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Are you hesitant about dating again because you’re afraid you’ll fall in love with someone who won’t commit? I understand how painful it is to date someone who is emotionally unavailable—a person who continuously creates barriers to avoid true intimacy and therefore commitment. But the reason why you find yourself in this situation is because you’ve been hoping, wishing and expecting that man to become emotionally ready for a commitment when you likely knew from the jump he wasn’t.

There are many clues to pinpoint men who will be happy to date you for years but will run when it’s time to commit. Fortunately for you, many of these clues usually appear at the earliest stages of relationships, so you don’t have to waste your time with these non-committal men.

Here are four signs to identify if a man is emotionally unavailable for commitment. Let’s begin with the early stages of a relationship.

1.    He gives mixed signalsTNMMaleHusbandEars

One day he likes you. The next day he seems to ignore you. You never know when he’s going to call, and you end up feeling confused by it all. You can only assume his intentions because he never really states them. He loves to live in the gray areas of relationships. For example, he’ll spend time with you, but won’t want to label things. Or, maybe he’ll drop hints about “when we get married,” but later acts like you don’t have a future together.

When a man can be open and vulnerable with you one moment and then distant the next, it can be intriguing and a turn-on. But be careful. This is a sign that he is afraid of intimacy and closeness, which just might break your heart in the end.

2. He gives a dating disclaimer

When I was single, one of my boyfriends told me he was looking for a wife when we first met. Once we started dating, he’d say things like, “I just want you to know that I’m seeing other people.” Then when we became exclusive he said, “Some days I want to be married and other times I don’t.” He even told me that if his ex girlfriend called him and wanted him back, he wasn’t sure if he’d choose me, even though he really loved me. My ex-boyfriend was giving me what is known as a dating disclaimer. Statements like “I don’t know if I can ever really love,” or “I’m not sure if marriage is for me,” or “I’ve got a lot going on in my life right now,” are really just ways of saying, “If you get involved with me, I’m going to break your heart. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!”

If a man says any of this to you, don’t make excuses for him, or worse, think he really didn’t mean it. Don’t rationalize or spiritualize his craziness with thoughts like, “Well, he just needs some help. I can love his hurt away.” Run, girl, and don’t look back!

3. He criticizes you or an ex-girlfriendTNMCoupleWomanArgueFrustrated

When your partner makes you “the enemy” in your relationship, it’s a sign that he is emotionally unavailable and is looking for his way out. He may criticize your weight but cleverly disguise it as a sarcastic joke. Or he might just come right out and say, “If you were 20 pounds lighter, you’d be perfect.” He may also talk a lot about his past relationships and tell you all the things his ex did to cause the relationship to fail. Be weary when that happens because he’s not just being open with you. He’s actually projecting these issues onto you, so he can find a way out when your relationship gets too serious.

For example, he may say his ex was really controlling because she called too much, wanted to spend every weekend together and didn’t want him talking to other women. You should take this as a warning sign; this man will likely accuse you of the same things because he is really just trying to keep you at arm’s length.

4. He has unrealistic rules about relationshipsTNMMaleYoungSingle_feature

When you first meet this kind of man, he says he knows exactly what he’s looking for in a wife, but he just hasn’t been able to find her yet. He tells you things like: he’s bought a house, his mama is pressuring him for grandbabies and he’s tired of the dating thing. You get your hopes up, thinking he could be The One. He sounds like he’s serious about marriage.

But watch out, girl! He could really be masking his emotionally unavailability by fronting as if he’s looking for the perfect woman. Of course, that perfect woman has to fit an extreme, idealistic set of his rules. She must be light skin, have long hair, be college educated but wants to leave her career to stay home with the kids, give him the last word in all arguments, dress modestly with a hint of sexiness and a bunch of other unrealistic expectations that you won’t even know about until you violate them.

Don’t waste another minute on men like these. Use these four signs to protect yourself from heartbreak and confusion. Because unlike this man you’re dating, an emotionally available man has a flexible view of relationships and is willing to grow and change with his partner. He is consistent and reliable and can respond to your needs.

Have you dated emotionally unavailable men? How did you know? List the signs below!