Are You Attracted to Unavailable People?


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Empaths Survival GuideIn my books, The Empath’s Survival Guide and The Power of Surrender, I discuss how to identify unavailable people. A soul mate must be willing and available to have a relationship with you. If he or she is unavailable this is not your soul mate at the present time. 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.

For a relationship to work, a soul connection must go both ways. Even if the intuitive bond you feel is authentic, it can remain unrealized. Just because someone might’ve been your soul mate in previous eras, it doesn’t mean he or she is right for you today. Perhaps the person can’t or won’t reciprocate or is simply oblivious, a frustrating irony you must accept. Don’t put your life on hold for unrequited longing. Love that is destined can never be stopped. Meanwhile, keep your options open. How do you avoid getting entangled in dead-end or delusional relationships where you see someone in terms of how you wish them to be, not who they are? 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.

12 Signs You’re Involved with Emotionally Unavailable People (EUP)

  • They are married or in a relationship with someone else
  • They can’t commit to you or have feared commitment in past relationships
  • They have one foot on the gas pedal, one foot on the break
  • They are emotionally distant, shut down, or can’t deal with conflict
  • They’re mainly interested in sex, not relating emotionally or spiritually
  • They are practicing alcoholics, sex addicts, or substance abusers
  • They prefer long distance relationships, emails, texting, or don’t introduce you to their friends and family
  • They are elusive, sneaky, frequently working or tired, and may disappear for periods
  • They are seductive with you but make empty promises–their behavior and words don’t match
  • 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
  • They’re narcissistic, only consider themselves, not your needs
  • They throw you emotional crumbs or enticing hints of their potential to be loving, then withdraw
  • At first, some of these signs may be more obvious than others. It’s tricky: we tend to show our best selves in the honeymoon stage of a romance. It can take time for a person’s unavailability to emerge. One patient lamented, “I need a crystal ball. The first few months of a courtship, a man is so attentive, caring, passionate.” Partially, she’s right, but it’s also true that we tend to see what we want to see. That’s why it’s eye-opening to look at a partner’s relationship history. Who he or she was previously with reveals volumes about their capacity for intimacy now. Beware of rationalizing, “I’m different. This person would never be that way with me.”

    I don’t care how mightily someone blames the blood curdling horrors of an ex for a relationship’s demise, this person played a role too. Being able to admit that or trying to understand the reasons for making such a terrible choice is a positive sign. Playing the victim is not.

    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. Commitment phobic women also fear intimacy and want to keep a distance.

    To find true love, ideally you want to avoid getting involved with anyone who can’t reciprocate your affections. If you are in a toxic, abusive, or non-reciprocal relationship, withdraw even when your passion is strong and says “stay.” It may feel excruciating to let go when you don’t want to or if you’re still hoping against hope that the person will change, but, as my Daoist teacher once told me, “The heart knows when it’s enough.”




    Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s book The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People (Sounds True, 2017)



    Judith Orloff, MD is a New York Times bestselling author with the upcoming book The Genius of Empathy: Practical Skills to Heal Yourself, Your Relationships and the World (Foreword by the Dalai Lama). She has also written The Empath’s Survival Guide and Thriving as an Empath, which offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people. She integrates the pearls of conventional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, empathy, energy medicine, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice and online internationally. Her work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and USA Today. Dr. Orloff has spoken at Google-LA, TEDx U.S. and TEDx Asia. More information about Dr. Orloff’s Empathy Training Programs for businesses, The Empath Survival Guide Online Course and speaking schedule at

    Connect with Judith on  FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

    5 thoughts on “Are You Attracted to Unavailable People?

    1. I both am attracted to unavailable men AND i’m unavailable myself.
      I don’t like physical or emotional intimacy. No one comes close.
      And I meet men who either try to force it from me and are super clingy,
      or who are just like myself so things doesn’t go anywhere until one of us lets go entirely.

    2. Was looking for a friend. But in the end, I learnt more. Even after becoming a mother of two, some of us have not understood clearly about men/ relationships.

    3. I like the fact that you mentioned it takes a bit of time to uncover A person’s availability or lack there of emotionally. Being that most people are actually a mirror of our own availability and the theory is we attract what we give off, how long is a period of time in your opinion to get a real sense of the other person and whether they have the level of emotional availability that you’ll need to sustain a healthy relationship?

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