Whether you’ve been doing your single thing for years or have been in and out of a string of relationships for the better part of the last decade, if you still have no clue who you want to be with romantically, you’re in good company. While your reason for being in a state of confusion is likely different than the next person, one thing rings true for most folks in this situation — you’re probably emotionally unavailable for a relationship.
What does this term really mean? Simply put, it means you’re not emotionally ready to take on the highs and lows of being in a relationship, perhaps with one person in particular but likely with anyone at this point in time. Paulette Sherman, PsyD, relationship expert and author of Dating from the Inside Out, explains that the reasons for this are often unconscious and may be due to life events that have caused an individual to shut their heart down from love (i.e. your parents’ divorce, being cheated on by an ex, etc.). Sometimes, however, it can be due to other reasons. “Maybe you don’t feel that you have enough sexual experience or a secure enough job for a relationship, and this is making you feel unready,” she adds.
Whatever your reason may be, here are some telltale signs that you fall into the category of emotionally unavailable.
You’re easily irritated
If you’re dating someone new and he or she is aggravating you for no real reason, you simply might not have the emotional availability to deal with having a significant other, experts say. If you encounter this situation, Colleen Mullen, PsyD, LMFT, founder of Coaching Through Chaos, suggests first evaluating what you’re reacting to. “If it’s something tangible that really is a problem, reconsider dating them,” she says. The second thing she suggests is to consider your triggers. If you become annoyed or upset when your new man or woman says certain things, ask yourself why. If you can’t seem to find an answer, maybe the answer is simple: You’re not ready for a relationship.
You don’t know what you want out of life
If the idea of some day moving into a home in the suburbs with a white picket fence freaks you out, but it’s your partner’s dream, you’re likely not at the same level of readiness when it comes to being in a relationship. “If every time your significant other discusses shared goals or references the idea of spending a future together and you draw a total blank, it means you’re lacking a vision of your future,” says Dr. Sherman. If you do have an idea of what you want your future to look like, but your current boo isn’t visible in that picture, it might mean that you are, in fact, emotionally ready for a relationship, just not one with him or her.
You never feel ready for the next level
If you only want to see someone sporadically and, even after years together, the commitment or intimacy level isn’t progressing, Dr. Sherman says this is a big sign you’re not emotionally available. “Perhaps you are only okay with seeing them Wednesdays, but you refuse to see each other twice a week, go to group or work events or meet each other’s family and friends,” she adds. “If you find yourself making excuses, but don’t give any real reasons for your hesitation or your need for so much ongoing space, you’re better off alone.”
You’re a major flirt
If you have an eye for other men or women, but you’re currently “with” someone else, you’re probably not emotionally ready to be in a relationship. Dr. Sherman explains that this is an individual’s way of keeping his or her options open. “If the thought of being with just one person makes you queasy, it’s time to reconsider what you want romantically,” she adds.
You’re not over your ex
Do you still feel hurt or sad when you think about your ex? If so, Dr. Mullen, says you’re not over it — and aren’t in an emotional state to be in a new relationship. “The occasional reflection and appropriate sad reaction to having a memory of a good time is normal, but being agitated or upset about the breakup when you’re already dating someone new is not,” she explains.
You hate labels
If the idea of saying that you’re in a committed and serious relationship bothers you, even in the slightest, you’re probably emotionally unavailable. The same goes for how private you are about the importance of your significant other when it comes to sharing with friends, family and on social media. If you feel like you have to button up your relationship so that most people think you’re single, Dr. Sherman says you’re better off single — at least for now.