I Keep Choosing Unavailable Men and Can’t Seem to Break The Pattern.

woman holding a cigarette on her hands

I need your help. I have been picking and dating men who are not available – emotionally or legally. It’s a pattern I can’t seem to break out of. I recognize it but I can’t figure out how to fix it. Recently, a lot of the men I’ve dated are ‘separated.’ It either turns out that they’re not anywhere near to being divorced as they say they are, or are emotionally stunted from the breakup, or emotionally stunted period. My ex of 5 years loved me dearly… but didn’t want/try to have sex with me for more than half that time.

I just broke up with someone who I dated for 5 months. He said he was in the process of divorcing, that we were monogamous and that he wanted a future with me. I started getting a weird feeling about his situation and I snooped. It took a while for me to find out the truth, but it turns out that he and his wife are still reconciling. I broke it off immediately.

I recognize that the problem may be me. I just don’t know what part of me to fix. Am I naive? Lame? Have weak boundaries? Desperate? I’ve been to therapy, read all the books, I meditate, I journal, write gratitude lists, and attend seminars… I don’t know what else to do. Just when I think I’ve gotten it right, I’m wrong. At least I’ve moved away from the abusive types…

I feel like I’m in Groundhog Day… going into similar situations, expecting a different outcome. Please let me know what you think. Let ‘er rip. I can take it.

Many thanks,


You said “let ‘er rip,” so here goes.

Quitting smoking is a billion dollar industry.

And without making fun of the people who are physically addicted to nicotine and emotionally addicted to the habit of smoking (which is a very serious problem), I don’t see what the fuss is about.

You don’t want to smoke anymore? Don’t buy cigarettes!

It’s impossible to smoke if you are not in the possession of cigarettes. Yes, you’ll suffer from withdrawal. Yes, you’ll still have the temptation at work, on breaks, and after meals. But if you don’t have cigarettes, you cannot smoke cigarettes. Agreed?

You want my advice on how to break out of your pattern of dating separated men?

Don’t date separated men!

Now, I’m not the type to give blanket advice. Not all separated men are the same. There’s a big difference between the guy whose wife kicked him out last week for sleeping with his secretary and the guy who has been separated for three years, has his ex-wife in another state who still gets his health insurance, and has already had a one-year relationship since the separation.

You don’t want to smoke anymore? Don’t buy cigarettes.

But since you seem to have a really hard time assessing the availability of separated men, let’s forge a pact to not go out with any more of them ever again.

By doing so, you are swearing off the most high-risk men in the universe: separated men who are just out of a long relationship, who desire freedom, who want to sleep with someone new, who have a lot of time on their hands and a big void to fill, and who are so emotionally bereft and fragile that they honestly don’t realize that they’re on the rebound. They’ve been unhappy for so long that they fall in love with the first woman who is cuter or nicer than their wives, only to realize that they’re not ready for the responsibility that comes with real commitment — especially when they’re not even out of their last commitment yet.

I wouldn’t call you naïve or lame. I couldn’t say whether you are desperate or have weak boundaries.

I honestly have no idea what motivates you for choosing these guys, CD. But I do know that there is no shortage of single or divorced men who are sincerely ready for a relationship.

How about you start there?

Because for all the therapy, meditation, journaling, and gratitude lists you have under your belt, you still don’t have the most important thing: the willingness to extract yourself from bad situations quickly.

Come back tomorrow for another video that will tell you exactly what steps you need to take to find love.

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  1. 1

    I’ve dated 2 men who were separated and I wasn’t sure if it was a pattern. I’m not sure if I have a pattern because I’ve dated men who were never married. My last boyfriend was separated and based on that experience,   I vowed to not date a man that had children (he had one). I don’t know how I will live up to this vow. It is easy to do online. I can just delete the email they send. It’s different when you know them in real life through social groups like meetup (where I met my ex). I’m going to have to really be careful with the next guy I date. I don’t know if I will ‘fall’ for someone who is not right. I guess it could happen but the key thing is to recognize if a man is not right for you sooner rather than later.

  2. 2

    There are many men out there who are separated or recently divorced who claim they are ready for a relationship. This has happened more than once to me and just about all of my single girlfriends.   It’s gotten to the point where we pretty much all refuse to date men who are separated, and prefer a man to be divorced for at least a year, especially since we can’t go by what they tell us.   I also think that many older men are ambivalent about remarrying, or marrying at all, if they never have.   But I would also pass on separated men.

  3. 3

    I have a golden rule that I won’t break for any reason.   I don’t date married men  and separated men   are MARRIED.
    While I was dating online I was contacted by so many separated/married men so I added a deal breaker, that unless the guy is actually divorced and the ink is dry on the divorce papers not to contact me as they won’t get a response. This stopped most of the separated/married guys writing but a few still tried, half heartedly asking if I would make them the exception. No matter how cute or good they sounded on paper I didn’t respond and deleted them.
    Not trying to tell you what to do CD, perhaps you should be looking at your own emotional availability if you keep picking guys that you know are high risk and basically unavailable for a real   relationship. The only common denominator in all your dating disasters is you.  
    Make that pact with Evan and more importantly with yourself to start dating guys that are single and divorced and are looking for a relationship. Let the rest slide by.

  4. 4

    Single,divorced or separated many are emotionally unavailable and wounded. “Status” has nothing to do with “availability.” I’ve dated and married a single man who was never emotionally available so our marriage failed. Yes. I realized after our divorce he was never emotionally available and blame myself for not paying attention to the red and yellow flags while we were dating. He has serious trust issues very early in our relationship. He violated my privacy and write down the phone number of a male friend of mine popped up on my IPhone when I was not looking. He actually called him! Additionally, he did not want me to keep friendships with my male colleagues and friends. I confronted him and told him he had broken not only the law but my right to privacy. At the time we were dating and living in our separate dwellings. He violated my right to privacy in my own home. He promised to seek counseling which did and quit the sessions not long after we were married. Maya Angrlo “When a person shows you the first time who they are believe them.”

  5. 5

    Unfortunately, emotional unavailability seems to be the norm among a lot of men, regardless of their legal status. Most men are emotional train wrecks for about two years post divorce but of course there are exceptions. In general, most men who experience
    emotional trauma do not deal with it like women. Much less soul searching, trying to figure out what went wrong, taking time off to heal. Many men
    deal with pain by quickly trying to find someone new.

    Our job is to know what it is we want and if it’s not on
    offer, bail quickly. I don’t think there is any way to stop EU men from approaching you. However, you do not need to accept them.   I have learned (the hard
    way) to restrict my dating pool only to men well outside my rural mountain town, and still meet guys who are attached to another, are financially/emotionally damaged. You do not emotionally invest right away, let the person unfold, and again, bail if need be

    1. 5.1
      Jenny Ravelo

      No woman is inmune to emotionally unavailable EU men approaching her, but when the quantity of them is disproportionate there’s a reason for it and a lot of times this happens because the woman is EU herself. A lot of our communication is non-verbal so we tend to recieve and send vibes to other people and we aren’t even aware of that. EU people are likly to seek each other because of that.

  6. 6

    Men in a nutshell…just because my ex that I didnt truly want a divorce from doesn’t want to have sex with me doesn’t mean I wont/dont need sex…when will women learn if a man cant have sex or get sex to him he ALMOST doesnt even see a point to anything unless he has kids to support. Taking care of your kids is slightly above getting sex

    1. 6.1

      Kevin, we women know what men want (sex) and have known this since we were quite young. Our mothers, sisters, girlfriends, aunts, grannies told us, so did our fathers. Well, my dad went to great lengths to explain about what guys will do when I started dating. (Thanks dad)
      It’s almost a standing joke.  
      When are men going to realise that a lot of women don’t see the point of having sex with some guy who is only looking to get his itch scratched and who basically doesn’t give a rats rear end about us. I don’t know how men can be so surprised when women don’t want to have sex with them when it’s more than obvious that’s all they are after.  
      Most people, men & women know when someone really likes them and sex is a natural part of a genuine caring relationship. Anything else is crumbs.

      1. 6.1.1

        Is it just an itch though or is it about acceptance?   
        Or maybe it is “just sex”.i don’t know anymore!  

      2. 6.1.2


        There are plenty of men who would want relationships with you and not just sex. But those men might not be that hot, sexy and exciting as they ones you go after. Those men wont insist on having sex early and then leave you once theyre bored.

        Part of the problem is our choices. As women we are more selective and find fewer men attractive. We reward the attractive men with unconditional affection, sex and attention. We give them so many options and then wonder why they dont value women who want meaningful relationships with them.

    2. 6.2

      Wow. Kinda sad that is all the value that is placed on kids.

  7. 7

    I have been guilty of the above for sure.   I just got out of a relationship with a “recently/not quite divorce man myself.   As my friend said, I made the choice.   I heard those warning bells go off in my head, but I chose to silence them.   
    I myself am also recently divorced, but I have been apart from my ex for about 2.5 years.   I think many times we subconsciously choose these people for the very reason the risk is slow that we will truly form an emotionally intimate bond with them.   I admitted to myself that I wanted a relationship, but was very frightened by the prospect.   Subsequently I took up with someone who was more afraid and less ready than I was.

    Next time around I will listen with my head before I jump hook, line, and sinker.  

  8. 8

    CD – your behavior is self-destructive and I sympathize with you.   It’s hard to come to the reality of your reality.   I’ve been in the same boat.   You say you’ve done therapy, but are still being drawn to these guys.   Maybe you need to find a new therapist?   Maybe there are issues from your childhood (father, not a good role model, didn’t give a damn), maybe, maybe, maybe.   You didn’t indicate your age, but I’m guessing, from the sound of things, you’re reaching a breaking point.   Sometimes life has a funny way of giving us what we need whether we ask for it or not. Pay attention to your inner voice, your are worthy.  

  9. 9

    It’s psychobabble but maybe you find a genuinely available person too much of a theat to your independence, freedom, fantasy of a perfect relationship etc. Or deep down somewhere it’s you who don’t want to commit so why not make sure you never have to by picking men who are not available for whatever reason (too old, too young, too married, too promiscuous, too religious, too whatever)?
    if you have any negative feelings at all about marriage (boring, old fashioned, unhappy, can’t last), take a good hard look at that.
    But do at least avoid the most obviously unavailable, ie married.   Even if the man is happily bowling along to a divorce you just don’t know what his wife might do! Plus it’s not going to give you the best view of marriage to be repeatedly in the middle of that.

  10. 10

    When we date unavailable men it means we are ambivalent about connnecting.

    For years i dated emotionally unavailable men. I was always on the edge of my seat waiting for their next call, the next date, etc. It’s exhillarating, in a way. I never had to think about whether I lliked them, either, beccaue I was always wondering if they liked *me.*   I also never was crowded, you know, “my space” which was my greatest fear.
    I think that’s why I picked them. I didn’t “know” at first they were unavailable, but something in me sensed it, which is what attracted me, till they dumped me.

    I had to work out why i was always with these type of guys. what i got out of it. beccause we all get something   out of everything.

  11. 11


    I agree with what marymary and amydk have said.   If you find yourself drawn to men who are unavailable, you have to ask yourself what the payoff is for you.   After being drawn to, falling in love with, and then having my heart broken by an emotionally unavailable man, and then going on to have a string of flings which didn’t work out for one reason or another (quite often because I pulled away), I had to acknowledge that a committed relationship is actually not what I wanted at this time. I didn’t realise it till later, but deep down I was resistant to a man actually giving me what I said I wanted.   The reasons for that are numerous and have to do with independence, fear of being smothered, wanting a guy to be just the right one for me before I dared give him my heart… So I decided to take some time out to devote attention to my own life and get clear on quit a few things and not dive into a serious relationship, since that’s what my soul deep down seemed to be calling for.

    I’m just saying – get to the bottom of why your relationships are not working out. I guarantee that part of it has to do with how you feel about yourself, and not just that you’re choosing separated men. Once you know that, you can figure out where to go from here.

  12. 12

    Just a thought…if people here say they didn’t realise they were in a relationship with an emotional available man untill much later, what  are some of the classic warning signs or indicators then one can look out for whilst initially dating?

  13. 13

    I am   learning so much, I am greatful ladies!

  14. 14

    Hello… I can relate to what you said.   Although I do not think I am choosing unavailable men on purpose, but finding out at some point they are not.   I would REALLY appreciate it if Evan would take this up… maybe with some psychologist expert like Pat Allen or someone ..   and get to the bottom of this one.   I know logically that if the guy never follows through all the way you can’t get hurt all the way.   But … one of my recent BFs lied on his dating profiel which said “single”… and was no where near divorce.. I found out months later… but I was already very enchanted with him by then, we had so much fun.   Everything seemed easy and great… and I find out later it is easy because he has zero stake in it.  
    Then .. I meet a great divorced man.   Things seem fun.   But he seems a little anxious.   I find out he lied to me about being sober 5 years and he was not even sober that week.   Not a problem if someone is not an alcoholic, but for him… and major problem.   So we had fun because he was already involved with his bottle.   Now he is sober and involved with daily AA meetings.   So my problem is I do not see this stuff coming.    I would love to know why.
    So please, Evan for your next investigative project… can you get together with a psychologist and get to the bottom of this.   We do not see the signs.   It is not just being intoxicated with sex… it is not being able to tell who is a big liar.   

  15. 15

    I also have dated so many men who expect to have sex with me and date other women at the same time. Unbelievable to me. Its not just morally wrong but unsafe.   I think the pornography that is so available now gives men unrealistic expectation of what real sex or making love is suppose to be. Where are the morals and values that make a relationship and marriage the way it should be. I feel like giving up because almost every man Ive dated either wanted to bring a third person in our relationship, had a secret girlfriend on the side and expected me to accept it because he had a child with her.   Finally a  guy I just recently dated for a week and a half who told me he and his ex-girlfriend were reconciling and said thank you for the time we spent together and hope that I find that special someone. He never told me he was thinking of reconciling with her and he had been broken up with her for a year and a half.   I feel disappointed in the way   men have turned out.

  16. 16

    Obviously I am going to go for men I find attractive and attractive men are, in most cases, not readily available for commitment. They have a lot of options so as an average looking woman I do need to take some risk and ‘date’ them even if they aren’t invested in me as much as I’d want.

    If I restrict myself to dating men who were ‘available’ and ‘invested in me’ from the get go, I’d only have average looking men to choose from.

  17. 17
    Jenny Ravelo

    I know someone that constantly ended up with emotionally unavailable (EU) men. There wasn’t a pattern of them being separated, but they never returned her feelings. Many told her it was just bad luck, me and some friends told her there was a reason.

    She tried to figure out what was happening until she decided to go to therapy. After some sessions the reason turned out to be a very unexpected one. When she was a little girl her father left the country for six years to help the family financially. It might not seem a big deal for a grown up person, but it can make a mess with a small kid because it means the father isn’t there neither physically or emotionally for a long period of time. Point is that she was replaying the EU of her father with every single men she met.

    The pattern is hard to break because one doesn’t know what causes it and until the cause is not resolved, one keeps making the same mistake over and over again.  

  18. 18

    There’s a book called, “Love Prescription” by Dr. Seth. That will break down the reason people date the same type of person. Your issue, is what a ton of women experience, and that’s chasing love. You’re trying to prove that you’re worthy of love by trying to convince an unavailable man to become available for you. It can stem from you not feeling the love from your father you wanted. Do you find yourself getting clingy if they seem to pull away from you? That can be abandonment issues too.

  19. 19

    Thank you for the clear-cut advice here, it mirrors my own intuitive feeling at the moment. I’m in a similar position but with a different type of guy-the unavailable commitment-phobe. He’s popped up since my father died 5 years ago and mirrors the relationship I had with my father. I think after he died I just wanted to keep trying to find that final validation. My sister is experiencing the exact same pattern.

    Lots of self-help books later and your advice here just puts it simply…quit the unavailable men cold turkey. Recognise them early and walk away. The pattern does keep recurring, however I realised today that there’s something in me that still opens to them if they disappear and then return again. I don’t sleep with them, I’ve at least quit that to honour my body. But I allow them in my life. It’s almost comforting, like having my own father return I realise now. Like having another chance.

    There are deep emotions at play with many patterns so they don’t feel easy to transcend. You really have to hold yourself as you wait until you attract a whole new dynamic. Often it’s the relationship you saw growing up that was unhealthy, that you keep repeating. Recognition is the first step, accepting the pattern…and then having the courage to walk away from it…time and again…until all of the unavailable men have given up trying and the man who can meet me with presence and love shows up. That’s what I have connected to through reading this. I will work daily on quitting these men. I deserve love.

  20. 20

    I have a rule about not dating separated men as well and it’s not because of emotional issues but legal ones.   In states where there is no legal separation the couple is still married and the man is committing adultery making you a mistress and you can be stuck being drug into an ugly divorce or custody battle.   No matter how amicable things seem early on.   And even if you are not in such a state this can occur.   I’m a lawyer and I was subpoenaed to give a deposition in this very situation and I’m sorry I was scarred and I just won’t chance it.   But as many people are commenting I think Evan you miss the point she’s not voluntarily picking men that are not available she thinks they are but they end up not being.   That’s totally different from choosing to smoke.   Even though it’s an addiction you are knowingly choosing to pick up the cigarette.   No one is telling you that it’s a candy cigarette.   She’s saying the men are telling her they are divorced and are really separated or are ready to date or want relationship or are looking for relationships and display all the signs that they are but it turns out they are not emotionally available.   Most emotionally unavailable people put on a fairly good show.   It’s likely because they want to be available but can’t.   So she’s asking how does she spot this or cut these people off early on? And it’s not as simple as not doing it they don’t wear signs.

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