It would seem that being emotional unavailable is a major reason why most acts of infidelity occur. 

emotional unavailability

Photo by Kamaleeon

By Doug

Emotional unavailability is defined simply enough as the “inability of a person to reach out and make a heart connection with another person.”  Based on this, emotional availability involves not only negative emotions like anger or sadness but also positive emotions like happiness or excitement.

One of the most important ingredients in a secure and healthy relationship is this ability to ‘show up’ emotionally for the other person (Saunders et al., 2015) which is why emotional unavailability can be so problematic.

Emotional availability involves:

  • Showing empathy during difficult or challenging times
  • Providing emotional support or encouragement
  • Demonstrating genuine care and affection
  • Encouraging and listening to emotional responses
  • Intimacy and commitment to the relationship
  • A sense of meaningful connection at a deeper level

When someone is emotionally unavailable, they may be unable to connect with their feelings or their partner’s feelings. This person may have trouble opening up emotionally, shy away from discussing their feelings, and fear intimacy. As a result, emotional unavailability can prevent a relationship from reaching its fullest potential. ​

Signs that you may be emotionally unavailable:

  1. You are afraid of commitment
  2. You don’t trust people easily 
  3. You avoid “deep” conversations
  4. You want to keep your options “open”
  5. You are defensive

Signs that your partner may be emotionally unavailable:

  1. They minimize your feelings
  2. They are uncomfortable talking about anything emotional
  3. They get defensive easily
  4. They are inconsistent in their communication
  5. They avoid labeling the relationship

To Linda and I, it would also seem that emotional unavailability could be a major reason why most acts of infidelity occur. 

For instance, a person may feel that their needs are not being met, but probably that is because they weren’t emotionally available enough to lay their needs out on the table in the first place.

Emotional Unavailable Personality Types

A reader recently recommended a book entitled, “Emotional Unavailability” by Bryn C. Collins, M.A., L.P. and we thought we would grab a copy of the book to see if there was any enlightening information within that could be helpful to others.

In the book, Collins gives us several different personality types that make up the emotionally unavailable.  Perhaps you can relate to some of these within your own relationship.  If you can, please let us know in the comment section if your situation involves any of the following:

See also  Discussion: What Have You Learned About Yourself as the Result of the Affair?

Romeo or Romiette. With one who has this personality type, you will find a person who seems to very quickly fall head over heals in love, makes plans for your future together, but then all of a sudden drops off the face of the Earth.  To these people it’s all about the thrill of the chase and when they are questioned about their own feelings, they move on towards a new conquest.

They have no emotional involvement in the relationship as they have focused all of his or her attention on you.  They are so numbed and distant from themselves that it is impossible for them to connect with anyone else.

Indiana Jones:  The Dangerous Man. I think we’ve all met people like this who have great tales of adrenaline filled adventurous exploits.  This person is totally focused on excitement and not interaction.  When the excitement disappears, so does this person.

This is often the high school star athlete who received a ton of attention while in school without having to put his own self into it.  The spotlight of their high school glory days burned out and now they are looking for other ways to turn that light back on.

Tens and Other Trophies. These are the beautiful people of the world.  They rely on this beauty to “enchant without connection.”

These people have learned over time that there is little emotional risk to have an adoring person captured by their great looks.  “They have the illusion of connection without having to give anything back.”

If you are involved with a person like this, your job is to throw loads of admiration and compliments his/her way.   After a while this gets old and you might ask for more from his/her heart but all you get is more beauty and no emotion.

The Emotionally Unavailable Man

Mama’s Boys and Daddy’s Girls. Ah yes, these are the spoiled lot who have received everything they need in life from their parents.   If you enter into a relationship with this personality type, your job is to take over where Mama and Daddy left off.

You will more than likely be in competition with his/her parents for his love and affection and will be compared to them to boot.  This person had been handed most everything in life and any missteps by this person are blamed on others.  In other words, they think they’re special.  They were protected their whole life in most every possible way – even from their own feelings.

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Collins states that if you are in a relationship with this type of person you can “expect a negative return on your emotional investment.”  She further states that “the relationship will abruptly end if you even ask for any completion of the circle of emotion or suggest that behavior has consequences or hint that you are displeased about anything your partner has done or said.”

‘Holics:  Alca…, Coca…, Spenda…, Sexa…, Worka… Collins believes that this type of person uses addiction as an excuse for their dubious behavior.  They are focused on one behavior to the exclusion of everything else – including their relationships – but yet demand unconditional devotion to them.

In this relationship, the person is getting everything they want and need from their obsession, and has little left to spare for emotional connection with their partner.  They live for their obsession.  At best, you will always come in second place to that obsession.

Emotional Einstein: The Thinking Person’s Love. This person can put almost anything in intellectual terms – even their emotions.  Everything must be analyzed before it can be experienced.  This is tough to do with emotions, so as a result, emotions are dismissed.

Collins says, “To the Emotional Einstein, the only thing in the world that’s safe is thought.”  Since emotions can be an unpredictable roller coaster, this person avoids them.

Momma’s Boys and the Predisposition to Affairs

The One in the Mirror:  Narcissists and Other Self-Lovers. The narcissist is in love with themselves, and only themselves, and feel that the world revolves around them, and that you need to believe that as well.  Do not confuse this with self-confidence.

They feel that nobody is as special as they are and therefore cannot be understood by anyone else.  They have an exaggerated sense of entitlement but also an extreme deficiency in empathy, which makes it difficult for them to emotionally reach out to anyone else.

Eels and Other Slippery Critters. These are the non-committers of the world.  They won’t give you their word, much less keep it.

Trying to get what you want in a relationship with this type of person is met with conditions and maybes.   They “cannot tolerate solid expectations, clear limits, and adult relationships.”

James Bond:  Spies and Lies. A very self-focused, secretive type of person who masks their actions with lies and deceit.  These secrets create a barrier between themselves and any emotional connections.

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They withhold information from those whom they are in a relationship with partly because if those secrets were revealed the relationship would end and they wouldn’t get what they wanted.

When confronted regarding the lies and secrets, James Bond will get angry and blame you for snooping or bugging him.  If you can tolerate a relationship with a James Bond it will be one that has very little trust.

Collins does state that this list is not all-inclusive, but are the prominent types that she has seen in her practice.  The remainder of the book focuses on these personality types and offers quizzes to help identify these people, as well as information on how to change the way you approach people and relationships.

How to Be More Emotionally Available

  • Focus on strengthening your current relationships. Try opening up to the people in your most long-standing and stable relationships (e.g., an old friend or family member). People who are more familiar with you will be easier to open up to than complete strangers.
  • Take a break from new relationships to work on yourself. Put a pause on forming relationships and focus on the relationship you have with yourself. Reflect on your fears and insecurities, and what holds you back in relationships.
  • Learn how to cope with your emotions in a healthy way. If you don’t allow yourself to feel your emotions, it will be difficult for you to have an emotionally healthy relationship.
  • Seek help from an unbiased professional. It can be easy to live in your head, but sometimes you need to open up to a real person. Sometimes seeking out a therapist or coach can help you build the skills you need.

So, is your spouse (or you) emotional unavailable?  If so, has it been a major issue in your relationship?  Tell us all about it in the comment section.

References:

  • Emde, R. N. (1980). Emotional availability: A reciprocal reward system for infants and parents with implications for prevention of psychosocial disorders. P.M. Taylor (Ed.). Parent–infant relationships. Grune & Stratton.
  • Saunders, H., Kraus, A., Barone, L., & Biringen, Z. (2015). Emotional availability: theory, research, and intervention. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1069.​​

This article was originally posted on 6/2/2011 and updated on 3/21/2023

    18 replies to "Emotionally Unavailable Personalities"

    • B

      While I have been reading and posting for about 6 months,
      i have come here today to say goodbye. I can no longer come to this website everyday and feel sorry for myself. It isn’t working for me. This past Friday after my wife and I had sent the kids away for the Memorial Day weekend, we met her parents halfway and didn’t speak on the way home so I knew it was brewing. We had the worst fight we have ever had. Things were said that have been buried over the course of 15 years. One of the things she repeatedly screamed was that “I was giving up on her, quitting as her husband”. Because I finally told her that I was moving out and would no longer tolerate her garbage. I have never seen her so upset, so mad. Never seen her cry that much. I got so angry, that I punched a hole through the bathroom wall and on through my daughter’s bedroom. Then I went to do it again and hit a stud. Yep, broken hand.

      She took pictures off the wall and began throwing them at the wall. Not family pictures, but some of my autographed memorabilia. I retreated to the basement and just sobbed. She came downstairs crying, grabbed me, and looked right at me saying “This has never been what you think it has been, and I do not want a divorce, please don’t leave me”. We talked for a few hours and I finally took down my brave face and told her that she had destroyed me. That after everything she had put me through, I didn’t have anything left. She then proceeded to tell me “Any other man would have left me by now, but you have always stayed beside me. That is how I know you love me”. We then went on to have a very passionate, very wonderful weekend. Like we used to. We agreed that maybe a new beginning is what we need, one based on trust, honesty, and respect. My wife has been harboring some grudges for a long time, and even though most don’t have to do with me, she takes them out on me because she is so disappointed in herself.

      Long story short, I believe my wife when she says she doesn’t want a divorce. I truly believe she loves me. I believe she may be finally coming out of the fog and I owe it to myself to be there for her. I have pledged to myself to stop snooping, to sstop analyzing everything, and to give her one final chance to be the woman I love. I am removing the triggers and this website which I have come to love is only making hold on to more anxiety. I am using it as a crutch. So thank you Linda, thank you Doug, thank you Melvin, Michael, and everyone else who has been there for me. I am walking away now to work on this marriage. I am at a point where I will give it everything I have and if she turns out to be a liar, I will be at peace walking away. I will miss reading these posts, but life can’t be spent on the internet worrying. Time for me to show my wife where she belongs and how much I love her. It will be hard, it will be painful, it will be a long road, but I believe she is worth it.

      • Doug

        B., I applaud you for what you are doing. It’s amazing how one seemingly defining moment can move you further along on your journey. Best wishes to you and we have appreciated all of your contributions and the sharing of your story. If you think about it, drop us an email or a comment to let us know how you’re doing.

      • Cold Heart

        Yes. Applaud. Applaud & wish you, well & all the best.

        How I wish, my wife, will do, the same, too . Or at the very least, thought, about that, rather than, closed the door, without, without any, seconds thoughs.

    • Paddy

      Good luck B. Wish you the best…

    • Melvin

      Hello B,

      Sorry to hear about your hand – hope it mends properly. Good luck to both of you. I really feel you both have a great chance to resurrect your marriage work. And make it even better. A lot of blood, sweat and tears lie ahead – hopefully no more bruises.

      And thank you for your kind words and advice. I will miss your candid approach to matters of the heart. Pop back in after a while and let us know how things are going. We could use more success stories <|:-)

      Best Always

    • roller coaster rider

      I have also felt like maybe I should check out for a while…just focus on what is actually happening in my own life although I have to say that I really do care about all of you who I now consider my friends. I have been praying for you, for us all, because ultimately I feel it’s a spiritual battle and we really need healing. Sometimes the pain is just too much…

    • Donna

      WOW, I came to this site today to just as B has done. I love this site and I come here everyday to read the new posts etc… however I feel I have come to a place where I need to move away and continue to work on my marriage. It has been over 12 months now since I came to this site and it has been of great help for me and the replies have helped me when I have been at my lowest/ However.. I need a more positive break away from all the heartache that is happening here.

      My husband told me that he wants to be with me, said it takes time and that I need to look at his actions and not rely on words. How very true that is. Although he cannot tell me verbally that he loves me, his actions are saying it to me. He is home again, we are doing things together again, we are very involved as a family again, he is not a vacant shell anymore, he is present. He shows me affection again, I can go and hug him now without thinking he will be cold towards my touch.

      We still have so much more to go through as in him opening up to me, however I know in time and with patience that will happen, it has begun, just slowly. 1 year ago today I had no hope of my marriage surviving, today I do. I thought I would be divorced by now and he moved in with ow. Instead, she has moved away, now has a boyfriend and my husband has checked back in with his family. I have been throught he wringer without any agreement on my part and yes he has too although it is his own doing.

      Today it is time for new beginnings and a wonderful future ahead with yes pain involved too, but with me having a more positive outlook on my marriage having learn’t many valuable things from this site along the way and also about myself. I am a strong woman with a brave heart so I have discovered and in the end I will be okay.

      I can’t believe I am going to type this although I have felt this for a long time and alot of you may not understand this at all and may think I am on drugs etc… HOWEVER… I feel that my husbands emotional/physical affair has been the best thing for my marriage. It has shaken the very core and foundation that I stand on, however it has made me rediscover who I am, I am a mush stronger woman because of it and although it has crushed me and made me feel like I want to die at times, it has also been the crutch that has saved our marriage. As I said, I am sure I will get screamed at for what I wrote and if I had to choose I would not have chosen this trial and would want no one to go through it. However, I have chosen to find a silver lining in all of this and learn something from it. There is no place or time for complacement in a marriage.

      For those who think I am nuts, I have had real heartache, just go back and read my posts over the last year and you will feel my brokeness.. I now refuse to be broken, I will mend and I will be better and conquer all.

      Thank you Linda and Doug for this site, I have learn’t so much and it was a place I could come to and vent when I was so angry and so sad and just plain broken hearted Thank you for having a place for me and all of us to come too at a time when we need something to hang onto. FOr your devotion to your wife now Doug and your courage Linda for not giving up on what you believed to be right. You have helped me in ways that you never will realise. Thankyou for this safe place, it has been my life line for so long and now I am ready to let go and continue on my journey. Bless you both and bless ll of you whoa re still in the thckness of what this destruction can do. I will continue to pray for all the broken hearts on here and all over the world.

      Doug and Lynda… YOU BOTH have made a difference in my life. THANKYOU xx

      • Doug

        Donna, Thank you so much for the kind words and we’re very happy that things seem to be progressing in a positive fashion with you and your husband. We appreciate your contributions over the several months that you have been visiting. I like your new found positive attitude and have a feeling you’ll be just fine. Best of luck to you as you move on!

      • M

        Donna,

        As my therapist told me, it was obvious that my wife and I needed a catalyst for change. It’s horrible that it had to be her having an affair but my marriage is in a much stronger spot than it has been in years and years. We’re communicating our needs, establishing boundaries, feel much more fulfilled, etc. She has said multiple times, and I as well, that this was the worst possible catalyst and how much we wish we could have just sat down and told each other that we were unfulfilled and didn’t feel like the other loved us anymore.

        That discovery period was the worst few months of my life (I discovered the affair by finding messages on her phone while we were on our way to our anniversary dinner) but I am now at one of the best places in my life.

        So a long, tumultuous, emotional journey but I feel much better about myself than I have in a long time and I feel much closer to my wife than I have since we first had children.

        So I hear you.

    • wendy bornstein

      Great article and totally describes why my husband and I could not work to resolve our marriage. He totally put work as a priority and even after two years of separation and individual therapy won’t give me closure to his emotional affair because he is afraid to confront what he did. He attempts to pull me back but won’t end his affair or make a commitment to our marriage thus we are now in divorce process.

    • Sarah

      I love this article, Doug ‼️Emotionally unavailable people walk the line between craving intimacy and pulling people in, then pushing people away, once they get too close.

      They often subconsciously sabotage their marriages so they have a reason to look outside of them marriage.

    • Sunny Mornings

      My husband and I married young. We did many projects together, not least raising our 6 children and foster baby. We had a good life, lots of sex and, I would say, happy marriage. However, he was like the ‘Emotional Einstein’ description. Romance did not come easily to him, He would forget my birthday and our anniversary, would have to research something to write in a card if I wanted one, left his own birthday gifts unopened, said that love was a verb, not a feeling, words were cheap, romance nonsense. He didn’t easily share his heart, brushed off my worries and stayed logical. He provided money and a home but I would have loved him to scoop me up in his arms and drive off into the sunset for a surprise trip. However, I accepted it as who he was and tried to love him the best I could anyway.
      It was deeply ironic, therefore, when I discovered 4 years ago that he had been in an emotional affair for 3 years. They had an ‘our song’ and embarked on secret get-aways. He cherished small souvenirs she had given to him and I would find him with glazed eyes, daydreaming about her. He was obsessed with messages she might have left on his phone and counted down the days until they could be together again. They could talk about anything and everything, and stayed up for hours just chatting. How could this have happened for her and not for me? I had been waiting for years for that sort of emotional engagement and yet for her it was all there. They are still in a relationship as well as him living at home. He says he could never ‘do that to her’ to end it. I have never left him nor asked him to leave as I want to keep the family together for the children, but I have discovered this website and now I am certainly thinking about my options.

      • Shifting Impressions

        Sunny Mornings
        Does your husband show any remorse for what he is “doing to you”?? I am so glad to hear that you are thinking about your options. Your needs are important. You have every right to expect him to end this affair.

        Do you have anyone to confide in? Are you able to get some counseling?

    • Dawn

      Thank you, Shifting impressions. He says that he does regret that he ever became involved with her, but says that now that he has, there is no way back or out. He has finally agreed to marriage counselling, which is a breakthrough of sorts, and I hope he will be able to see better that his current position (keeping ‘loving’ both of us)is not neutral, as he seems to think, but a destructive choice and that he will be able to see what needs to be done to put things right.

      • Shifting Impressions

        Dawn
        You are absolutely right it is an extremely destructive choice. And he is absolutely making that choice and deluding himself that there is no way out. I find it interesting that the CS often overlooks the fact that the Betrayed Spouse also has a choice in the matter as well.

        I believe that the betrayed spouse sometimes puts the idea of having a choice aside because it is such a difficult choice to make. It’s also hard to ask oneself the difficult questions…..such as “Why do I allow myself to be treated with such disrespect” .

        As for putting things right…..stopping the affair is only the beginning.

        • Sunny mornings

          Absolutely, Shifting Impressions. They bought a house together before I knew about the affair, purchased by deceiving me. We are now short of money to extend our small family home for our many children and he wants to borrow from the bank rather than sell up their home and release ‘his’ £50,000 which, he says, is impossible and unthinkable. Again, it wouldn’t be fair on her! He says that is completely off the table and is rushing me to agree to sign for borrowing at a high rate of repayment. I have options here!

          • Shifting Impressions

            Sunny mornings
            Run and I mean run to a lawyer and find out your rights. DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING WITHOUT LEGAL COUNSEL!!!!!

            You absolutely have options!!! It’s his behavior towards you that is impossible and unthinkable!!! Just because he says something is completely off the table doesn’t mean it is!!!

            Please find out your legal rights!!!!!

      • Sunny mornings

        Oh, oops, used my ‘other name’. Actually Sunny mornings 😉

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