The Quick Guide To Unavailable Relationships : discover the relationships that signal emotional unavailability

After several years of writing Baggage Reclaim and being asked numerous times, “Are they emotionally unavailable?”, I’ve put together a list of the most common unavailable relationships, as I’ve realised that pretty much everything I’ve heard falls into eleven types of relationship.

‘Casual’ Relationships

Casual arrangements, including Friends With Benefits and booty calls, as well as those who don’t want anything ‘heavy’ and like to keep it ambiguous and unlabelled. Think of these ‘relationshits‘ as someone getting all the fringe benefits without the commitment, intimacy or responsibility.

Boomerang Relationships

Can’t break, won’t break. Your ex keeps leaving and returning, and you keep taking them back. Or you keep chasing them down and waiting around, sometimes even disrupting their current relationship. If you’ve ever dated someone who pops up, gives you an amazing time, disappears for a while and then pops up again… and lather, rinse, repeat, this also falls under the boomerang umbrella–pop-up relationships. Got lots of loose endings? You’re the Yo-Yo Girl (or Guy).

Rebound Relationships

Caught between two relationships, they (or you) are not over an ex, the pain from a breakup, or the hurts from the fallout. Think recently broken up, separated, divorced, or widowed. And remember: people can be interested in you and even tell you they’re ‘ready for a relationship‘, but how ready they are is self-evident. If you have a habit of being in rebound involvements, you are The Buffer.


A messy combo of one person rebelling and the other competing. One or sometimes both of you are cheating on someone else, and you play second fiddle. It also includes remaining with someone who you know shags around on you or who has ’emotional’ affairs. Just in case you’re in any doubt, neither The Cheater nor the Other Person are available whatever their (or your) reasons for the affair. There’s no such thing as an honest cheat.


Typically characterised by being short term. Think casual flings, one-night stands, or whirlwind romances that fizzle out. There will also be plenty of Fast Forwarding and possibly some Future Faking. Note: you might not realise it’s a dalliance at the outset.

Rehabbing and Remodelling Relationships

This is excessive baggage particularly in the form of problems including addiction which you try to fix, heal, and help. It also includes relationships where, even if they don’t have any major problems, there’s a lot of control and demands for change. This also includes people who make out that they’re getting help but just pay lip service to it, using their claims to hook people in and gain their confidence. If you need to feel needed, you have Florence Nightingale tendencies.

Long-Term Struggles

Some unavailable relationships can go the distance in terms of time but have various unhealthy problems within them. Yes, even when there’s history, a ‘title’, a legal piece of paper, or kids. Think of this like flogging that donkey till it collapses. This can include some casual relationships where you haven’t heeded their not wanting to commit, but you stick to them like glue in the hopes they’ll change. Next thing, a decade or two has gone by.

Fantasy Relationships

These are about avoiding intimacy. A combination of illusions and denial, fantasy relationships also include virtual relationships and anything where, because of distanced contact, it’s mostly conducted through words instead of human interaction. For example, when you get hijacked by your feelings and then project them onto the person and assume there’s more between you than there is. Or getting carried away with online relationships that don’t translate into offline at all. I’ve also heard from a hell of a lot of people that wait around for someone that pops up occasionally and then disappears.

Abusive Relationships

Full of manipulation, there’s a presence of emotional, physical, and/or verbal abuse with the use of excessive force and control.

Secret Relationships

This relationship is on the down low for whatever reason, but often includes issues with race, religion, and family. However, it can be as simple as them giving you some rinky-dink reason about why nobody else ‘needs’ to know, introducing you as a ‘friend’, working together. Watch out for the latter in particular as this is the easiest excuse for a secret relationship. Of course, some secret relationships are ambiguous, casual relationships. It also includes immensely secretive people who put up walls and people who are being ambiguous about their sexuality and drip-feeding revelations.

Excuse Relationships

Are they busy, scared, too tired, in need of more time? Shy, dealing with a lot right now, ‘overwhelmed’ by their feelings, got a presentation in two years’ time that they need to prepare for, ‘overwhelmed’ by their feelings for you, got an ex that they’re tip-toeing around? Kids that don’t like you, a mama who needs ‘more time’, or just in a need of an extra day/week/month/year/lifetime to give you what you need?

If you (or they) are making excuses, they’re obviously not available for a relationship. This is not least because you (or they) keep lessening their responsibility with the excuses. If you’re reluctant to pigeonhole a certain someone into one of the other categories or reluctant to admit they’re unavailable, this is your relationship. Where there are excuses, there’s denial, and there’s an unavailable relationship.

And remember: If you’re in one of these relationships, it means you’re off the market for an available relationship making you unavailable yourself. Being available to an unavailable isn’t the same as being available. It’s like putting a cap on yourself and limiting your options.

Remember: if your relationship is missing the ‘landmarks’ commitment, consistency, progression, balance, and intimacy — you’re dealing with unavailability issues. Whether it’s emotional, mental, physical, or spiritual unavailability, they’re unavailable for an available healthy relationship.

Your thoughts?

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