Marla was aflutter after her first two dates with Mike. On their first date, he took her to a romantic hot spot in Manhattan. They made effortless conversation until midnight. He complimented her new dress and called her “stunning.” He mentioned an upcoming vacation to Italy and said it would be wonderful if she came along.
Their second date was even better. Mike splurged on dinner at Blue Hill — the legendary restaurant where Justin Theroux proposed to Jennifer Aniston. Mike told Marla he was looking to “settle down” and have a serious relationship. They discussed their mutual desire for children. They shared food off the same plate. He kissed her over candlelight. They made plans to play tennis that upcoming weekend. At 34, Marla felt chemistry and attraction far beyond what she had felt with any other man she had ever dated.
Which makes the following all the more confusing — Marla never heard from Mike again.
Marla spent the next several months dissecting every last detail of the two dates. Did she seem too enthusiastic? Was she boring? Did she say something that turned him off?
The answer is that she’s not the problem. He is.
Relationships that fail to move forward are commonplace. But some dynamics are so perplexing that it makes otherwise rational individuals question their sanity. Some relationships, like Marla’s, will short-circuit after a few dates. For others, months (if not years) will pass before a woman or man realizes that s/he’s been wasting time with a partner who will never commit.
In our e-guide, Come Here, Go Away, we discuss how emotionally unavailable individuals may talk as if they are interested in a relationship. But their actions usually tell a different story. They're “yes and no,” forward and backward, “come here" and "go away.” Cross paths with an emotionally unavailable suitor and you’ll be overwhelmingly confused and frustrated.
Here are five tell-tale signs of that an emotionally unavailable person is wasting your time:
1. They don't maintain consistent communication.
Individuals who are interested in a relationship will maintain steady and consistent (i.e., daily) contact. No matter how busy their day or job, they will arrange another date, ask about your day, or simply communicate to say hello.
If you want to gauge a person’s interest, we suggest pulling back completely. Do not text, call, IM or email. Stop all efforts to push the relationship forward. In less than a week, you’ll have a clear indication of this person’s level of interest in you. If you’re not hearing anything, it’s a sure sign that they are only looking for something casual.
2. They are more interested in having sex (when it’s convenient) than going out on dates.
Individuals who are interested in building a relationship will invite you to do fun things. They will take you to the movies, make dinner reservations, and go hiking with you on Sunday.
In contrast, emotionally unavailable individuals prioritize their own needs first. They will call you late at night — often when a little drunk — to see if you want to hang out … right now … at 12:30 a.m. Make no mistake — this is a classic “booty call.”
While it may be tempting to run over and fuel the chemistry and connection (because you find this person cute and want this to work), within a few days you’ll feel incredibly disappointed.
3. You have not met any of their friends and family. And, s/he doesn’t want to meet yours.
Individuals who are interested in a relationship are proud to bring you into their circle. They want you to be a part of their life in a substantial way. Your beloved may take you out, invite you on dates, and communicate with regularity. But if after several weeks or months, you have never met their friends, family, or co-workers — there is a problem.
Does s/he demur when you suggest joining at an event? If so, we suggest getting out before you get any deeper.
4. S/he still has another significant other in the picture.
Individuals who are interested in relationships may have platonic friendships, but their behavior and actions signal that their romantic interest is solely in you.
Take, for example, the story of Beatrice and Tony. They have been dating for two months. Tony still keeps in regular contact with his ex-girlfriend Cynthia and often leaves the room (to have more privacy) when she calls. He says Cynthia is “the best” and often laments that their relationship didn’t work out.
Although Tony is doing many of the “right” things, he is still preoccupied with his ex-girlfriend. Lots of men and women start dating and have casual sex to get over someone else. Be wary of investing too much time or energy in a relationship with someone who has a door open elsewhere. You will be the collateral damage if/when the object of affection signals availability.
5. They prefer to keep things “casual” and avoid all talk about the status of your relationship.
Individuals who are interested in a relationship have no trouble being “serious,” “monogamous,” or “faithful” with the right person.
All too often, we’ve seen people waste time — spending weeks (or months ... or years) bending themselves into pretzels to convince their beloved to commit, although this person has clearly stated an intention to keep things “casual.” In our experience, if someone tells you what they want, it behooves you to listen. If you are looking for a serious commitment, time and energy spent chasing an unavailable person is time wasted.
If you answer “yes” to one or more of these signs, it’s highly likely that you are wasting your time. It can be very disappointing and painful to recognize that your big crush isn’t emotionally available. The good news is the sooner you close the door on the wrong relationship, the earlier you can open the door to the right one with someone appreciative, loving, and commitment-minded.
Click here for a more in-depth look at how to identify and disengage from unavailable men.
Monica Parikh is a lawyer, writer, and dating coach. Deeply interested in love and relationships, she recently started School of Love NYC to help men and women develop happier and healthier relationships.
Aimee Hartstein LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist with 20 years of experience. She specializes in relationship and couples counseling.