10 things to do when an emotionally unavailable man keeps coming back

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Don’t know what to do now that your recent emotionally unavailable man wants you back again? We’ve all been there.

It’s natural to be drawn to the familiar, especially if you still have feelings for him.

However, if he’s emotionally unavailable and you’re looking for a real relationship, maybe think twice about answering that phone call or taking him up on that second first date. It might not be easy to turn him down, but hard doesn’t mean impossible.

For things like these, especially since it involves persistent men bursting your happy and oblivious bubble, you won’t get anywhere without some tough love.

Honesty is the way to go if you ever hope to get through to him. Fortunately, we specialize in honesty.

In this article, we’ll help you make sure that that emotionally unavailable man finally leaves your life — without all the sugarcoating for either of you.

Signs he’s an emotionally unavailable man

1) He’s unavailable physically, emotionally, and…quite literally

Well, if this isn’t a red flag, what is?

If he’s already in a relationship (even an open one), this means he’s emotionally attached to somebody else — even a little bit.

If he has these feelings for somebody else, can he really give you the same?

And if they’re broken up, pay attention to how he’s like with them afterward. It’s possible to be on friendly terms with an ex and sometimes that’s okay if you feel you’re ready.

What’s not okay is when it seems like he still has a strong emotional connection to that ex, a connection much deeper than the one he has with you.

There’s a difference between being civil with an ex and still being invited to watch Netflix at home (with the “and chill” implied).

This may be something you’ve accepted in the past but when it eventually becomes something that bothers you (or something that you regularly fight about), maybe he’s not emotionally ready to be with you.

2) He doesn’t step up for you

A sure-fire sign that a guy is committed to your relationship is when he steps up to the plate for you. 

He’ll protect you from the big and little things in life, provide you emotional support, and act like your rock.

An emotionally unavailable man?

He’ll shirk this responsibility.

The hero instinct is a new concept in relationship psychology that goes to the heart of why emotionally unavailable men pull away and fail to commit. 

Put simply, men have a natural biological drive to be a hero to the woman they care about. This drive is stronger than love. And even stronger than sex.

Instincts are a powerful driver of human behavior and this is especially true for how men approach their relationships. 

The important thing to grasp though is that the hero instinct has to be triggered in an emotionally unavailable man. Because there are things you can say and texts you can send that will bring this very natural amale instinct to the fore. 

Some ideas are game changers. And when to change the behavior of an emotionally unavailable man, I think this is one of them, 

Watch an excellent free video about the hero instinct here.

3) He avoids labels

If he avoids labels like the plague, chances are he doesn’t want to be emotionally tied down, or (sucks to say) be with you.

That’s always a bad sign, because what if you’re ready to take the next step and he isn’t?

As the saying goes:

“They can love you in a way you have never been loved and still not join you on the bridge. You never ever have to inspire anyone to meet you on the bridge.”

Labels are good for several things, including clarity of expectations for the depth of the relationship.

If he never initiates taking things further or dances around the topic when you do, he’s probably doing that on purpose to stop things from going too far. He’s trying to keep things at a surface level because he doesn’t want to accidentally enter a commitment he isn’t ready for.

If a commitment is what you’re after, you’ve got the wrong guy.

4) He doesn’t communicate well

Poor communication is a sign that your ex-partner might be emotionally unavailable.

If he doesn’t want to talk about difficult things or won’t ask important questions, that’s a sign that he either doesn’t want to deal with it at all or he’s not invested enough to even think about it.

For example, if he avoids talking about even the tiniest thing that bothered you, he probably isn’t as attached to the relationship as you are.

On your end, if you don’t feel like you can talk to him because he doesn’t like talking about emotions, imagine being in a relationship with someone you can’t even approach to have a serious conversation with.

Not only is it immature, but it’s also a bad sign for when you need to talk to him about anything.

5) He dismisses your emotions

A huge red flag is if he dismisses your emotions and makes it look as though you’re making too much of a big deal of things that matter to you.

Humans are emotional creatures and are meant to translate that into their behaviors.

If he can’t deal with that and invalidates your feelings, it’s time to reevaluate because this can make you feel like you’re the one at fault when all you’re doing is expressing how you feel.

If you cry about something minor (like the death of your favorite character on Grey’s Anatomy) and he dismisses it with, “It’s not important, why are you crying?”, chances are, when he sees you crying about something serious, he’ll react the same way.

You could be angry about him not doing enough to help with chores and he would dismiss it as a completely unnecessary “meltdown” and call you crazy.

If he’s not comfortable with your emotions, he probably isn’t comfortable with his own.

6) He’s making you do all the work

Relationships require a good and healthy give-and-take dynamic.

It takes two to tango; if all you’re doing is giving and all he’s doing is taking, there’s something wrong.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior Ph.D. says that in an ideal situation, “the give-and-take roughly works out to equal over time” and “partners have to each find a way to give something to the relationship”.

You’re both supposed to be working on maintaining the relationship; it can’t just be one person planning the dates, one person trying to come up with solutions to problems, etc.

If that one person is you, you’re doing all the work.

Let’s say you ask him what he wants to do for a date and he replies with a noncommittal grunt, or you’re always the only one who physically tidies up around the apartment.

Those little things don’t seem like much on their own but put them against all the other little things and you’ve got yourself a huge pile of dishes that you know only you are going to clean up.

7) He doesn’t involve himself in your life

Lastly, if he seems to have no interest in being invested in your life and your wellbeing, he’s probably emotionally unavailable for you.

Men will do what they want to do and won’t do what they don’t want to do.

If he wanted to care about you and your life, he would.

Understanding the psychology behind men and commitment 

Does it feel like whatever you do, nothing will get through to your man? 

If so, it signifies that whatever is holding your man back from fully committing to you is rooted deeply in his psyche. 

Psychologists have studied the way men think for years, but only one truly hit the nail on the head – Sigmund Freud, the father of psychology. 

To save you having to take a degree in psychology just to get through to your man, we’ve put together something much easier to help you in your relationship:

Our free commitment quiz, based on Freud’s most highly regarded theories.

You see, his issues with commitment have nothing to do with you. You could be the perfect woman for him but he still won’t see it. 

So rather than let him slip away, be the one who finally understands what’s holding him back and learn how to unleash his commitment. 

Check out our new quiz here.

So…why does he keep coming back?

Simple: when an emotionally unavailable man comes back to you, it’s for one reason only — he knows you’ll take him back.

As humans, we tend to gravitate towards the familiar and you’re one of them.

He’s insecure and doesn’t think he’ll find anyone else who will take and accept him (and all his flaws) as you may have in the past.

While it can be tempting to take him back, it’s important to remember here that just because he came back to you, doesn’t mean he’s magically changed.

While there is that possibility, there’s also a chance that he’s exactly the same man — still emotionally challenged, still noncommittal but looking for a way to pass the time.

He wants his safety net back. Don’t let that be you.

Here are some things you can do about it.

What you can do about it

1) Trigger his hero instinct

Let’s get this one out of the way.

If you want to turn around your fortunes with an emotionally unavailable man, then you need to trigger his hero instinct. 

Every man wants to feel appreciated and valued in his relationship. This is especially true for men who are naturally inclined to put up emotional barriers to the people they care about.

To get your emotionally unavailable man to fall in love, you don’t have to act like a damsel in distress. You don’t need to dilute your strength or independence in any way.

Simply put, you just need to find ways to give your man more of the feelings he craves. 

In this simple and genuine video, James Bauer explains how simple signals from a woman can trigger the hero instinct in a man. He reveals the words you can say, phrases you can use, and little requests you can make to bring out this very natural male instinct. 

By following the simple steps in this video, you’ll not only give him greater satisfaction as a man but it will also help to rocket your relationship to the next level.

Here’s a link to this excellent free video again.

2) Decide that enough is enough

He’s here again and now the first thing to do is decide whether you’ll take him back. This is a whole decision-making process that’s up to you, but there’s a reason you’re reading this article.

You know when enough is enough.

No one else can know when it’s too much for you; that’s something you decide on your own. Know that when you finally choose your path, you need to stand by it. No backing out — no doing things halfway.

If you really want this man out of your life, you need to do what needs to be done, even when it’s hard.

This is an important decision, and one you need to make before taking any of the next steps because it’ll be your “why”.

Ready to end things with him once and for all?

3) Cut him off — completely

“You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.”

The first thing you should do is ignore him.

Yes, completely.

Delete his number, block him on all your socials, and do whatever you can to cut off communication with him.

Don’t message him for anything. Not a “happy birthday” text, not a “hope you’re doing well” text, not even a reaction to his Instagram story.

It can be tempting to contact him again or let him contact you. You might even be tempted to take him back (again, if it’s happened before). Just because he’s back doesn’t mean he’s changed.

If anything, it’ll be harder to act on these temptations if you’ve lost all means of contact. You can’t text him if you don’t have his number anymore, right?

Put as many obstacles as you possibly can between you and what you want to do if it’s something you know you shouldn’t do.

Keep him physically and virtually out of your life at all costs because if he can’t reach you, he can’t come back to you.

4) Get rid of everything that reminds you of him

And this means everything, from his stuff at your place to his photos (yes, even from your ‘Recently Deleted folder’) on your phone. You don’t need to see these anymore to remind you of him.

(Don’t forget to purge your Instagram Story archive. Who knows when he’ll pop up on that “on this day last year” feature?)

Speaking of socials, don’t stalk him online either. Hopefully, he’s blocked already, but if he isn’t, resist the temptation to check what’s going on with him or see whether he’s already asked out that one girl he said not to worry about.

“Out of sight, out of mind” actually works!

If you can’t feel his presence anywhere, it’ll be easier for you to forget he exists.

Cue “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo.

5) Don’t focus on the bright side

Love is truly blind but you can use that to your advantage. Focus on the negatives and be blind to the positives!

If you keep thinking about how funny he is instead of how he can’t manage his own emotions, you could get blinded by the former and forget about the latter.

When you feel like going back to him, remember why it ended and focus on that — especially if nothing has changed.

If you take him back and you’re both still the same people who picked fights over unwashed dishes and could barely agree on where to get dinner, it’s the same thing and no different outcome can be expected.

Most of the time, it’ll only lead to heartbreak and awkward exchange of gifted belongings.

This part takes a lot of work because when you love someone, you do it “despite” his flaws when sometimes you’re really just sweeping them under the rug until the next time they bother you.

It can be something you’re already used to — overlooking the things you dislike about him so that you can keep on loving him. This means having to break a habit, which isn’t that easy.

It can be hard to do this for someone you really liked but it can be effective in getting him out of the happy bubble in your head, by popping it with the needle that is reality.

6) Don’t think you can fix him

That being said, it’s okay to not be perfect. (It would actually be quite terrifying if one or both of you were.)

However, there has to be a firm distinction between growing with someone and forcing someone to grow.

Allison Abrams, LCSW-R, a licensed psychotherapist, says that the thing about relationship growth is that you both have to be equally invested in that growth.

If one person is unwilling to grow because they aren’t emotionally committed to the relationship, it won’t work out.

With that, stop thinking that he’s magically changed for you.

It’s tempting to believe it (both because you like/love the person and it’s nice to feel like you’ve made a positive impact on someone’s life) but you can’t be the one to fix him.

He has to do that himself. If he doesn’t want to change or doesn’t take action towards it, he won’t change.

You aren’t a rehabilitation center for emotionally unavailable men.

7) Don’t go after potential

It’s easy to daydream and hang onto maybes.

“Maybe one day he’ll want to commit.”

“Maybe one day, he can openly talk about our relationship with me.”

“I can take him back now just in case it actually happens.”

However sweet the imaginary situation is, that’s all it is right now — imaginary.

Think about it this way. You’re watering a dead plant. You’re hoping it’ll grow, but right now, it’s a dead plant. Unless you’re a plant whisperer, it’s always going to be dead.

You could hope that it’ll magically come alive again, but right now the chances are slim to none and it becomes a daydream that might not materialize.

It’s the same with men. You can’t take him back as he is now and hope he’ll be a different person in the future just because you want him to be.

Take things for what they are and stop watering the dead plant.

8) Picture a relationship with an emotionally unavailable man

Now that you’ve come to terms with exactly the man he is now, picture a relationship with him (the true version of him, not what you are personally imagining he’ll be like).

Imagine a long-term relationship with someone who can’t be emotionally open with you.

How will you handle conflict? How will he handle your emotions? How will he accept constructive criticism?

Being in love with the idea of him is different from actually being in love with him.

Once you take back the man, you’ll have him.

Then you have to deal with the actual man. Not the one from your daydreams. The actual one.

Not the imaginary man who’s actively invested in your life, but the actual one who won’t even tell you which outfit is better because he doesn’t even look at them.

Not the imaginary man who can help you process your emotions, but the actual one who can’t stand it when you cry.

If he won’t live up to the expectations that you’ve set for him, then the relationship won’t live up to the expectations you had for it either.

Keep your feelings about him grounded in what’s currently true, and it might be easier to kick him out of your headspace.

9) Don’t be afraid to be single

One of the most effective ways to make sure you don’t come back to an emotionally unavailable man is to come to terms with the idea of not needing to be in a relationship to be happy.

It’s been ingrained in people to believe that we have an “other half” and our romantic lives are just the journey to find that other half so that we could be whole.

You are not half of a person. You are one whole person.

Once it sinks in that you don’t actually need him in your life to be a whole, it’ll be much easier to cut him out of it with a satisfying snip of your self-care scissors.

You don’t need to settle for someone who either refuses to share his emotional side with you or just truly doesn’t have the emotional range for it. He’s not the half that’ll make your life whole.

Right now, he’s just a man playing his insecurity and commitment issues off of you.

Maybe instead of a half, what you could look forward to in your romantic future is a partner who complements you.

This is another person that goes with who you are. It’s someone who matches what you bring to the table, not someone you have to forcibly drag to the table with nothing to show for it.

You don’t need to settle for someone who does fit you.

Once you accept that, you can start working on how to be your own person — without the man-sized hole that you’ve been trying to fill.

10) Create a new future that doesn’t include him

Let’s face it: he’s been holding you back.

Maybe you’ve moved on from the relationship and are doing better now, or maybe you’re fresh from breaking up with him and are still in the middle of your chick flick and junk food marathon.

Either way, he’s back and trying to reinsert himself into your present. To make sure that doesn’t happen, keep him out of your future.

Start envisioning and building the future that you want for yourself (one that doesn’t include him). You could explore new hobbies, rethink your life goals, start new self-care habits, or do anything that involves pushing yourself forward.

Actively start creating a better future of your own because if you stay in the present with him, he’ll just keep coming back to what he thinks is his safety net.

Once you do this, you won’t want to let go of what you worked so hard to have.

Let your dreams for yourself drive you forward — at the same time keep you determined and resolute to keep him out of your life for good.

What if he persistently tries to get me to take him back?

It can be difficult to figure out how to actually apply all of this in one long conversation with him.

Dr. Tanisha M. Ranger points out that women have been conditioned to always be polite and protect men’s feelings.

Even if it’s going to take every bit of your self-control to do it, it’s not impossible to say no to an emotionally unavailable man who keeps trying to come back.

Here are some tips for expressing that firm “no”.

Do it as soon as possible

“If it’s not a no, it’s a yes”…is what you want him not to think.

Try to reject him or break things off with him outright as soon as possible.

Don’t give him time to think that maybe you’re considering it, and if he keeps trying or waiting, you’ll take him back.

You want him to think that you’re done with him once and for all, and that needs to be a firm statement for it to work.

Be honest and direct. Avoid flaky excuses.

If you use excuses as an easy way out (such as the boyfriend excuse or the not-looking-for-a-relationship-right-now excuse), you’re giving him an argument he can poke holes in.

It can be difficult because excuses are so much easier and softer to use as rejection, but this is a decision that you need to take responsibility for or else he’ll come back thinking your reasons are temporary and potentially superficial.

Be honest and direct about it.

It’s better for you too, since you’d know that you were completely truthful and genuine.

Make the rejection final

Once you’ve rejected him, do not take him back.

Make “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift your anthem.

If you say no the first time and then the second time he comes around a maybe (or worse, a yes), he’ll think that it’s only a matter of time until you finally take him back.

Stand by your decision.

Allow yourself not to be polite for once.

Don’t be afraid to be impolite.

If this man is making unwanted advances and starts feeling like a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe, feel free to outright scrape him off.

You’re rejecting him. Sometimes it takes some force behind the statement to really get the message across.

Think Kat Stratford in “10 Things I Hate About You” the first time Patrick Verona asked her out.

What if I decide that I still want him back?

Let’s say you want to give him another chance.

If he’s genuine about coming back this time, have a clear and firm discussion about how things are going to go from there.

Lay down your expectations and make it clear that if he wants to be in a relationship with you, he needs to put in the work.

Wanting the relationship to grow has to be a mutual decision, or else the cycle will start again and it’ll leave you emptier than the ice cream tub you’ll eventually finish by yourself if this goes wrong again.

If he doesn’t agree to your terms or agrees at first and flakes out on them later on, feel free to return to the above tips.

Long story short…

Once you’ve decided to keep him out of your life for good, commit to making it happen.

All you need is the willpower to say no, discipline for the art of “Not Texting Back”, and the drive to create a new future ahead of you.

Can a relationship coach help you too?

If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.

I know this from personal experience…

A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.

If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.

In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.

I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.

Click here to get started.

The above link will give you $50 off your first session - an exclusive offer for Love Connection readers.

Did you like our article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.