Are They Emotionally Unavailable Or Just Uninterested? Here’s How To Tell

In a perfect world, everyone would say exactly how they’re feeling at any given time and dating would be easy. Unfortunately, people sometimes don’t really say what they mean, or they’re even lying to themselves about their own emotional state, making it hard to understand what’s going on when you’re dating.

However, there are some signs that are pretty consistent across the board; here’s how to tell if someone is emotionally unavailable, or simply just not interested in you.

First Of All, What Do We Mean By “Emotionally Unavailable”?

man standing on sand dune
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Jackson Douglas
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Jackson Douglas

Emotional unavailability is pretty common: it simply means that the person is not in the right headspace to truly engage in an emotional romantic relationship—they cannot connect on an emotional level with a new partner.

Why Are People Emotionally Unavailable?

woman looking down standing alone
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Candice Picard
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Candice Picard

Just like with most things in life, there are many reasons that a person might be emotionally unavailable. Some reasons are circumstantial, while others are rooted much deeper in their mental and emotional issues. However, here are some of the most common reasons someone might be emotionally unavailable.

They’re Not Over Their Ex

Person holding a lighter close to a photograph
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Yuvraj Singh
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Yuvraj Singh

It’s a tale as old as time: after a breakup, a person wants to get back out there to date, but, in reality, is just not fully over a past relationship yet.

They Have Emotional Trauma To Unpack

woman with tears in her eyes
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Luis Galvez
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Luis Galvez

Sometimes people are over a past relationship, but traumatic circumstances or toxicity have left them emotionally closed off from any potential new love interests. Despite wanting to connect, people with trauma might not be able to actually express emotional vulnerability.

They Have Other Emotional Commitments That Are Draining To Them

woman sitting on hood of car looking thoughtful
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Bruce Mars
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Bruce Mars

Emotions take up a lot of energy, and some people only have so much to give. If someone is in a tough place with their emotions regarding friends, family, or other external factors, they might just not have space for a romantic attachment.

Their Attachment Style Is Avoidant, Which Makes Them Have Trouble Connecting

man and woman holding hands on white background
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Roman Kraft
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Roman Kraft

Attachment styles dictate how we connect with others, and people with avoidant attachment styles struggle to open up to new partners and tend to run at the first sign of serious commitment.

So What Does Emotional Unavailability Look Like In Person?

man and woman holding hands while on coffee date
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez

One of the hardest things about pinpointing emotional unavailability is it’s all about the headspace the other person is in, and, unfortunately, we cannot read other people’s minds yet. However, there are some common signs to look out for.

They Have Intense Boundaries And Emphasize Their Independence

sign reads
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Michael Dziedzic
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Michael Dziedzic

Boundaries and independence are generally good things in relationships, but emotionally unavailable people take them to extremes. They put up strong walls and refuse to rely on others, making it impossible to form a true relationship with them.

They Start Pulling Away When Things Get Serious

man and woman sitting on park bench
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Charlie Foster
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Charlie Foster

This is possibly the most important tell-tale sign. Emotionally unavailable people will seem super into you only to pull back the second the conversations get deeper or commitment is on the horizon.

They Tend To Avoid Confrontation

woman sitting on bed with arms crossed and pouting
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez

Emotionally unavailable people tend to avoid conflict at all costs because, at the root of it all, they don’t want to have to confront their own internal problems that are straining the relationship.

They’re Very Unwilling To Compromise/Seem Very Self-Centered

man sitting on cliff wearing blanket alone
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Hannah Busing
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Hannah Busing

People who are emotionally unavailable often also struggle with feelings of control—they often cannot be vulnerable with new love interests because they fear opening up and losing control—so they will come across as stubborn and selfish at times.

They Say They’re “Not Good At Relationships”

silhouette of couple's heads touching in front of sun
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Atharva Dharmadhikari
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Atharva Dharmadhikari

Sometimes, people literally spell things out for you. If someone says that they’re bad at relationships, they’re likely telling the truth, and they struggle to form deep, lasting relationships with others due to their emotional unavailability.

In Contrast, Being Uninterested Is Less Complex

road sign says
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Eric Gordon
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Eric Gordon

If someone is uninterested in you, it simply means that they don’t see a future with you. It might not even be that they dislike you, but perhaps they just don’t like you enough to pursue a relationship with you.

Being Uninterested Is Clearer

man and woman sizing each other up on lunch date
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Matt W. Newman
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Matt W. Newman

Generally, people who are not interested will put in less effort when it comes to dates and their communication with you. In addition, it doesn’t seem like they really want to know you all too much.

What Does Being Uninterested Look Like?

woman sitting in a cafe
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Karsten Wingeart
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Karsten Wingeart

Being uninterested looks like them only contacting you when it’s convenient or they’re bored, consistently canceling dates without follow-up, or simply that they ignore you pretty often. If you get the feeling that they don’t really care, they probably don’t.

So What’s The Big Difference?

question mark sign on side
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Jon Tyson
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Jon Tyson

People tend to conflate emotional unavailability with being uninterested—sometimes our friends will just tell us that the person we’re seeing just “wasn’t ready” to soften the blow of rejection when, in reality, the person wasn’t all that interested.

The Intentions Are The Important

man walking alone down road
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Warren Wong
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Warren Wong

Here’s the thing: you can be very interested in someone but be too emotionally unavailable to properly connect with them. Alternatively, someone might be emotionally available but still not be interested in pursuing a relationship with you.

You Can’t Make Someone Become Emotionally Available

couple lying outside on grass
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Clem Onojeghuo
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Clem Onojeghuo

You might think, “If they like me enough, they can make themselves emotionally available,” but that’s simply not the case. Emotional unavailability stems from more deeply rooted issues most of the time, and you can’t try to “fix” someone so they’ll be ready for you.

At The End Of The Day, The Effects Are The Same

woman sitting alone on beach in though
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Tamara Bellis
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Tamara Bellis

Whether the person you’re seeing is emotionally unavailable or they’re simply uninterested in dating you, you aren’t going to gain anything by pursuing them further. You’re better off cutting your losses and moving on.

You Need To Search For Someone Who Is Ready And Into You

man leaning in to kiss woman's cheek
Photo Credit: Unsplash / freestocks
Photo Credit: Unsplash / freestocks

I’m not going to pretend that it is easy (in fact, it can be downright disheartening), but you have to look for someone who reciprocates both your interest and your capacity to truly engage in a meaningful relationship.