13 early warning signs a guy struggles with emotional intimacy

Many guys struggle with emotional intimacy. 

Early in life, they learned to keep their feelings to themselves, and they associate opening up with weakness.

They’re also afraid of being hurt. If they show how they feel to a partner, they’re worried it will later be used against them. 

So what are the signs that a man struggles with emotional intimacy and how can you pick up on them early on when getting to know him or dating him?

Let’s find out: 

1) He keeps his emotions locked up

He has trouble articulating his feelings and doesn’t like when the subject comes up. 

He’s clearly uncomfortable discussing emotions, although he may try to brush it off as no big deal. 

Even when he’s going through a hard time he just gives a thumbs up or says “it’s fine” and chuckles. 

But it’s not fine. 

As psychologist Juie Acharya notes:

“The development of depression and anxiety is one of the significant impacts emotional suppression has on men’s mental health. When emotions are consistently suppressed for a prolonged amount of time, they tend to accumulate and build up.”

2) He doesn’t share much about himself

He may open up a bit, but he generally avoids sharing personal stories or experiences unless they’re funny or surface-level. 

The details of his upbringing, his formative experiences and big moments of his childhood or adolescence aren’t being shared.

If you recently started dating you may be waiting and patient for him to eventually open up about some of these things. 

But he may well never open up if he has discomfort around his emotions. 

Speaking of this… 

3) He dodges deep conversations

He steers clear of topics that involve personal vulnerabilities or deep emotional connections.

He may express fondness for you if you’re dating or be quite charming, but he doesn’t want to talk about life and death or the meaning of existence. 

He may be a very thoughtful guy, but he clearly has discomfort around getting too deep, and he’ll often say he’s “gotta run” if conversations get too intense. 

He may also hide in work as a way to dodge deep talks

4) He has frequent mood swings and communication gaps

He has erratic behavior or mood swings at times that may have got your attention. 

It might seem like no big deal, and he apologizes right away. 

But even if his gaps in communication and mood swings aren’t that dramatic, this can be an early sign indicating significant inner turmoil or unresolved emotional issues that he doesn’t want to face. 

As lifestyle blogger Deelaney notes, she has many friends going through very tough times, and sometimes admitting to not doing well is very necessary.

“Few people wish to be seen as weak or at the end of their strength. But what if that is where you are truly at in life? What if by being vulnerable, weak and at the end of yourself, that you are actually at the beginning of something else? 

“Something greater?”

5) He doesn’t show much emotion during hardship or joy

He often seems emotionally distant or disconnected, even when you’re in intimate moments together. 

In other areas of his life he also remains very stoic.

When he’s had a big win or a big defeat, he keeps a stony expression and acts fairly nonchalant. 

He’s just not open to showing much about how he feels or talking about it. 

6) He is suspicious of people 

When a guy has trust issues or struggles to trust others with his emotions and vulnerabilities, it’s an early warning sign that he has emotional intimacy hangups

Early childhood experiences and trauma are often behind this struggle which leads to distrusting others. 

He feels unsure about the motives of people around him and even about you as his partner or other special people in his life. 

7) He’s commitment-phobic

He shies away from committing to relationships and has a clear fear around commitment. 

This may be more of a joking subject if you just started dating, and chances are he does want to get over it. 

But that fear runs deep:

It’s not just that he fears losing his independence, it’s that he fears being hurt if he opens himself up fully to someone. 

Having a relationship get too long or serious worries him, because he may end up having a very hard time exiting it. 

As the Zac Brown Band sing in their song “Knee Deep”:

“Had sweet love but I lost it 

She got too close so I fought her 

Now I’m lost in the world trying to find me a better way…”

8) He prefers sex over sharing

why am i dreaming about my ex while in a relationship 13 early warning signs a guy struggles with emotional intimacy

He usually prioritizes physical closeness over emotional intimacy in relationships.

In dating, he is a charming and seductive guy, but he’s not very into talking about the future or getting into deep talks and emotional sharing. 

He’d rather share his body than his heart or soul:

And that can be very sad and hard for anyone who’s falling for this guy and wants to get to know him and get close to him on more than just a physical level. 

9) He has a history of short flings

When assessing a guy’s comfort with emotional closeness, it’s helpful to look at his dating history. 

A guy who struggles with emotional intimacy will often have a history of short-lived relationships.

He may have many explanations for this, and they may well be true and due to a variety of factors including other things he was going through or not being a good match. 

But the prioritization of sex over sharing and a fear of commitment are usually somewhere in that equation. They keep popping up, because deep down he’s scared of really getting too close to someone. 

As Laura Lifshitz writes:

“Once he’s not thinking about sex, it’s when he’s probably thinking about whether you have long-term relationship potential… or not.

“It’s got to be more than sex for anything to go the distance!”

10) He sometimes has a lack of empathy for others 

He struggles to empathize with others’ emotions or seem insensitive to their feelings.

He knows that he should be more caring and empathetic, but he genuinely struggles to care what others are feeling or experiencing. 

This is something of a mirror: 

It reflects his own difficulties with facing and respecting his own emotions. 

By not caring and pushing them away, he hopes to hide from the enormous pain he feels and has felt when experiencing difficult feelings and situations. 

So he just keeps pushing them down. 

11) He emphasizes rationality and logic

Another key early warning sign that a guy has emotional intimacy issues is that he is hyper-rational. 

He’s almost Spock-like, and so practical and non-emotional that it can almost seem like a parody sometimes. 

He downplays the importance of emotions at times and sometimes also acts dismissive towards others’ emotional needs.

This isn’t something that he can necessarily change overnight, either, and is usually deeply ingrained in how he’s learned to relate to other people and himself. 

“For men who have been habituated to suppressing their emotions, it may take some time and practice to begin expressing their feelings more openly,” observes Acharya.

12) He has difficulty keeping friendships alive

A guy who has struggles with emotional intimacy doesn’t just have particular difficulty in romantic relationships. 

He also struggles to maintain emotional connections with friends.

Because he pushes his own feelings down and often becomes overly rational and unemotional, he stops seeing the “point” of having friends and often lets the social areas of his life decline and fade. 

In some cases he goes even further…

13) He picks fights and pushes people away

He may engage in behaviors that actively push people away, such as picking fights or starting arguments. 

This can be quite confusing if you’re getting to know a guy and he seems to start fights for no real reason or cut off friends randomly. 

But this is really a pattern he has of shutting off avenues to his emotions or heart that he’s subconsciously worried could hurt him. 

So he preemptively pushes everyone away to stay “safe.” 

‘Men shouldn’t cry’

I recently saw the excellent 2023 film Iron Claw

I should issue a spoiler alert, and would like to make the following point: 

The protagonist Kevin von Erich played by Zac Efron is raised with his brothers in an extremely competitive wrestling family led by his father Fritz. 

Fritz struggles with emotional intimacy and teaches his boys from a young age to never admit pain, never cry and to focus on what’s in their control instead of ever adopting a defeatist attitude. 

Fritz isn’t a “bad” character, but he goes too far and tragedy ensues.

By the film’s powerful and heart-wrenching end, Kevin comes full circle with his own kids, realizing that being in touch with your emotions as a man is healthy and empowering, not weak or wrong.

Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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