50+ Signs of an Emotionally Unavailable Woman (According to Experts)

You met a woman who seems too good to be true — smart, friendly, funny — you get along pretty well. Things were doing great until everything changed.

She suddenly becomes distant and cold, and now you start to wonder why she’s become emotionally unavailable.

But what are the signs of emotionally unavailable women, and how do you approach her?

According to experts, here are the signs to look out for:

Arielle Lindsey

Arielle Lindsey

Dating and Relationship Coach | Matchmaker, Tawkify

Let’s begin by exploring the root cause of stunted emotional development in women.

Often, when a woman experiences abandonment, neglect, or abuse of any kind (emotional, mental, physical, sexual, spiritual) in her developmental years or beyond, the coping mechanism of withdrawal is established and strengthened over time if the woman has not engaged the healing process.

The common signals received by the woman’s external environment are:

  • “You are not worthy,”
  • “You are not good enough,”
  • “You are not enough,”
  • “No one understands you,”
  • “If they knew who you really are, they wouldn’t love you,”
  • “It’s unacceptable to be you,”
  • “If you tell them how you feel, you will be judged and criticized.”

The list goes on.

As a child/young person, you have not mastered the psychology of human behavior.

You cannot tell yourself:

“Well, my parent/guardian is treating me this way because they are dealing with deep insecurities and unhealed trauma, which they are projecting onto me, so they don’t have to look at themselves and deal with their own pain. This is definitely not my fault.”

No small child can establish healthy mental and emotional boundaries with their perpetrators (most adults even have a hard time with this). Therefore, the child/young person internalizes the treatment they are receiving — concluding that it is their fault.

The child/young person learns to hide the deepest parts of themselves and deal with their internal dialogue, feelings, and emotions on their own. This is perceived as the safest path forward.

As adults, emotionally unavailable women fear vulnerability, intimacy, emotional honesty, and authenticity. Why is this? It’s due to the states mentioned above requiring the woman to fully trust herself and the person/people she is expressing herself to.

She must first validate her own emotions and then trust that they will be received with understanding, patience, and empathy by the person she is communicating with.

This is a process that is not only terrifying but also irrational, given the conclusion she has formed after processing the data collected from her past experiences. Her personal experience has forged her truth.

Here are nine signs that you may be dealing with an emotionally unavailable woman:

Inability to hold space for others

She has difficulty maintaining eye contact while listening to you express yourself, especially when expressing your emotions. She finds it challenging to be present and hold space for you in those moments.

Fear of intimacy

She may be quite comfortable with the act of sex but very uncomfortable with any form of true intimacy.

Utilizing humor to deflect real emotion

While engaging in deep conversation with this woman, you may notice that she utilizes humor to deflect the acknowledgment of your emotions.

As you express your feeling to her, she will find a way to:

  • ‘lighten the mood’ (through humor or sarcasm),
  • invalidate the way you feel, “You’re being a bit dramatic, don’t you think?”
  • express her nervousness through giggling, fidgeting, etc.

Their self-worth is defined by their achievements

Emotionally unavailable women often use their drive and accomplishments as a shield/distraction.

Being a workaholic, overachiever, or perfectionist are all culturally acceptable behavioral patterns that can easily be utilized to create distance between themselves and the people who wish to get close to them.

Unwillingness or inability to communicate honestly

You ask an emotionally unavailable woman questions like:

  • “How does that make you feel?”
  • “How do you feel about our relationship?”
  • “When [xyz] happened, how did you really feel about that?”

These types of questions can cause her to:

  • shut down (stop speaking altogether) or
  • become very abstract in her communication (no clear thoughts are being expressed.
  • jump from one fragmented thought to another, making it difficult for you to understand what she is talking about).
  • become frustrated or even angry, seemingly out of nowhere (she’s trying to get you to back off and drop your inquiry).

Welcoming many distractions in her life

Emotionally unavailable women tend to welcome many distractions into their lives.

You may notice her:

  • checking her phone often while you’re trying to have a conversation with her,
  • having many superficial friendships but no deep, meaningful connections,
  • being constantly “busy” and prioritizing unimportant things and tasks over you, and
  • insist on spending time with you in group settings (the majority of your time together)

As opposed to:

  • one-on-one dates,
  • outings, or
  • enjoying each other’s company at home (has a hard time engaging the ‘getting to know each other’ process or the ‘getting to know deeper aspects of each other’ process).

Creating a power differential

She may want to know everything about you but shares very little about herself.

In an attempt to feel safe with your connection, an emotionally unavailable woman may ask many questions about you: your past experiences, your family dynamics, etc.

She wants to know your strengths and weaknesses, so she can “manage” you and maintain a certain level of control.

This isn’t always done consciously on her part; she may be completely unaware that she creates power differentials within her connections to feel more secure.

When you try to get to know her better, she may deflect by changing the subject or giving you a short, general/vague answer and then continuing her line of questioning.

Excessive teasing and play fighting

Emotionally unavailable women can often be perceived as “mean girls” (withdrawn, cold, argumentative, aggressive, abrasive).

These are all tactics that keep people at arm’s length — a strategy that keeps people from getting too close and makes it impossible for people to know them on a deep level.

Highly judgmental and critical

When dealing with an emotionally unavailable woman, you may be subjected to harsh criticism and judgment. This may make you feel undervalued, disrespected, unsafe, or unworthy.

Judgment and criticism of others is a way that emotionally underdeveloped people can express their shortcomings while dodging responsibility for their emotional and mental weaknesses. This is a form of projection.

Related: How to Respond to Someone Who Is Projecting

By listening carefully to how they criticize you, you will gain deep insights into their own self-talk and negative thought patterns.

Please keep in mind that emotional growth can be stunted for several reasons, which acts as a barrier to deep, meaningful connections of any kind (romantic, friendships, family-ships, business partnerships, etc.).

Emotional intelligence and integrity will be achieved with the proper professional guidance

However, this is a problem that has a solution; with the proper professional guidance and support, anyone can achieve a high level of emotional intelligence and integrity.

Dr. Bryan Bruno

Bryan Bruno

Founder and Medical Director, Mid City TMS

Emotional unavailability is far from being a gendered issue but oftentimes manifests itself within different behavioral patterns across gender lines and is caused by different reasons.

Potential causes for emotional unavailability in women:

As mentioned before, unavailability may be caused by various factors in women and men. Some common causes women suffer that may incite emotionally unavailable behavior include:

  • Past trauma: Either family-related or from an abusive partner before

Emotional unavailability most often manifests itself as a result of a past traumatic experience or period of time. Women demonstrating this behavior may be doing so in response to an abusive partner they’ve had in the past or as a result of prior family-related trauma.

  • Gender roles in the society

In a traditional view of gender roles in society, women are often cast as being more emotional or sometimes less resilient than their male counterparts.

This leads to many women feeling ignored, neglected, or simply not believed when they begin communicating emotions to their partners or anyone else.

Experiencing this response can lead women to hide their emotions to avoid the responses they’ve experienced in the past.

  • Miscommunication

Emotional unavailability is sometimes less of a set of behaviors. It is more of how the other party understands those behaviors.

Love language and other forms of communication always differ from person to person, and sometimes miscommunications can be misunderstood as unavailability.

Behavioral signs of the emotionally unavailable woman:

Avoidance of discussions regarding emotions

Emotionally unavailable people often make significant attempts to avoid discussions regarding feelings or emotions altogether. They may steer the conversation to a different point when speaking of intimate topics related to their feelings or may stop talking completely.

Lack of empathy

Emotionally unavailable people may be people who lack a normal amount of empathy and, as a result, find difficulty in engaging with other people’s emotions or communicating their own.

All forms of commitment issues

Commitment issues aren’t always just the inability to commit to long-term relationships. These issues often manifest in smaller commitments, such as trips, events, or other forms of commitment.

Emotionally unavailable people often have trouble making these commitments as they are often ambivalent about the experiences.

What to do when she is emotionally unavailable:

Emotional unavailability isn’t always caused by malicious intent. Alternatively, someone may be born with a more emotionally unavailable disposition.

Be sure to recognize the signs and make an effort to communicate the issues

If you or a loved one is experiencing either side of emotional unavailability, be sure to recognize the signs and make an effort to communicate the issues that unavailability has caused in your relationships.

Changing this behavior can be difficult, but doing so will make a worthwhile change in relationship quality once all parties move forward with growth in mind.

Seek help from a professional

You should always seek help from a professional if you find yourself unable to change your harmful behavior or if you are seriously affected by someone else’s habits.

Laurie Gatti

Laurie Gatti

Licensed Professional Counselor | Lead Clinician and Owner, Emerge Therapy 

She engages with reactions that keep her in a state of self-protection

Being emotionally unavailable doesn’t mean being void of emotion. It means that someone doesn’t engage with emotions that move them toward intimate connections but rather engages with reactions that keep them in a state of self-protection.

Emotionally unavailable women live in a state of reactivity.

What is reactivity? It is an emotional reaction to something rather than an intentional response.

This reactivity is a biological response to stress or trauma.

Often, people who respond reactively are:

  • hurt,
  • suffering,
  • having unresolved pain or trauma, and
  • utilizing reactivity as a form of self-protection.

Reactivity in relationships will lead away from intimate connections and towards isolation and instability, ultimately increasing reactivity again.

You might see the following traits in someone we call “emotionally unavailable.”

Disclaimer: All below are totally normal human emotions and experiences; the intensity, frequency, and level of destruction call for concern.

Trait: Anger

Anger is a typical form of reactivity. If someone is angry, it’s tough for them to listen, support, empathize, be patient and exhibit traits that allow for them to connect.

How it shows:

  • violence,
  • name-calling,
  • yelling,
  • reckless behavior

How to interact with it:

If it’s gotten to the point of outward anger, it’s best not to engage. Do not escalate the anger with more escalation. Take a break and leave discussions for a calmer moment.

Trait: Insecurity

We have all experienced a sense of insecurity in life, whether it be within ourselves or exhibited in others.

A small dose of it can be helpful for humility and to stoke the fire for hard work and preparation, but too much of it may lead to relationally destructive behaviors.

How it shows:

  • possessiveness,
  • jealousy,
  • lack of trust

Related: 10+ Signs of Insecurity in a Woman

How to interact with it:

Speak to the wound rather than the behavior. Understand it’s a subterfuge for pain.

Affirming words may help. Think of caring for a wounded animal: With compassion, care, and gentleness. That is the best approach.

Trait: Unhealthy coping mechanisms

There is a fine line between healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

These are all forms of self-care, but in excess can be damaging.

  • Having a drink with friends,
  • Going to the gym,
  • Socializing,
  • Relaxing in front of the tv

As a general rule, if it’s having a markedly negative impact on someone’s life, it’s most likely unhealthy.

How it shows:

  • Turning towards activities that lead to disconnection
  • Numbing with substances
  • Distracting with digital stimulation (i.e., pornography, video games, social media)
  • Distracting with the need for validation from others (social media)

How to interact with it:

Awareness is the first step. Then, understanding that the behaviors are coping mechanisms that provide short-term pleasure (maybe) but don’t alleviate the pain and actually lead to more complications and turmoil in the long term.

Trait: Distancing

This trait is a bit harder to identify both in self and others because it’s more passive. It’s an internal “closing off.” Typical behaviors accompany it, but at its core, it can only be recognized by the person experiencing it.

How it shows:

  • Withholding affection
  • Closing off
  • Dismissive of someone else’s emotions
  • Behavioral cut-off (not listening, not empathizing, not returning calls, etc.)

How to interact with it:

The antidote to emotional distance is to engage with vulnerability. This is very scary. It requires a safe environment and a degree of risk. The risk doesn’t have to be big, but it has to be taken.

An example of this would be having a conversation and calmly sharing feelings (and calmly listening, too) when every impulse is telling you to ignore the call, not to text back, cut the person out, etc.

In conclusion, emotionally unavailable people need:

  • safety,
  • to become aware of their own self-destructive behavior and
  • to make different choices.

Choices that may feel scary and foreign.

They will need to turn towards vulnerability and trust to encourage personal growth and deepen their capacity for connection. Seeking a professional’s help could be beneficial to gain insight and make some behavioral changes.

Marlena Del Hierro, MA, MDiv, LPC, LCMHC

Marlena Del Hierro

Certified Clini-Coach® with a Masters Degree in Counseling | Spiritual Love Life Expert and Dating Coach

She doesn’t always communicate clearly

You could discover that communication isn’t always timely or reliable when you’re trying to establish a connection with someone who is emotionally unavailable.

When you hear from her again is always uncertain. This causes the relationship to frequently feel as if it is on their terms with you in the backseat.

Early communication quality may be a key indicator of future relationship success. According to a study, the quality of communication in the early stages of a relationship can influence how happy the relationship will be in the long run.

Additionally, positive communication at the beginning of a relationship may pave the way for a later, more pleasant connection.

Related: Three Keys to a Successful Relationship

She struggles to stick to plans

She could leave everything up in the air when prospective plans are imminent, which keeps you wondering and waiting for a text or call.

If you bring up potential plans, she can start to feel awkward or lose interest. This is typically not the case when someone is prepared to be open and vulnerable.

When someone likes you and is emotionally available, they’ll make sure you know it through consistent communication and by expressing excitement about organizing future activities with you.

She gives you conflicting signals

Emotionally unresponsive women might be very “perplexing.”

  • They might start out strongly before growing distant.
  • They might claim to like you, want to hang out with you, or envisage a future with you but are unable to make any commitments at the moment.

You can find yourself emphasizing the positive aspects of the communication while ignoring the fact that she is expressing reluctance to commit or hoping that she will reconsider.

An emotionally unavailable woman may not be fully prepared for a stable, committed relationship if she wavers between stating ‘she wants one’ and ‘admitting she doesn’t.’

The degree to which someone is prepared to enter a new committed relationship greatly influences how they will behave toward a possible partner.

According to a study, people who have experienced unhappy relationships in the past, such as being betrayed, are less likely to be prepared for a committed union.

Related: Best Relationship Advice for Women

Tory L. White, M.S., MFCT, EMDR

Tory L. White

Registered Psychotherapist, Creative Pathways Counseling, LLC

Women possess an amazing ability to be aware of their emotional state. Now, that doesn’t mean when she’s in a “hurtful place,” she has the same depth of emotional awareness. Even the strongest women close off and shut down, often going into a self-protective space.

To the outside world, we assume she is unavailable; but is she really? I challenge you to observe and take a closer look.

Being at a personal deficit means you are not up to par, not at your “normal” or optimal functioning level.

We all have had a taste of these deficits post-Covid lockdown. Personal pain and emotional pain are at an all-time high. It’s a challenge to express and be vulnerable about how we really feel inside.

When a woman can no longer depend on her natural abilities to sustain herself, she begins to appear unavailable. But what does that look like?

Women are the backbone of our society. A woman will give her last breath for the greater good of the people she loves. If there is a cause or a need, she is there—early, in fact!

She will volunteer, take up the slack, make ends meet, fill in, and make a way. She’ll even go as far as to ignore her own needs to help another struggling woman.

Exhaustion and being overwhelmed

The first signs of an emotionally compromised woman are exhaustion and being overwhelmed. Having too many tasks and not enough time to do them affects us at a deep level.

Responsibilities at home and work can lead a strong woman to isolate herself from friends and family. This can be done consciously or unconsciously. Sometimes our family and friends are not used to seeing us at a diminished capacity.

They simply don’t know what to do with us. Loved ones may think, “Good Lord! Our leader is down! What do we do now?”

People get used to our strengths, so much so that they forget that strong people sometimes need help and support also. They assume that since we usually have it all together to assist others, we can solve our problems independently.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

We all need support, resources, and validation to maintain high self-esteem. This helps us re-start and fire up the critical thinking skills we have inside of us. When we get to a “hurtful place,” as I call them, it’s hard to fire up those natural skills, and we falter.

Hurtful places are situations, places, and times in our lives that we cannot muster up the strength to maintain our normal task load or reach out for help. We desperately need help and reinforcements, but we’re just too deep in despair.

Women in hurtful places need dependable, strong, and capable resources and reinforcements. If a woman does not have this assistance built into her life, she starts to pull back.

Often, well-meaning friends and family don’t have the skills to help the woman in their lives.

Avoidance: To avoid deeper injury to emotions when defenses are down

The next sign, avoidance, becomes the norm. This woman has become so overwhelmed just by trying to keep herself together at this point.

The sad thing is that no one usually sees her in this condition or recognizes that she needs help, so she isolates herself, almost to protect others around her from feeling her heaviness and stress. It’s this low energy or low vibe she fears others will detect and judge.

When our defenses are down, we women don’t take any chances; we avoid deeper injury to our emotions. So many assumptions start churning in family and friends inquiring minds. A woman out of her element and strength is vulnerable.

Emotionally, she can “appear” to be:

  • unapproachable,
  • coy,
  • brooding,
  • angry,
  • quiet,
  • absent, and
  • stoic.

Now we see clearly why people think this woman is “unavailable,” right? She has pulled away at home and isolated herself from her friends, family, and co-workers.

Carrying the extra weight of the “hurtful place” has caused all relationships to become exhausting. On the other side, people pull away from the unfamiliar.

Lack of communication and understanding on both sides

A lack of communication and understanding on both sides makes a strong woman recoil. Is it right? No, but often necessary? Yes.

Our hurtful place experience can be exacerbated by one main theme: our childhood. Emotional turmoil can have a history in our nervous system because that is where it is stored until it is healed.

Historically, when certain triggers come up, we often handle them based on our current awareness and capacity. Hurt emotions create a super sensitivity to all things going on around a woman. Disturbing past treatment or memories can commiserate together with the current problem.

Related: How to Deal With Hurt Feelings in a Relationship

Poor behavior stemming from childhood trauma

The next sign, poor behavior, stems from childhood trauma or neglect. When exhaustion, overwhelm, and avoidance can’t protect a woman’s heart, total concealment ensues. She conceals the real issue even more.

If this woman is in an intimate relationship, the boyfriend or husband will experience her in many ways, initially:

  • happy-go-lucky,
  • hypervigilant, or
  • helpful.

As the pressure builds, concealment shatters, and all pretending stops. Women may start to use anger to chase people away to get them off her scent. After all, she is still vulnerable.

She may become sexually shut down to her partner, stop talking, and start yelling or cursing, “Oh yes, who’s unavailable now?”

Dysregulation and disorganization

Depression has taken hold, and dysregulation and disorganization are collectively the next signs.

This woman cannot hold back tears, so she cries and cries, and not just in the shower this time. Her first line of defense is her significant other because he has witnessed the entire situation unfold.

But here’s the catch; if her husband or boyfriend is not emotionally available, this woman will simply cocoon herself and gives into her crushing pain. Men often consider women emotionally unavailable when they haven’t developed their own emotional bandwidth.

Related: 60+ Signs of an Emotionally Unavailable Man

If he hasn’t, at this stage, he’ll struggle to understand, support or comfort his partner.

At this point, a woman can feel very defeated and utterly alone, but something extraordinary happens when she allows herself to open up and break down. For this strong, “unavailable” woman, resilience starts to build.

With the release of all the stress and grief, this woman can realize how over-committed she has allowed herself to be. She can now pick up the phone to call a safe friend to pour her heart out to.

To this friend, it all sounds so familiar. This friend is available and can lovingly support and even correct her buddy. She becomes the resource of unconditional love for this woman in crisis.

You see, this woman was never unavailable; she just needed love and support to restructure her life to a reasonable pace to thrive.

As women, it’s important to manage and balance our love and skills, so we’re not operating out of an empty cup. It is vital to know when we need some tender, loving care. Self-care has such a bad rap these days. It’s so discounted, but really, it is so invaluable during challenging times.

Codependency and childhood wounds can impact what we do to take care of ourselves today and the choices we make.

If we don’t monitor what we do and how we pour out to others, that dam will absolutely burst:

  • exhaustion and overwhelm,
  • avoidance,
  • poor behavior (acting out) will result in depression,
  • dysregulation and disorganization.

Until we grow and heal, it will happen over and over again. Please, don’t do that to yourself. There is plenty of help out there for us. We don’t have to stay wounded.

Give her grace and consideration even when she can’t ask for it

Women are smart but not invincible; none of us are alone. Remember to give those strong women in your life encouragement and consideration.

Try not to take her strength for granted as:

  • she loves,
  • she tries,
  • she feels,
  • she bleeds,
  • she cries (in private), and
  • she grieves.

She’s not a superhero — well, not every day. She can still make a difference; she just needs to get her balance back and get her cape dry-cleaned every now and then. So give her grace, consideration, and a hand-up, even when she can’t ask for it.

Talia Bombola, LMFT

talia bombola 1

Certified Psychodynamic LMFT | Licensed Psychotherapist | Confidence and Assertiveness Specialist

She has a controlling and domineering behavior, a strong masculine energy

Emotional unavailability at its core is an inability or lack of desire to be intimate, which in this case is defined as close and not only sexual. Someone emotionally unavailable does not respond to your emotional needs or cues.

Some signs of emotional unavailability to look for are:

  • Difficulty expressing and handling emotions,
  • Inability to make and keep plans or their word, and
  • Discomfort when getting emotionally close to other people or
  • When others attempt to get close to them, there is withdrawal or avoidance.

Emotionally unavailable women include but aren’t limited to, and as always, there is nuance to these:

  • Little to no communication about deep topics or really anything of substance
  • Low frequency of communication because that means connecting, and connecting is scary
  • Less likely to share feelings or reciprocate when emotions are expressed by their partner or date
  • Wanting attention and being angry or disappointed when she doesn’t get it
  • Inability to effectively communicate core needs and instead passive-aggressively acts out in an attempt to get needs met

Related:  How to Stop Being Passive-Aggressive

  • Career and work are a top priority as nothing feels as good as business
  • Controlling and domineering behavior, strong masculine energy
  • Doesn’t trust, which goes with the strong masculine energy, and therefore won’t ask for help or, if she does, will do it herself anyway
  • She is seeing someone else, hung up on an ex, or both
  • Doesn’t want to settle down or involve family and friends in the relationship

Sivan Katz

Sivan Katz

Trauma + Somatic Informed Coach | NLP Practitioner | Matchmaker, Tawkify

She keeps things at surface level by displaying hot and cold behavior

When someone is emotionally available, they have space in their hearts and worlds for another imperfect human, with no need to change them and no attachment to the fantasy of what one wishes the other to be.

  • They fundamentally believe they are lovable.
  • They feel comfortable sharing themselves and being seen, heard, and witnessed.
  • They are often much less critical of themselves and others than those in an emotionally unavailable state.
  • They know that love is available to them.

When a woman is in an emotionally unavailable state, this may show up as:

  • being vague,
  • flaky,
  • unclear,
  • inconsistent,
  • canceling plans,
  • not committing to plans,
  • defensiveness,
  • blame,
  • objectifying,
  • avoiding any sharing of real feelings and
  • keeping things surface level, hot and cold behavior.

Emotional unavailability is first and foremost:

  • our unavailability to ourselves,
  • not seeing ourselves,
  • not honoring ourselves,
  • not having access to our own love, and
  • not believing we are lovable as we are.

Love feels unavailable in that state of being, so self-sabotage pops up to prove what one already believes — love is not available to them.

Emotional unavailability is a coping mechanism driven by fear of love and closeness to avoid deeply meeting oneself and others, which is a must for intimacy.

What to do

The way to the other side is through:

  • connecting to our own hearts,
  • daring to share our feelings,
  • focusing on the person we have control over (which is always only us),
  • allowing ourselves and our partners to be imperfectly perfect, seen, and loved from the inside out.

This journey can take years and even decades for some people, and professional support, such as therapy and coaching, can significantly speed up the process to the desired outcome of emotional availability and intimacy.

Dr. Jeff Ditzell, D.O.

Jeff Ditzell

CEO and Lead Psychiatrist, Jeff Ditzell Psychiatry

She’ll make you feel that the relationship is not up to her standards

There are many indications of an emotionally unavailable woman, but some indicators are harder to spot than others.

When a woman is emotionally unavailable, she may make you feel that the relationship is not up to her standards. You may feel hurt, left hanging, and confused about the situation.

A woman who is emotionally unavailable is someone who is not fully committed to someone else.

If you try to make her your priority partner, she will tell you that isn’t good for either of you

She will always prioritize her own needs and happiness over anyone else’s.
She might say she wants a relationship, but if you try to make her your priority partner, she will tell you that isn’t good for either of you.

This could mean that she is not ready to be in a relationship and doesn’t want it right now. It is unhealthy for any relationship. Children, friends, and family are affected.

An emotionally unavailable woman is someone who:

  • has unrealistic expectations of others,
  • has low self-esteem,
  • uses manipulation as an emotional outlet,
  • doesn’t take responsibility for her actions in relationships, and
  • is most likely to be uninterested in having a close intimate relationship with anyone.

Lastly, an emotionally unavailable woman is a person who has not established a relationship with you and keeps her distance. She acts as if she is not interested in anything than being seen with you.

Christine Kotlarski, LCSW

Christine Kotlarski

Psychotherapist and Founder, High Note Counseling LLC

She is complex; often misunderstood and judged harshly

As a woman, I know what it is like to be labeled as emotionally unavailable. As a therapist, I work with women and see their strongest and most wounded parts. 

Often, what is judged as an external flaw is a coping style that was developed for survival.

There is not one comprehensive definition of an emotionally unavailable woman.

  • She is complex and is not easily summed up with a top ten list of signs to watch for. 
  • She is misunderstood and judged harshly, and 
  • She is frequently her own worst critic. 

The four subtypes of emotionally unavailable women are: 

  • the dude
  • the ice queen
  • the she-devil, and 
  • the saint

Yeah, I know — these labels are cringeworthy! These mischaracterizations are part of the problem and impact both cis and trans women.

She’s such a dude

“She’s such a dude” is a narrative often used to describe a woman who defies the traditional female stereotype of wanting romantic love. 

She is often described as: 

  • selfish, 
  • self-centered, and a 
  • commitment-phobe. 

She is either single or a serial dater. Her primary concern is her own pleasure. She views dating or hooking up as a form of entertainment. Hence the label of being a “dude.” 

Her male counterpart would be called a player, often with admiration or envy. 

This type of woman may simply be following her bliss and is being put in a box because she does not conform to the pre-established norm. 

The emotionally unavailable woman in this category has learned to create emotional distance from potential partners. If you dated her, you might be puzzled about why she ended things. Her superpower is being tuned into pleasure. Her secret wish is to be cherished. 

She’s an ice queen

The ice queen persona of an emotionally unavailable woman is seemingly void of all feelings. She does not outwardly show anger, hurt, excitement, or joy. 

This leads one to believe that she doesn’t care about anyone or anything. 

  • She is often child-free and pet free. 
  • She might have a cat since they are more aloof and independent, just like her. 
  • She keeps her circle small and is known to be a private person. 
  • If she is in a relationship, she is annoyed and turned off by a clingy or needy partner. 

The ice queen has a secret; she does indeed have feelings. She has learned that showing her feelings is a sign of weakness — she does not tolerate weakness from herself or anyone around her. 

Her superpower is being calm in a crisis. Her secret wish is to be soothed by another without negative consequences. 

She’s a total she-devil

The woman who is described as a she-devil is perhaps the most “misunderstood,” emotionally unavailable woman. 

  • She is driven, focused, and career-oriented. 
  • She is described as a workaholic who is overly confident and competitive.
  • She doesn’t have time for you. In fact, she barely has time for herself. When she fits you into her schedule, you better make it worth her time. There are no second chances. 
  • She is fiercely independent and knows the bitter taste of disappointment.

Her superpower is self-reliance. It has not been emotionally safe to trust, so she often hurts others before they can hurt her. 

If you are her partner, perfection is expected and, of course, can never be achieved. Her secret wish is to hear the words, “Babe, don’t worry — I’ve got you,” and to actually believe them.

She’s a saint

This last embodiment of an emotionally unavailable woman is the saint, the perfect woman.

  • She wears many hats and seems to thrive in all roles. 
  • She is a mom, wife, daughter, executive, and volunteer who always says yes. 
  • She appears to have it all: perfect family, perfect home, perfect job, perfect body, perfect relationship, perfect, perfect, perfect. 

Yet she has crumbled internally from all of the pressure and has become numb. 

She is so good at faking it that her partner is unaware of her emotional disappearance. She feels like a failure and an imposter. 

This is the most self-destructive type of emotionally unavailable woman. 

Her superpower is perseverance. Her secret desire is to have just one day when no one needs anything from her.

Women become emotionally unavailable as an act of self-preservation

When a woman consciously or perhaps subconsciously chooses to become emotionally unavailable, it is an act of self-preservation. 

She is protecting herself from the many threats that face women, such as: 

  • societal aggression, 
  • sexism, 
  • patriarchal systems, 
  • family dynamics, 
  • heartache, 
  • predators, and 
  • sometimes, even herself. 

If she is a member of the BIPOC or LGBTQIA+ communities, she has innumerable layers of oppression to overcome. 

All of these factors, coupled with the prevalence of mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, addiction, and trauma, create the perfect storm for emotional disconnection to occur.

Achieve radical self-love and self-acceptance

If you recognize yourself in this article, you are not alone. The truth is, we all become emotionally unavailable at certain times in our lives. Chances are, you can relate to certain aspects of each of the four types. 

We are all simultaneously both flawed and fabulous! Find your path back to yourself and achieve radical self-love and self-acceptance. Step into your heart space and reclaim your superpower of emotional connection.

If you love an emotionally unavailable woman, you can make her secret wish come true. 

Start by asking her to: 

  • describe her perfect day, 
  • how she is doing, 
  • what she needs, or 
  • how you can help. 

She may tell you to back off. But maybe, just maybe, she will allow herself to be vulnerable.

Rachel Davidson, MA, LPC-A

Rachel Davidson

Licensed Professional Counselor Associate, Malaty Therapy

They cannot allow themselves to match the level of vulnerability someone else is providing

Emotionally unavailable women have often been hurt in the past, often by loved ones. When those who we’re meant to trust let us down, we tend to put up walls in order to protect ourselves from future harm.

When this happens, it can create a pattern of behavior that makes it hard to connect with others on an emotional level. If we don’t let anyone in or allow ourselves to be vulnerable, no one can hurt us.

In turn, this makes us emotionally unavailable and prevents us from forming meaningful connections with others.

There are many behaviors that could signify that a woman is emotionally unavailable.

  • She might be hesitant or avoid making plans with others.
  • She may generally avoid commitment.
  • If she does make plans, she may cancel at the last minute or ghost.
  • She might be very limited in the personal information she discloses to others, which might make her seem like she is hiding something.

It is hard to get close to someone who is emotionally unavailable because they cannot allow themselves to match the level of vulnerability that someone else is providing.

After having a conversation with an emotionally unavailable woman, you may find that you have spent all of your time talking about yourself and know little to nothing about her.

She’s less invested in relationships and friendships than others

Emotionally unavailable women may seem less invested in relationships and friendships than others because they cannot allow themselves to go to a deeper level of connection and openness.

She likely is trying to protect herself from enduring more hurt

If you begin to notice that a woman you care about is showing signs of emotional unavailability, it can be helpful to try to see things from her perspective.

This woman has likely endured some sort of trauma or pain. While it is easy to become frustrated with a person who appears closed off or secretive, if we take a compassionate approach towards our relationship with this woman, it can go a long way.

She likely is trying to protect herself from enduring more hurt, so one way to begin to strengthen a relationship with her is to build trust. This may happen very slowly, especially for a woman who has been through complex trauma.

However, the impact a safe and trusting relationship can have on her can be immense.

What to do:

Show her through your actions that she can count on you

Each time you show her through your actions that she can count on you, she will have another piece of evidence that you could be a safe person. Once she knows you are safe, she can begin to let you see who she really is.

Just having one person in her life that she can count on can help an emotionally unavailable woman build her confidence in herself and others. She might test you by trying to push you away at times; maybe thinking a person who cares about her is too good to be true.

Be patient with her

Be patient with a woman who is emotionally unavailable. You can make a dramatic impact on her life just by being there for her.

Marisa Hendrickson LMHC, MA

Marisa Hendrickson

Licensed Mental Health Counselor

She talks about her ex

If you’re on a date with a woman and she’s always bringing up her ex, referencing them, comparing how things used to be with them, she’s emotionally unavailable.

By constantly talking about them, she is either still hung up, pedestalizing them, or she’s creating distance by focusing on faults in other people. If she did it with her ex, she’d do it with you too.

Holding out for “the one”

A woman may claim that she hasn’t met “the one” yet or doesn’t want to settle.

In reality, she’s avoidant and, therefore, emotionally unavailable. She is unable to accept love when it is offered, always holding out for something better to come along.

Until she can get in touch with her own feelings and find out what emotions are driving her to create distance and keep searching, she’s going to be unavailable.

Roma Williams, LMFT-S

Roma Williams

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Founder, Unload it Therapy

When dating, one may come across many people, some of whom won’t be the right fit. If you’ve been dating long enough, you’ve come across people who seemed interested in you but weren’t ready for a real committed relationship.

These people may be emotionally available. It can be hurtful to encounter someone who is not emotionally prepared for you.

Here are three tips on what an emotionally unavailable person may look like:

She’s always busy and can never make time for you

One sign of an emotionally unavailable woman is if the person is always busy and can never make time for you. If they make excuses not to see you or spend time with you, this could be a sign that they’re not interested in developing a relationship with you.

She may only show emotions when it’s convenient for her

They may never show any emotion, or they may only show it when it’s convenient for them. If the person always seems to be in control of their emotions, it may be difficult to form a deep connection with them.

She may be hesitant to get close to anyone again

If the person has been hurt in past relationships, they may be hesitant to get close to anyone again, making them emotionally unavailable. If you notice these signs in someone, it’s best to move on before you get too attached.

When you find yourself in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable woman, it can be hard to understand what’s happening.

You may have started with high hopes but soon realized she wasn’t all in.
Such a relationship can leave you feeling something is wrong with you, and maybe you aren’t worthy of the relationships you desire. You are!

Don’t give up, but be mindful of who to give your energy to help you keep your spirits up when dating.

Melanie Preston, LMHC, LPC

Melanie Preston

Relationship Therapist and Owner, Matter of Focus Counseling

Anger is the substitute for empathy

An emotionally unavailable woman may respond in anger instead of the empathy desired. Anger can be present when an individual becomes frustrated or uncomfortable.

I’ve had clients share that being around individuals who are crying or upset causes discomfort, and they may lash out simply because they won’t get the crying to stop.

Prefers sex over intimacy

She wants sex but prefers to skip intimacy. Don’t expect her to desire to spend time in bed cuddling or kissing. As a matter of fact, she may rush to put her clothes on or leave if in a dating relationship.

Unwilling to fight for the relationship

An emotionally unavailable woman simply doesn’t know how to fight for a relationship. It would take vulnerability she’s unwilling to show. She’d rather push a partner away than state she wants to fight for the relationship.

Laura Herman

Laura Herman

Consultant and Writer, Seniorstrong

She always makes a conscious effort to be pessimistic about everything

An emotionally unavailable woman is never satisfied with anything and is quick to find flaws.

This arises from her perfectionist behavior.

  • She is constantly striving for perfection, whether it be on a date, with a partner, or in a conversation.
  • She easily gets upset or finds a person undeserving over minute imperfections.
  • You will discover that she has an excuse to find something wrong with whatever relationship she might be asked to enter.
  • She always makes a conscious effort to be pessimistic about everything and to criticize everyone she meets.

Related: How to Stop Being Pessimistic

This is a fantastic approach to blame you for her being unavailable, which she discovered due to being too critical. It might be claimed that it serves as her excuse for avoiding connections with everyone she meets. Even if someone doesn’t have a problem, she will still find something to blame it on.

An emotionally unavailable woman will eventually discover a flaw that makes anything that would force her to commit undeserving of her commitment.

The issue is that she is unable to tolerate even slight flaws. She will find a flaw before anything else starts. Her expectations are so high that she finds everything as settling for the worse.

This usually stems from their fear of being hurt, rejected, or relationships not working out that may have come from past traumas.

Kayla Johnson


Addiction Treatment Specialist, Harmony Healing Center

She doesn’t seem interested in getting close to people even though she wants them in her life

The signs of an emotionally unavailable woman can be hard to spot. She may be very attractive, intelligent, and successful on the outside.

It is essential to understand that not all women are emotionally available.

Signs of an emotionally unavailable woman can be seen in the following ways:

  • She is not able to share her feelings or thoughts easily with others.
  • She doesn’t seem interested in getting close to people even though she wants them in her life.
  • She may feel more comfortable being alone than in a group setting.
  • She has a hard time maintaining relationships.
  • She is unable to be honest about her feelings and emotions.
  • She is afraid to get close to people.
  • She rarely shares her thoughts and feelings with you.
  • She avoids eye contact and often looks away from you.
  • She doesn’t offer much in the way of affection or touch when you are together.
  • She ignores your texts, calls, and emails. If she does answer, she’s dismissive of your feelings.
  • She doesn’t want to engage in any type of conversation with you.

An emotionally unavailable woman is one who is unable to connect with her partner on an emotional level. She may be self-centered, cold, and dismissive of the other person’s feelings.

She may also:

  • Avoid intimacy by suggesting that it’s too early in the relationship or she doesn’t want to get too serious too fast
  • Give you mixed signals
  • Act like she doesn’t care about you or your feelings

Signs of an emotionally unavailable woman are not just about how she treats you.

It can be a result of several factors, such as:

  • trauma,
  • lack of empathy,
  • inability to share her feelings,
  • abuse, and
  • neglect.

She might be spending more time on her phone or in front of the TV than with you.

The signs of an emotionally unavailable woman are not always apparent, but they are often there if you know what to look for.

Women must be able to express their emotions in a healthy way, especially if they want to build a lasting relationship with someone. It is not easy, but it is possible.

Lauren Cook-McKay

Lauren Cook-McKay

Director of Marketing and Content, Divorce Answers

They hate being intimate, but they want your full attention

Emotionally unavailable women fear intimacy or do not want to talk about their feelings with you at all. They do not want to be seen as a vulnerable person, so they don’t engage with people at all.

However, when you’re together, they also want your attention and will have unreasonable demands for your time but will not extend the same courtesy back to you.

They don’t return any of your emotional advances

Attempts to form an emotional connection with these women are almost impossible as it is one way of trying to protect themselves from getting hurt.

They either turn down your love confessions or refuse to engage in any discussion or topic about where the two of you are headed and whether it’s time to get serious.

They make you feel insecure

If you ever question whether you’re good enough for her (she keeps feeding you this notion that you are so lucky to have her), then she doesn’t have the ability to be emotionally committed to another person.

She could be using you simply for physical pleasure or looking for someone to boast to her friends.

Steffo Shambo

Steffo Shambo

Relationship Coach and Founder, Tantric Academy

She is withdrawn

She is withdrawn. Closed. It is a struggle to get close to her. It’s not necessarily that she is secretive (though she may well be), but it’s unlikely to always get the whole truth from her.

She can seem cold and uncaring at times or simply unreachable. She keeps her loved ones at arm’s length, often causing them to feel unloved and unwanted.

She loves me, she loves me not

The second sign is her inability to show love and affection consistently. This is the hardest trait because it varies and its devastating effect.

Some women show their love and affection as often as they don’t. Some show it more often than not, while others hardly show it. Each variant causes deep hurt because her loved ones sometimes feel her warm and magical love.

This love keeps them hoping even when absent. It also keeps them confused and sometimes questioning their own sanity or perception.

Ryan C. Warner

Ryan Warner

Team Wellness Expert | Clinical Psychologist, 1AND1 Life

They don’t like being near displays of emotion

These are typical signs of emotionally unavailable women:

  • They push away partners and friends.
  • They are afraid of being vulnerable, so they avoid intimacy.

Emotionally unavailable women don’t share their emotions, admit mistakes or commit to others. So they end up pushing people away.

They never talk about their feelings

Emotionally unavailable women focus on facts but never talk about feelings or express how they feel. They will try to think and analyze their emotions but don’t let themselves feel them. They like to be in control of the situation all the time.

They dismiss, discourage or make fun of your emotions

Emotionally unavailable women don’t like being near displays of emotion, so they will make jokes or dismiss the subject as a defense mechanism.

Usually, they never are the ones to initiate conversations about the relationship and get defensive when a partner does.

Blaming others for the challenges in her life and her mistakes, not wanting to show vulnerability, and not showing any interest in building a future are some signs of someone emotionally unavailable.

  1. The first shows that she avoids taking responsibility.
  2. The second shows that she is not ready to build healthy and transparent relationships.
    • Using sarcasm and making jokes about serious situations to avoid being vulnerable are common tell of this, too.
  3. Finally, never talking about the future usually means that they are not in the relationship thinking of the long-term.

Amanda Phillips

Amanda Phillips

Founder and Chief Editor, The Mental Desk

She prefers to keep the relationship quiet

An emotionally unavailable woman might not want to endure the added pressure of the public’s many questions. She will therefore avoid discussing the relationship with her friends and family.

She will even urge you to follow suit because she doesn’t want anyone to find out.

She has an addiction

Addiction is one of the indicators of an emotionally unavailable woman. She will therefore prioritize her addiction over her relationships as a result.

An emotionally unavailable woman may have addictions to:

  • sex,
  • the internet,
  • alcohol,
  • drugs, and
  • other vices.

She tries to avoid your questions

Anytime you question an emotionally unavailable woman, she usually doesn’t enjoy responding. She is aware that if she answers, she might reveal a lot about her past.

She might be hiding something, in which case she will try to divert your attention by changing the subject.

If she finally gives in to your persuasion, she will reveal little about her background while omitting the critical information.

She can’t control her emotions

A woman who is emotionally unavailable has almost no control over how she expresses her feelings. She struggles with emotional control, which is why she lashes out frequently.

She won’t feel the need to apologize to you for her harsh words when she is composed after her outburst. You could start a new argument if you ask for an apology.

She avoids conflict like the plague

Another sign of an emotionally unavailable woman is she avoids conflict at all costs. Since she views important conversations as potentially heated confrontations, she makes every effort to end the conversation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can an emotionally unavailable woman change?

Yes, it’s possible for an emotionally unavailable person to change and become more emotionally available. However, to do so, she needs self-awareness, a willingness to change, and possibly professional help to address the underlying emotional issues that contribute to her emotional unavailability. 

It’s important to know that change cannot be forced, and it’s ultimately up to the person to make the decision to work on themselves.

How can I support an emotionally unavailable woman in my life?

If you care about and want to support an emotionally unavailable woman, there are a few things you should consider:

• Be patient and understanding. Remember that emotional unavailability is often due to deep-seated emotional issues and that working through them takes time and effort.
• Encourage her to seek professional help or therapy if she’s open to it. A licensed therapist can support and guide her in emotional healing.
• Be open and honest about your feelings and needs. Communication is key in any relationship, and it’s important to let her know how her emotional unavailability is affecting you and your relationship.
• Respect her boundaries and don’t try to force her to open up or change. It’s important to remember that change must come from within and cannot be forced.

Are there warning signs I should look for in my behavior toward an emotionally unavailable woman?

Yes, here are some warning signs to look out for in your behavior:

• You’re too fixated on “fixing” or changing the emotionally unavailable woman instead of respecting her boundaries and needs.
• You neglect your own emotional needs and put the needs of the emotionally unavailable woman above yours.
• You become overly critical or judgmental of the emotionally unavailable woman instead of approaching the situation with empathy and understanding.
• You resort to manipulation or try to guilt the emotionally unavailable woman into changing instead of respecting her decision to work on herself at her own pace.

Can emotional unavailability be a temporary issue?

Emotional unavailability can be a temporary problem, especially if it’s due to external factors such as stress or life changes. In such cases, it’s important to talk openly and honestly about temporary emotional unavailability and work toward building emotional intimacy and trust. 

However, if the emotional unavailability stems from deeper emotional issues, it may take more time and effort to overcome and may not be a temporary issue.

Can men also be emotionally unavailable?

Yes, men can also be emotionally unavailable. The signs and causes are similar to those of women. It’s important to communicate openly and honestly with your partner about your needs and boundaries in the relationship.

Can emotional unavailability be a deal breaker in a relationship?

Emotional unavailability can be a difficult issue to navigate in a relationship, and it’s ultimately up to each individual to decide whether or not it’s a deal breaker.

If emotional unavailability is causing significant emotional neglect or damage to the relationship, it may be necessary to address the problem and work on building emotional intimacy and trust. 

However, if both partners are committed to working on the problem and building a healthy relationship, it’s possible to overcome emotional unavailability together.

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