10 Reasons It’s So Hard To Let Go Of Emotionally Unavailable Men

We’ve all been there: you met someone amazing who is smart, funny, actually looks like his profile photo in real life, and yet he’s totally emotionally unavailable. These guys can typically be spotted by their mixed signals, vague intentions, and commitment phobia. If you’ve fallen for the emotionally unavailable type and can’t seem to let them go, there are several reasons that could explain why.

  1. They feel familiar. If you’ve had relationships, both romantic and non-romantic, in the past with someone who was often unavailable when you needed them, men who exhibit the same kind of behavior might feel comfortably familiar. You may have gotten used to being the pursuer in your relationships to the point that subconsciously, this type of unrequited relationship feels like love to you.
  2. You enjoy the challenge. When your eye is on the prize and that prize is winning over an unavailable man, it can be hard to throw in the towel and let them go—even if that may be the healthier option. The challenge of chasing and eventually getting the other person can feel like the ultimate validation, especially knowing that you were able to tame the formerly unavailable beast. But let’s be real: you deserve a relationship with someone who doesn’t need to be tamed or convinced to date you.
  3. Your brain is tricking you. When first dating and getting to know someone new, you may find yourself falling head-over-heels. But you’re head-over-heels in infatuation, not love. During this stage, your brain is literally hijacking your judgment and decision-making skills with a cocktail of chemicals keeping you hooked to the other person. If you’re struggling to let them go, realize it might just be biology and the effect will wear off with time.
  4. You want to save them. Though unavailable men often have a reputation for being deceitful womanizers, sometimes we think we’re seeing another side of them: as emotionally weak or underdeveloped boys who just need our help. While it is true that emotional unavailability can have deep roots in past issues or trauma, it isn’t your responsibility to save or change unavailable men.
  5. You’re being breadcrumbed. Breadcrumbing is when a guy gives you just enough attention to keep you around, while still mostly being unavailable and elusive. Sometimes, unavailable men give more in the beginning and pull back later, keeping women hooked and wanting more. If you’re struggling to let go of an unavailable man, it might be because you’ve been blindsided and trapped in their breadcrumbing strategy.
  6. You’re projecting your ideal partner onto them. Because they’re unavailable and unwilling to get close, you probably haven’t actually learned much about them. That means there’s plenty of space available for you to fill in the blanks with who you think they are and who you want them to be. In reality, you might not really be struggling to let them go, but instead, you’re struggling to let go of your idea of them.
  7. You’re putting their needs before your own. Empathy is a valuable virtue, but sometimes we might make the mistake of giving too much of it to the wrong people—and not enough to ourselves. You may be having a hard time letting go of an unavailable guy because you can easily empathize and imagine why they’re so unavailable, even if you’re being hurt in the process. If you find yourself making excuses for their unavailable nature, consider focusing more on what you really need from a relationship.
  8. You have an unavailable streak too. Reality check: sometimes we desire unavailable men because we, ourselves, are also a bit unavailable. Dating and relationships can be intimidating, and sometimes, holding on to someone who you know will never get too close can actually feel safe. One sign that this might be happening is that you often find yourself running from those who seem open and ready to connect. When you find someone who is less clear about what they want, though, you find them irresistible.
  9. You think love is an unrealistic fantasy. It might feel like the idea of a relationship with an affectionate, consistent, available person is simply a fantasy that you’ll never be able to turn into a reality. If you’re feeling jaded, you might be settling for unavailable people, believing that this is as good as it’ll ever get.
  10. You think fantasy love is realistic. On the other hand, you might be following a fantasy ideal too much: being surrounded by so many romantic, yet unrealistic, fairytale stories and idyllic rom-coms can understandably lead us to believe that love conquers all. You might think that you’ve met the right person, but the timing or circumstances just aren’t right. In this ideal, if you just dutifully wait for your prince long enough, they’ll eventually come around and be ready for a relationship. In the real world, though, the “right” person at the wrong time is likely just the wrong person. Remember, there are others out there who are available now, ready to create the healthy relationship you deserve.
Relationship educator, writer, host of the Relationship Reminders podcast, and mental health advocate hailing from the US and currently based in Tokyo