Whether this is your spouse or a new love, he or she wants to know your feelings, your sensitivities, what scares you, what you adore, who your family and friends are. The person is single and open to commitment. There is no pattern of hiding, compartmentalizing, ongoing ambivalence, or sneaking around. This person’s motives are straightforward.
You don’t have to go into a mind spin or try to decode with friends “what they really mean.” He or she doesn’t keep you hooked in with mixed messages or intermittent reinforcement of passion or caring—an addictive pattern that drives both sexes crazy in a bad way. He or she makes a plan with you and shows up, no cat and mouse games or habitual canceling.
A confusing part of being attracted to unavailable, commitment-phobic people is that the emotional or sexual chemistry can feel so strong. You accept behavior that you’d never tolerate in friends. Why? The electricity can feel so incredible and rare, you mistake intensity for intimacy.You make compromises you wouldn’t typically consider in order to give the relationship a chance.
Still, connection or not, you must take a sober look to determine if someone is truly available for intimacy. Hear this: Not everyone you feel a connection with, no matter how mind-blowing, is your soul mate. You can fall for someone who is totally wrong for you, as unfair and confounding as that reality can be.
To start, here are some red flags to watch for. Even one sign warns you to be careful. The more that are present, the more danger exists.
1. They are married or in a relationship with someone else.
2. They can’t commit to you or have feared commitment in past relationships.
3. They have one foot on the gas pedal, one foot on the break.
4. They are emotionally distant, shut down, or can’t deal with conflict.
5. They’re mainly interested in sex, not relating emotionally or spiritually.
6. They are practicing alcoholics, sex addicts, or substance abusers.
7. They prefer long distance relationships, emails, texting, or don’t introduce you to their friends and family.
8. They are elusive, sneaky, frequently working or tired, and may disappear for periods.
9. They are seductive with you but make empty promises—their behavior and words don’t match.
10. They send mixed messages, flirt with others, or don’t give a straight answer—you’re always trying to “de-code” what they really mean.
11. They’re narcissistic, only consider themselves, not your needs.
12. They throw you emotional crumbs or enticing hints of their potential to be loving, then withdraw.
Over the years, I’ve worked with many perplexed, lonely patients to uncover why they keep holding a torch for unavailable, commitment-phobic partners and how to surrender this sabotaging pattern. Most of us aren’t purposely drawn to these kinds of people—their mixed messages combined with our particular susceptibilities, conscious or unconscious, can lure us in.
Also, it helps to understand that unavailable people rarely choose to be this way. It’s an unconscious defense against trauma or some emotional wounding of the past. Research has shown that many are afraid of being clung to or smothered which stems from having had a controlling, engulfing, or abusive parent.
Commitment-phobic men, in particular, may just prefer sex without love. They are afraid of being controlled by feminine energy, though they don’t know it or couldn’t admit it. Rather, they see themselves as macho dudes who think women always need more than they can give. Thus, they prefer to play in shallow water, not go deep.
If being in a relationship with an unavailable person feels like love to you, I urge you to look closer. To bypass these relationships, see where you get snagged so you don’t repeat the same mistakes.