Seriously, in 2018 the term ’emotionally unavailable’ may as well be the promotional poster for the Australian dating pool. It seems like every guy or girl you meet and get into an early-stages relationship with whips off their “I’m so into you” mask around month two to reveal that actually, they’re totally not keen on anything serious and sorry but they must immediately leave now and never speak to you again.
Thing is – as I discovered this week when I sent my break up texts to a dating expert – often WE are the problem when it comes to dating emotionally unavailable folks. How? Well, we’re drawn to them c/o some fucked up subconscious shit, and then actively choose not to look for signs that someone is clearly not the type of person who’s looking beyond casual.
However, even when we recognise that we’ve gotta stop dating people who are just going to stomp on our hearts, it can be hard to tell before they’re very much under our skin and we’re sitting by our phones waiting for an elusive text. So I asked Isiah McKimmie, a sex and relationships therapist, for her advice on recognising someone that’s emotionally unavailable – BEFORE they get you real good.
THEY RARELY MAKE PLANS
Emotionally unavailable people will leave you to do all the legwork in the relationship, which means you’re forever frustrated because you feel like YOU’RE the only one suggesting bars, planning dates, and generally working out when you can hang. As Isiah says:
“Look for signs of how available they are to you in the early stages of a relationship. Do they make and commit to plans with you? Are they willing to be flexible to include you – or do you just seem to get fitted around everything else they have going on?”
Flexibility is a massive one – is the person you’re dating just slotting you in around every other thing in their life? Does their extremely important rock climbing schedule come before you? Their very all-consuming embroidery hobby? Obviously people have lives and that’s a good thing – but if you feel like you’re the only one bending over backwards to find a date night, the person you’re planning with might be ~emotionally unavailable~.
THEY LOCK YOU OUT
How much do you really know about this person? Do they reveal much of their life to you? And I’m not talking about “my favourite cheese is gouda” types of sharing – do you know anything deeper about this person. Obviously the first few dates are not the time to spill anyone’s guts about career fears and how you’ll never ride an elevator again after that time you almost plummeted to your death. But if it’s been a fair while, things are getting a bit more serious, and you’re still talking about dumb shit and onlu dumb shit?
Looking at how much they’re willing to be open about their feelings and emotions is something else to be aware of – are they willing to share more of themselves than surface discussions.
On that note – is it ENTIRELY about them? Does it feel like your emotions and needs aren’t of any consequence? A good example of this is – do they want to make you happy? Or does it feel like any concern, however small, is met with a bunch of excuses.
Another big one? Their mates. Have you met them? Again – obviously it takes a little while for someone to be game enough to introduce a person they’re dating to their friends. It’s a low-level big deal. But if you feel like you’ve been dating for a while now and there’s no attempt from this person to have you meet their pals…
Also notice if they seem open to you meeting their friends or if they keep you separate from the rest of their life.
THEY’RE FAR TOO KEEN
On the flip side, someone who is just clamouring for your attention 24/7, wants to hang out constantly, and wants to ramp things up from 0-100 is also someone to watch out for.
Having someone be too available can also be a warning flag. Wanting to see you every minute or seeming to jump in too quickly can be a sign of codependency or someone who can run hot and cold. Look for someone who is open and available, but who can also set healthy boundaries in regards to their needs and time.
These co-dependent folks often run hard into a relationship only to slam on the brakes right when you’re getting used to them being in your life – bad news. Avoid.
The general rule is to create balance – sometimes people are just excitable so don’t run from the 0-100 person – just put the brakes on yourself a bit, and see how they respond.
THEY CLEARLY HAVE SHIT GOING ON WITH THEIR EX
This one is a tough one, because we all have baggage if we’re single and in our 20’s, for the most part. Most people have a bad break up or crazy ex in their backpack of life junk, so expecting someone to come with a clean slate of perfectly tied-with-a-bow old relationships is unrealistic.
HOWEVER. If you’re dating someone and they start railing on their ex on date one (or two), clearly have some deep, fucked up shit still going on with said ex, or just absolutely seem to still have some unresolved feelings regarding this ex – beware.
The time to recover from a break up will be different for everyone and is very much dependent on their willingness and ability to be aware of and deal with their emotions. Rather than look for a time period, look to see how they talk about their past relationships and how they treat you.
THEY LITERALLY SAY THEY WANT TO BE CASUAL
Here’s a thing we do that’s stupid – and I say that to you lovingly, because I’ve done this my friends. MANY fucking times. Someone verbally tells us they’re not looking for anything serious, they’re not the kind of person that’s keen to date you beyond something casual – and we keep dating them. Because we – like the adorable delusional idiots we are – hope that we can change their mind with the powers of our love.
NO. STOP THAT. If someone is saying something to you with their pie-hole, fucking listen you big goober.
Look at what this person says about what they’re looking for from a relationship. Are they looking for a long-term partner? For example are they interested monogamy and commitment? It’s important to be clear and have these conversations early on. Talking about future plans or goals with you is a good sign.
Obviously you don’t jump right in with some intense as hell “sooooo what do YOU want from a relationship? You keen on serious?” on date one. But subtly sussing out what they are looking for – AND LISTENING – is key.
THEY’RE JUST BEING SHIT
To put it bluntly – you can spot an emotionally unavailable person (or someone who just isn’t that into you) if you’re honest with yourself. Are you constantly waiting for them to text? Do you feel like they just don’t give much of a fuck? Do you feel any sort of excitement from them about dating you? You know what I mean – the stuff we go “lalalala everything’s fine!” about is the stuff we should really be considering.
Although we can ask questions about what someone is looking for from a relationship, it can be more helpful to see how they’re actually showing up – and looking at their actions rather than their words.
My favourite trick to deciphering if someone’s just not that keen on taking whatever’s going on any further is to just not initiate texting for a week. You’ll quickly see if someone gives any shits or is quite happy with you not being around. Trust me.