10 traits of an emotionally unavailable woman, according to psychology

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She’s mysterious. 

She’s like a star, winking out of existence the moment you pay her too much attention. 

She is wholly herself, and yet she always feels like a stranger.

She is an emotionally unavailable woman – magnetic and charming on the one hand, detached and confusing on the other.

If this sounds like a woman you’re dating or if you struggle with emotional unavailability yourself, listen up. 

Here are the 10 traits that define a woman who finds it hard to open her heart to others.

1) She compartmentalizes her dating life

While emotional unavailability can manifest itself in friendships and family relationships, let’s not kid ourselves – dating is usually the crux of the problem.

Romance is where we truly open ourselves up, deliver our hearts on a silver plate, and trust someone not to break it.

Naturally, some of us struggle with the “trust” part. They would much rather shield themselves for eternity, hiding behind a mask of cold detachment, than risk having their heart broken by somebody they love.

And in order to protect her heart, an emotionally unavailable woman strives to separate her dating life from the rest of her universe. 

In other words, she compartmentalizes. Her dates and potential partners are in one category and her life is in the other. They never intersect.

If you’re dating a woman like that, there’s a high chance you still haven’t met her friends, family, or coworkers. While you’re not a secret per se, you are to be kept at arm’s length. 

Separating her dating life from the rest of her world makes it very easy to remain detached and to cut her partner off in a snap if necessary.

2) She sends mixed signals

She puts in some effort, but not on a consistent basis.

She says she will message you when she has the time, only to completely ghost you for five days.

She acts all lovey-dovey one day, cold and detached the next.

Sometimes, you feel like she means business. Like she truly wants to take this relationship to the next level. Other times, it’s like you don’t mean anything to her at all.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the nightmare called Mixed Signals – a huge sign of emotional unavailability. 

As psychotherapist Leah Aguirre, LCSW, says:

“These mixed signals are in fact “signals”—yellow or red flags, even. And while it is most likely not about you (I would guess there is a 99.9 percent chance it is unrelated to you), these behaviors and inconsistencies tell me that a person is not in a place in their life where they have the capacity to be a good partner or are even ready to be in a serious or committed relationship.”

3) She cracks jokes to avoid vulnerability

According to psychotherapist Imi Lo, there are essentially three kinds of emotionally unavailable partners.

And the first kind is the Jester – someone who uses humor as a means to escape serious topics, lighten up the mood, and avoid any opportunity for vulnerability.

An avoidant woman might come across as eternally optimistic, funny, and vivacious, which is all good and well until you actually have to discuss something serious with her. 

That’s when she turns to jokes in order to turn the issue into a light-hearted matter, divert your attention elsewhere, and avoid opening up.

Look, it’s great to date someone with a good sense of humor. But if they refuse to get serious for half an hour, they may be using humor as a coping mechanism.

4) She preoccupies herself with other people’s problems to escape her own

Another type Imi Lo describes is the Fixer. 

This is essentially a woman who loves to help others solve their problems, not because she is inherently charitable but because it’s a way for her to avoid dealing with her own issues.

She may step in to help you out with anything and everything, but the moment you try to return the favor, you hit a wall. 

This is a one-way street. If you drive in the wrong direction… 

Access denied.

Another trait Fixers share is that they are highly solution-oriented, which means they may struggle in the empathy department. 

Every time you confide in them, they strive to come up with a simple and practical solution instead of providing you with the emotional support you need.

5) She is open to forming a connection – to a point

Imi Lo writes, “Contrary to common misconception, not all emotionally inaccessible partners come across as rational and aloof. Some can appear warm, kind, and generous but still distant. They may be relatively patient, but when you try to take the closeness to another level, you hit a wall.”

Unfortunately, emotional unavailability isn’t always obvious. In some cases, it takes months before the woman in question begins to distance herself and display signs of an avoidant attachment.

What’s more, she may also struggle to display genuine empathy, might give empty advice that relies on general wisdom (“That’s life, oh well”), and put you down for expressing vulnerable emotions such as fear or frustration.

This is the Counsellor – a third type of an emotionally available person as per Imi Lo’s article – in a nutshell.

6) Her communication skills could use a bit of work

A woman who finds it hard to open up to others may also have poor communication skills. 

This isn’t related to the size of her vocabulary or her use of language by any means – it’s more about the fact that she struggles to express her genuine feelings.

This leads her to keep a lot of things to herself and beat around the bush when you’re trying to have an honest conversation with her.

“Nothing’s wrong, stop asking me.” She proceeds to pout and slam the kitchen cupboards.

“Look, I’m just mad because you didn’t come on time, that’s all.” It’s not about your late arrival at all. It’s actually about the fact that she feels unappreciated, but she doesn’t know how to communicate that.

Since expressing vulnerability is so difficult for her, she uses other means to show her feelings, be it by focusing on small issues that don’t matter in the long term, giving you the cold shoulder, acting passive-aggressive, or distancing herself from the relationship.

7) She has a troubled relationship with conflict

Speaking of which, emotionally unavailable women tend to approach conflict from a very troubled place. 

While some pick fights about completely inconsequential things to communicate larger feelings underneath the surface, others may run away at the first sign of trouble or view every conflict as a potential break-up situation.

Why?

Because emotional unavailability typically equals an avoidant attachment style, and avoidant attachment is grounded in insecurity and chaotic past experiences.

If you don’t feel safe in a relationship, you may find it difficult to approach problems as a team and communicate effectively.

Hence why emotionally unavailable women would much rather run away and wait until the storm has blown over.

8) She seeks validation rather than connection

Since an avoidant woman’s behavior is rooted in insecurity, she may have the tendency to seek validation from her partners, be it by fishing for compliments, requiring too much attention from the get-go, or playing mind games in the courting phase to prolong the thrill of the chase.

Of course, we all want some reassurance from time to time. That’s completely normal.

But it shouldn’t be the priority here. 

The priority is an authentic and safe connection with someone you care about. Validation is a side-effect. 

If it feels like the woman you’re with doesn’t care much about forming a deep connection… she could be an emotionally unavailable attention-seeker.

9) She refuses to make any compromises

Another way to recognize a woman who wants to keep everyone at arm’s length is to try and see whether she’s open to a compromise.

Let’s say you’re ordering take-out. She wants Chinese. You want Italian. Do you have to settle for Chinese? Or would she be okay with Indian or Japanese?

In other words, does everything need to happen on her terms? 

An emotionally unavailable woman prioritizes herself above all – even to the detriment of her romantic relationship. She may be quite selfish and self-centered, aiming to always have the last word.

10) She always remains a mystery

Lastly, the magnetic appeal of an emotionally unavailable woman often lies in her mysterious behavior. 

Who is she? And how can you find out? 

The thrill of trying to get to know her keeps you engaged in the same way a Rubik’s cube would – you simply have to solve the problem that is her.

…until you realize that she is inherently unsolvable. She does not want you to know her because that would make her feel unsafe and vulnerable.

She aims to stay a stranger forever.

What’s more, your connection isn’t deep or strong enough to withstand obstacles, and so if you ever break up… she will always remain an elusive mystery just outside of your grasp.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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