Attracting 'Emotionally Unavailable' Men? Here's How To Fix That.

To keep it all the way a buck, when it came to dating, I was repeating a cycle.

Love & Relationships

I really thought I was doing something proactive and smart. OK, maybe "slick" is the better word than "smart". I was sitting on the couch click-clacking on my keyboard, talking with one dude on the phone while chatting with another on Instant Messenger.

Phone Guy knew it was my birthday. He also knew that I traveled a few hundred miles so that I could hang out with him. But on the day of my birthday, his RSVP changed from "yes" to "maybe". Or more specifically, "I don't know."

I was lowkey livid although my tone maintained my professional voice because I figured I had a spare on speed dial. This was also after Phone Guy had already brushed off a prior birthday because, "You know it's Mother's Day." But it wasn't his mother he was celebrating. It was his son's mother and they weren't even together.

So on this birthday, I thought I was making big, slick moves by entertaining the dude who was IM-ing me about attending my local birthday outing upon my return. He expressed interest but apparently that was then.

All I was really doing was repeating a cycle.


Months later, I cooked a midweek dinner for two. After work, I picked up some fresh salmon, fancy sides and libations for blended drinks. I timed the cook time of the fish to coincide with IM guy's arrival so that it would still be flaky and moist. Then, I poured myself a daiquiri and waited.

And texted. And waited. And texted back and waited some more.

I was the only one to eat the meal that I prepared. IM guy was a no-show with no legitimate excuse for his absence. But the more angering part isn't just that he had the nerve to ask me to bring the entire meal to work for his lunch – we worked for the same company – but that this mofo really had no intentions of even showing up despite his text messages expressing otherwise. And for the record, I threw that ish in the trash.

What made both of these situationships (because ultimately that's what they were) baffling is that I didn't approach either of the men. They pursued me. But honestly that's the part that requires some reflection because it happened twice in a row.

Blowing off plans and showing up late sends a passive message of "Sis he don't want you." But a much softer way of delivering this message is to say he's "emotionally unavailable".


According to Healthline, emotional availability refers to the ability to build and sustain an emotional bond with someone else, generally in a romantic relationship. Emotional availability is a major component of a healthy relationship because without it, there's no intimacy. A person without any emotional connection to a potential partner will struggle in relationships and hella confuse the other person.

Emotionally unavailable people actually hate to make plans but agree to them anyway. They also avoid the word "relationship", although they happily engage in relationship behavior. Nevertheless, they can never quite articulate how they feel about you other than mirroring back what you say to them. For example, he may respond, "I feel the same way about you" or hit you with the "Ditto" the way Patrick Swayze's character did Demi Moore's character in the movie Ghost. (Until his ass died, of course, and then he could find all the words.) Ironically, emotionally unavailable people will ghost you if things get a little close for comfort.

The more distant an emotionally unavailable person becomes, the more tempted we may become to try and reach him. We convince ourselves that if I can get him to open up to me, then he'll appreciate me and this relationship will work. This tactic is a trap, sis. They'll simply avoid vulnerability and you'll emotionally exhaust yourself and damage your self-esteem in the process.

Ideally, we'll make healthier romantic decisions after encountering an emotionally unavailable partner, after all, as the great Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. But sometimes it seems that a more appropriate saying for our dating life is like attracts like. These men aren't drawn to us because we're the ideal companion to help them overcome their commitment phobias. It could be that we may very well be emotionally unavailable, too.

Here are a few telltale signs that you’re emotionally unavailable: 

You say you want a committed relationship but in the back of your mind, you keep your options open. OK. I didn't need to have my edges pulled like this. I'm indeed a relationship woman. I believe in exclusivity, monogamy and all that jazz. My intent is to connect with another person for a purpose other than casual companionship. However, there was this whisper deep within that kept saying, You don't want any ties to this area. The truth was I didn't really want to get involved with anyone because I planned to eventually move to another city, which I did. That part of me was still unavailable and I attracted that in a person.

This also manifests when you subconsciously think that you don't want to settle for a person because there may be someone better out there. So you keep swiping and dating. The problem is, again, you'll continue to meet the same person in different skin until you decide that you're going to give a great guy a real chance.


You're worried about what a relationship could cost you. As a single woman, you're I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T but coupled up you don't want to risk the possibility of getting lost in a relationship or somehow becoming C-O-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T. As a matter of fact, you may fear that you have to sacrifice a large part of yourself: your schedule, dreams, career, social life, travel, to name a few. But this way of thinking will limit you from making a meaningful connection with anyone because you're going to automatically build a wall with everyone. There's no exact formula for a relationship but it never means that you have to forego all of your goals. If the relationship is healthy, there'll be balance and compromise on both sides. You'll never know what you'll achieve as a significant other if you don't communicate and explore with your partner.

You're afraid of rejection and intimacy. You say you want a relationship but subconsciously you're afraid of getting hurt or revealing too much because you think someone will use your vulnerability against you later, either as manipulation or ammunition in an argument. In these instances, you'll find it safer to be with someone who's also emotionally unavailable because you know there'll never be a real commitment on either side.

Now that you have some idea why you continually attract emotionally unavailable men, here are some ways to break that cycle:

Understand your attachment style in relationships. There are four attachment styles: secure, anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant. Your attachment style links the bonds you had with your parents when you were youths to how you form bonds with significant others as part of a couple. It also helps to explain why you're too distant or too clingy. You can read "What Your Attachment Style Says About Your Love Life" to determine your attachment style. Once you know your attachment style, you'll better understand how it influences the types of partners you are attracted to and you'll easily pick up on what the signs of that particular style look like in a potential partner.

Practice expressing your emotions before you need to share them with a significant other. This is still going to be uncomfortable, of course, even if you speak to yourself in a mirror or talk to very trusted friends and family members. (And I stress the word "trusted" because if you divulge personal details and feelings to the wrong person and they repeat it, you'll have that much more difficulty connecting to the next individual.) Nevertheless, the idea is to get comfortable with vulnerability while you're still single. Other ways could be to journal those same feelings or use art or music to help foster those feelings and get them to easily flow.


Make a list and check it twice. We're not talking about a list for Santa but rather a list of non-negotiables and red flags. A Psychology Today article recommends notating the warning signs that we ignored in the past and then from that list determine the top 3-5 that we absolutely won't tolerate in the future. Examples of no-gos may be haphazardly dismissing plans, disregarding important dates (like birthdays!) or showing little respect or regard for your feelings. And just as you do in goal manifestations, you want to review this list of non-negotiables periodically, especially when you start dating someone new.

Date another type. Yes, we do have a type, otherwise we wouldn't fall into these patterns. We also tend to pursue individuals that trigger some sort of feeling such as those butterflies in our stomach. But according to Psychology Today, that flutter may not mean that's the right person; it could indicate that we're about to repeat the old pattern all over again. Instead, we should consider the person who gives us a neutral feeling. Go out on a couple of dates and take notice of how this person makes you feel. Even if the attraction isn't there immediately, studies show that it can gradually increase over time.

I'm not going to lie to y'all. I don't know about having someone grow on me and I love butterflies, literal and figurative ones! But I wholeheartedly believe in breaking toxic cycles. If it means that I need to do reflexivity work or inner reflection to change my fearful-avoidant attachment style. Done. If I need to anticipate the deep questions and journal the responses, that's done, too. Because there's nothing slick or sexy about attracting and juggling two men who don't want or have the emotional capacity to reciprocate my love.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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