16. They have trust issues
According to Shivangi, “An emotionally unavailable woman finds it hard to trust people. As per the confirmation bias, she keeps looking for evidence to prove her own beliefs. An emotionally avoidant woman, therefore, keeps looking for reasons to not trust her partner. She might limit your freedom, may always behave like you are going to take advantage of her, and interpret all your actions negatively.”
This is one of the major signs you’re dating an emotionally unavailable woman. Such women are scared of commitment. It’s difficult for them to have faith in someone because they might have grown up in an unsafe environment where they couldn’t trust their caregivers. They don’t want to expose or reveal themselves to you as their experiences have forced them to put up a wall to protect themselves.
17. They are not fully present in the relationship
“An emotionally unavailable woman may continue to communicate with her ex-partners, and idealize and romanticize them. While it may look like it’s her way of putting her significant other down, it’s actually her looking for a loophole in the relationship that can keep her from getting invested,” Shivangi explains.
This is usually done to create some kind of distance or rift between both of you. If she’s emotionally unavailable, she tends to:
- Keep blowing you off
- Not care about how you feel
- Stop checking in on you
- Come and go as and when she pleases
- Not care about your needs
- Leave all plans hanging in the air
- Always leave you guessing her feelings
- Make you feel as if she’s not interested in talking about the relationship and its future
We hope the above signs help you determine if you’re dating an emotionally unavailable woman. If you are, then know that it can be a difficult experience because it’s a test of your love and commitment. We would recommend walking out if it’s abusive. But if it’s not and you really love her and want to make her happy, read on to find out how you can win over an emotionally unavailable girl and have a successful relationship with her.
How To Have A Successful Relationship With An Emotionally Unavailable Woman
Well, if you’ve made it this far, it means you really love this woman and want to know how you can have a healthy and successful relationship with her. If you think it’s worth it, go ahead by all means but be careful. Pursuing a relationship with an emotionally unavailable woman or man is not easy. But if you’ve made up your mind, here are a few ways suggested by Shivangi that can help you:
1. Create an environment of safety
This is the most necessary step to take if you are trying to build a healthy relationship with someone who’s not on the same page as you emotionally. According to Shivangi, you should help your partner feel safe by creating an emotionally safe environment by:
- Being an active listener
- Putting away your defenses to truly understand your partner
- Paying attention to non-verbal gestures and communication
- Respecting her boundaries
- Asking for her consent before moving forward during sexual intimacy, relationship goals, plans that affect her, etc.
2. Foster accountability for yourself
Be accountable for your actions. If you’ve told her that you would do a particular task for her, no matter how small or big, then make sure you come through with it. According to Shivangi, “Following through with small commitments and promises consistently allows the emotionally unavailable partner to see and learn to depend on you.” If, by any chance, you’re unable to fulfill a promise, then take responsibility and talk to her about why you couldn’t.
3. Understand her definition of ‘needs’
Shivangi explains, “As a child, an emotionally avoidant girl probably had to learn how to be seen as less ‘needy’ to keep caregivers around. This forced her to learn that expressing basic emotional needs or being able to read them was bad or unacceptable. As a result, she doesn’t know how to express her needs or be in tune with the needs of her partner.”
Don’t force things on her or try to be too interfering. It will only push her away. According to Shivangi, “Know that she loves you but being dependent in a healthy way is something she just doesn’t understand. Keeping this in mind will help you allow her some space and self-soothe when needed.” It will also make her feel safe and heard.
4. Respect her alone time
This is crucial if you are trying to win over an emotionally unavailable woman and have a successful relationship with her. “Too much time together can make an emotionally avoidant woman feel like she is vulnerable and may become dependent on you, which will force her to pull back. Furthermore, accepting that she needs alone time can be a source of shame for her. Offering alone time beforehand prevents her from feeling that shame and helps her feel accepted instead,” Shivangi explains.
5. Be patient
Building a successful relationship with an emotionally unavailable woman requires a whole lot of patience. Shivangi explains, “Emotionally avoidant partners’ childhood experiences did not allow her space to grow emotionally and she was, in fact, rebuffed for it. Learning these skills will take time and effort. Be patient with her.” She might have outbursts or pull away from you. During moments like these, you’ll have to show patience and make her feel safe and wanted.
6. Try using ‘I’ statements
When trying to put across your point of view or any issue that you might have with your partner, make sure you don’t use accusatory remarks like:
- You always do this
- Why are you like this?
- I know you did it!
Instead, Shivangi says, “Try to rephrase concerns as ‘I’ statements. Focus on how it makes you feel and what alternative behavior you prefer. This takes blame out of the equation and might eventually help you win over an emotionally unavailable girl. For example, say “I felt hurt when you didn’t respond” instead of saying “You hurt me and made me feel unimportant when you didn’t respond”.
- It is difficult for an emotionally unavailable woman to share her feelings or cope with her unfulfilled needs
- If she sends you mixed signals, pulls away from intimate conversations about you or your future together, refuses to label the relationship, and has a vague expression of love, know that you’re attracted to an unavailable woman
- Such a person will not want you to share a relationship with her loved ones. She will not want to make her relationship with you public knowledge
- She might have trust issues, will refuse to ask for support or help, and avoid confrontation at all costs
- Being patient with her, understanding and respecting her needs and boundaries, and giving her space and a safe environment to express herself will help you build a successful relationship with an emotionally unavailable woman
The idea is to not change her, but to help her address her wounds. Be gentle, kind, and patient with her. Seek professional help if need be. Bonobology’s panel of licensed and experienced therapists is only a click away in case you are looking for guidance. It will take time to break down those walls but your partner will learn to express herself and her love better.
Tread with caution though, because being with such a person could prove to be detrimental for your mental health if they don’t wish to heal. Building a relationship with someone who might not love and support you as much as you do can be exhausting. Walk out of the relationship immediately if it turns emotionally abusive or if she tries to gaslight you and make you question your love and worth. We hope the above signs and tips to win over an emotionally unavailable partner help.
Yes. An emotionally unavailable woman can fall in love. Just because she finds it difficult to express her feelings or read those of her partner doesn’t mean that she can’t love them with all her heart or that she doesn’t experience those emotions. She just takes a while to recognize and acknowledge her feelings and put them into words.
Be patient with her. Try to create a safe space for her to express herself and be vulnerable with you. Make an attempt to understand her needs. Give her space when she needs it. Use ‘I’ statements to express your point of view or to address issues and concerns.