: 12 May 2014

How to Break the Pattern of Choosing Unavailable Men

One of the biggest complaints I hear from people is they get caught in a pattern of choosing unavailable partners.

While we all have different thoughts about what and who the “unavailable man” is, I think most of us agree that it centers around the following:

  • A person doesn’t show up for you the way you want
  • A person doesn’t share himself or herself with you the way you want
  • You don’t feel like you receive enough in the relationship

While you may think overcoming this pattern starts with finding the “right” person who will always be available to you, this is not the case.

Issues in relationships begin within us, so in order to break this pattern, you have to address what’s happening inside you, first.

With that, here are the 3 big reasons that people attract unavailable partners, and tools to break the cycle:

1. You might not be as available in relationships as you think. 

If you want to be with a person who feels available to you, then the first rule is: You have to be available to that person! Unfortunately, many of us aren’t as available as we think we are.

Even if you’re considering your partner’s feelings, thinking about him often, and head-over-heels in love with her, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being available in your relationship.

While showing up for a person in a caring way is very important, being available also means you show-up in an authentic way.

In a true way.

In a real way.

And this is where many of us go wrong…

Here’s the deal: when you’re not being the real you with someone – when you mold or change yourself to please him – you technically aren’t being available in the relationship. This behavior sets you up to attract people who also aren’t available to you.

So how do you change this?

Practice being the real you!

Express your disagreements (respectfully, of course), share your true feelings, and being who you really are regardless of what the other person thinks.

The more you expose your authentic self in relationships, the more you will feel accepted, seen, known, and cared for by others, too.

2. You might be confusing sacrificing yourself with being available. 

People who chronically over-give in relationships typically end-up with unavailable partners. This is concept I discuss in detail in my course, Manifest Your Love, because it’s where a lot of people go wrong. Here’s the simple reason why:

If you’re a chronic over-giver, then you sacrifice your needs for other people. And when you sacrifice your needs for other people, guess what? You end-up feeling sacrificed!

Over-giving is a behavior we use to compensate for not feeling good enough.

On an unconscious level we believe that by giving, we’ll get in return. But it doesn’t work that way!

Instead, when you sacrifice yourself, you feel used, burnt-out, and taken advantage of in relationships. Not fun.

So how do you break this pattern?

Catch yourself in the cycle of over-giving and stop doing it!

Notice when you are falling into your people-pleasing patterns and make a decision to not do it anymore. Stop saying “yes” when you really want to say “no.” Learn how to set good boundaries.

When you stop giving yourself in ways that don’t feel good to you, you’ll automatically attract partners who you are less likely to “take” from you as a result.

3. You aren’t being available to yourself. 

This is the biggest issue of all. When you change this, everything else will fall into place.

The most important lesson in relationships is this: People will treat you the way you treat yourself.

Until you’re accepting, loving, caring of yourself, it’s going to be very difficult (um… impossible) to find a relationship in which you’re treated this way, too.

Many of us think we’re being accepting of ourselves, but when we take a deeper look, we find that we’re actually pretty harsh with ourselves.

We don’t accept our true feelings, we judge ourselves for our mistakes, we have critical self-talk. All of this less-than-loving behavior sets you up to feel unloved with other people, too!

So how do you change this?

Create practices of treating yourself the way you’d want a partner to treat you.

The more you love and care for yourself, the more you feel love from other people as a result.

The pattern of attracting unavailable people is highly frustrating, but it’s something you can overcome. The more you practice being completely available to yourself, the more you’ll experience others being available to you, too.

Please leave a comment below telling us one change you’re going to make to make yourself more available in relationships. I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. Priya on May 12, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Love this article. I had to learn this the hard way.

    • Shelly Bullard on May 12, 2014 at 10:54 pm

      Most of us do. 🙂

  2. Tonya N on May 12, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Hi Shelly – What a great article! This is exactly what I needed to read this morning. Sometimes it is easy to lose sight that what is happening on the outside is a result of what’s happening inside. Thank you!

    • Shelly Bullard on May 12, 2014 at 10:54 pm

      YES! You’re welcome, Tonya.

  3. Lynn on May 12, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    I am going to be honest and upfront with my feelings instead of letting things go or holding back because I’m afraid of conflict. and I I will do so in a gentle manner not in a harsh or abrasive manner.

    • Shelly Bullard on May 12, 2014 at 10:54 pm

      YES Lynn! Right on!

  4. Jim on May 12, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Once again you hit a “bulls eye”. Thank you for sharing such important insights that can make such a major impact to ones life. I know you have made a differace in my life and for this I am grateful.

    • Shelly Bullard on May 12, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      You are welcome, Jim. Thank you for saying thank you. 🙂 It means a lot to me to know this makes an impact on you.

  5. Janna on May 12, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    I am figuring out that I am afraid of following my heart because of the way the other person will or will not react. When I sit with my emotions and understand that I will remain stuck if I take no action, this is what forces me to look at the best and worst possible outcomes. Once I accept both as possibilities, I can take a step toward taking action even if I do it with a tremble in my step and fragility in my heart.I did this recently. I reached out to someone I love who I was afraid would reject me. This behavior is a new pattern of expressing myself, allowing myself to be vulnerable when I want to appear strong. I made myself available by allowing myself to be vulnerable. My risk paid off and I was able to connect with this person and receive the support I needed. This was not easy by any means – I had to pep talk myself in the mirror, pace the room, journal, talk to others about what I should do, pray – I was desperate to get unstuck. After two months of silence between us, I changed my behavior and was met half way by someone who cares about me and loves me back. This is a breakthrough for me. Nice topic Shelly 🙂

    • Shelly Bullard on May 12, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      Awesome – good job on getting vulnerable. While it’s totally scary and won’t always work out the way we want, in the end it’s the only way to get the love and closeness you really want. Thank you for your comment!! xo

  6. Maggie on May 12, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    You are spot on!!!! Couldn’t believe the topic…. “picking unavailable partners”. Story of my life, you certainly gave me another perspective to see this from, that being doing my part in showing up “authentic” I see where I have missed the boat! I’ve spent my whole life trying to be what I think the other person needs….denying my “authentic” self, and then when that didn’t pan out I was stuck in ” what’s wrong with me” I’m just not enough!! When I know that I am!!!! Thank you so much….. I could go on and on, but for now will just ponder in my new discovery!!!

    • Shelly Bullard on May 12, 2014 at 10:51 pm

      Yes – this is a BIG one when we finally understand this pattern. I’m glad you had a light-bulb moment! xo

  7. Leah on May 13, 2014 at 1:45 am

    Thanks Shelly! Needed the reminder :)) Seems when times are tough, we give ourselves a hard time – and thats the exact time we look to someone else to ‘fill us up’. Back to loving me the sure way to find happiness, within first, and then hopefully With a partner. haha Cheers!

    • Shelly Bullard on May 13, 2014 at 7:06 pm

      Yes, start by looking for love within. Always. xo

  8. Susan on May 13, 2014 at 2:42 am

    Hi Shelly! I have been applying your thoughts and mindset to my life and it has made a huge difference in my personal life. I am dating a wonderful man. About a year. He is a “slow cooker” so to speak. I have been patient yet honest and I know he is crazy about me! I am confident about myself and love myself and this is a huge turn on for him. And although this all sounds good and it really is for the most part and we have overcome some challenges, I still feel that he’s having a hard time really embracing the concept of us. We both work a lot, have kids, activities we’re involved in. So, we love the time we spend together and really make the most of it but again- I’m not sure how to get us over this obstacle of truly embracing one another into each other’s lives. Before him and before I found you, I was such a different person. Thankful that I found you! (And yoga! )

    • Shelly Bullard on May 13, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Wow – it’s so beautiful to receive this, Susan. I am thrilled that by reading my articles you’ve been able to implement so many changes. My advice for you now is this: It’s time to make it a priority within yourself to make the relationship a priority. What I means by this is, it’s easy to get busy with all the things surrounding us and until we really commit to prioritizing something, it won’t happen. Change your mindset to make the relationship a priority and it will happen. xo

      • Sandra on May 21, 2014 at 3:25 am

        Susan and Shelly your comments about a slow cooker are exactly what i have been dating for only a few weeks now. I have done much self healing and took almost 8 months to find self love again (thank you Shelly!!!). Now that I’ve entered the dating scene I find myself holding back, trying to figure out the dating game which at 44 isn’t what I want. Do I jump in, expose my vulnerable side in hopes he’ll be open to it? The game of delay responses or not sending a text or note gets old fast. I want him to know I’m thinking of him but not appear desperate…LOL Your advice is always appreciated!!

        • Shelly Bullard on May 21, 2014 at 2:21 pm

          I can tell by your words that your overanalyzing the whole dating thing, which means you are in the present moment. Stay connected to yourself and your body – stay out of your head as much as possible! This will help a lot.

  9. Platypus on May 13, 2014 at 7:08 am

    Thanks Shelley, that puts a new perspective on my man who moved out and separated, and I thought he was finding it difficult to meet my high level of connection and intimacy. And how was I being unavailable? I was pouring energy into two of my three kids, who were totally draining me and taking advantage of my willingness to just keep on giving without a boundary. Now I’m putting the boundaries in place, sending them back to their Dad’s and I am finding I now have heaps more quality time with the third generous child. I’m also being unbelievably filled with desire for the man, who is turning back to me and spending cherished intimate times with me. Thank you for your insight, xx

    • Shelly Bullard on May 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm

      Awesome! Good work! 🙂 xo

  10. Sian on May 13, 2014 at 9:57 am

    I’m so glad I’ve read this today as it’s an issue I’m currently struggling with. It’s nice to know that it’s not just me going through it. I’m definitely a people pleaser because I feel afraid that if I’m not over the top then he may not realise how much he means and somebody else might catch his eye. I need to just relax and be myself more. I think I find it harder because I am in a long distance relationship and it can create many issues that wouldn’t be there if we were able to see each other in person more often.

    • Shelly Bullard on May 13, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      Sian, it’s counterintuitive, but you will get more of his attention when you stop trying to get his attention! 🙂 Good luck. xo

      • Jo on June 2, 2014 at 10:28 pm

        Does that make sense? Wont he just wonder one day “how come I never knew how much I meant to you?”

        • Shelly Bullard on June 3, 2014 at 3:29 pm

          I don’t understand this question.

          • Shelly Bullard on June 3, 2014 at 3:33 pm

            I think what you are asking, Jo, is will he get curious about what is going on with his feelings? Maybe – but attraction happens moment to moment. It’s either happening or it’s not. You don’t have to think too much about it.

  11. Misty Blu on May 13, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    I find it near to impossible to be my authentic self where I’m not sacrafising myself and people pleasing.
    I can talk sense to myself to no end but as soon as I interact with others, my characterlogic low self esteem and people pleasing behavior kicks in, as if they are the only foundations to my core self.

    These ways have been with me from the beginning of my time and I only attracted more of what I’d been taught at home and all of what I’m talking about feels harder to give up than I should imagine it would be to stop heroin; in fact I’m trying to give up myself and survival patterns that are so deeply ingrained.

    Don’t get me wrong I can say no to others and I have got my common sense but all the time I feel that I’m masking emotions because I genuinely struggle to let my authenticity show up.

    I’m due for CBT this year and doing lots of work on myself but I have more personal problems than I can contend with.

    Still each new day is an opportunity to grow some more.

    I would like to mention also that no matter how bad we may feel about the things taken place in our lifes, there is always someone else in the world with big problems.

    There is a girl in my street, she has problems with her skin, she told me that she is getting bullied at school, has thought about suicide and has other difficulties too, but the saddest thing is her mum left her when she was younger, she left her and her dad but took her younger sister with her.

    Can you imagine how awful that must have been for and the message on a subconscious level she would have felt. I can’t imagine the pain because I haven’t had to go through it, but you can almost sense that it’s a huge factor to why she has other problems in her life.

    I feel really bad for K and told her that if she needs anyone to talk to then I’m only across the road, but I’d be willing to bet that she wouldn’t come because she’d probably be telling herself something like she doesn’t want to put anyone out or it’s not that bad and she can leave it.

    I recommended her some book ideas to help her through it all but I recently got all my books out of from under my stairs and I had the brainwave to wrap up my CBT book in some pink butterfly paper.

    • Shelly Bullard on May 13, 2014 at 7:09 pm

      You should reach out more to that little girl. Don’t wait for her to come to you – go to her. It will change your whole life. 🙂

  12. Joan on May 16, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    I have a male friend who from the first time we met, felt so deeply like my soulmate! I have major trust issues due to alcoholic parents along with marrying twice men who were abusive and addicted to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and sex. Alone and recovering the last 9 years, I want to love a man again. My friend is 36 years old and has helped me feel positive about myself. He has been a gentleman, treating me gently and respecting my feelings of not wanting intimate relationship because of my age 54 years old and religious beliefs. He has never touched alcohol and does not use drugs. We have been friends for a year. I really love him but my friends and family would think I am crazy if they knew this. What is a girl to do? Follow her heart? I have tried to end friendship without success. I miss him when we don’t text. I don’t see him often, comes over for tea and conversation occasionally. He lives in another town not far and comes to see me when he is in town to see his male friend who is fighting cancer. He has never married and is a musician. He has two daughters 15 and 21. I have 3 adult sons that are married with families- 7 grandchildren. I enjoy the friendship with no agenda. I am a nurse who stays with a 91 year old sweet lady every night so my friend is like a breath of fresh air. Am I acting foolishly?

    • Shelly Bullard on May 16, 2014 at 7:32 pm

      I don’t really know what you mean by “am I acting foolishly”? It seems like you and the man need to have a conversation about what your relationship is, and what you want it to be.

      • Joan on May 16, 2014 at 11:12 pm

        Thank- you Shelly! You are inspiring! Love your articles also. Insightful!

  13. Mindy on May 20, 2014 at 2:03 am

    “Hi Shelly,
    You wrote, “when you mold or change yourself to please him or her.” Aren’t you supposed to make adjustments and certain changes to adapt to each other? I always thought both partner’s are expected to change to a certain degree especially since this is how you grow.

    Please clarify,

    • Shelly Bullard on June 3, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      No. You are not supposed to compromise yourself for another person. This is one of the biggest myths and ways to sabotage a relationship. Acceptance of differences is what you are supposed to do. But not being what another person wants you to be. If you do this excessively, you will be highly resentful in the relationship.

  14. April on May 29, 2014 at 12:16 am

    I needed to read this article this morning, thanks for sharing. Relationships are my biggest struggle. I can see that I’m way to critical of myself and don’t open up to others. I’m going to be more accepting of myself, the good and the bad and love who I am.

    • Shelly Bullard on May 29, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      Yes – this is the only way to find a partner who will be accepting of you – YOU have to be accepting of you. We all have good and bad aspects of ourselves – continue to strive to embrace and grow into the good, and forgive yourself for the “bad.” You’re on your way. xo

  15. Jo on June 2, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Somehow, Im not really understanding…

  16. Jo on June 2, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    How can you be sure your feelings will even matter enough to other people? I get consistent messages from family and so called friends that I dont matter as much therefore my feelings wont.

    • Shelly Bullard on June 3, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      You’re feelings have to matter to YOU. If you are trying to get your feelings to matter to other people, it’s an indication that you are honoring your own feelings enough, which is why others don’t either. They are mirroring your internal experience.

  17. Jo on June 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    So how can they “see” what Im thinking? Also, is it selfish to recognize and value my own feelings?

  18. Laura on June 8, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Hello, Shelly!
    I’ve had relationships with four “unavailable” men. One moved away to fulfill his dream of living in a foreign country, one was a painter who became more committed to his work than our relationship, one drank away the stresses of each day after getting a promotion and the last time it happened, I was stunned and blindsided. I had known my partner for four years before he started to display some familiar “unavailable” characteristics and within a few weeks he confessed that he was “too self-absorbed to be in a committed relationship.” It was then that I lost trust in my ability to chose an appropriate partner.

    I chose to spend my time raising my child, working at my job and my craft and spending time with my friends and family. Now, many years later, my child is on her own and doing beautifully and I would love to have a man in my life. However, I’m afraid of another heartbreak. All of the other aspects of my life are wonderful and fulfilling. Can you offer any guidance?

    • Shelly Bullard on June 9, 2014 at 5:42 am

      Love yourself first. Be fully accepting of yourself first. Treat yourself with the utmost respect and regard. A man will always treat you how you treat yourself.

  19. Sherri on December 14, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Sometimes you can’t tell early on, sometimes it becomes evident as you move deeper into the relationship. I am in love with a man who seems to really want to be the man my I need, and has been, for our first year together. He has been emotionally there for me every time I needed him, but at a year I realized I never had to be there for him. It was a slow dawning because men and women process differently, and I expected to be more naturally emotional than he. But nothing, in a year? He didn’t let upsetting things in very deep. He’d either take action to change the thing…or walk away from it, unfinished. I started nudging him to let me in close and help him cope as he helps me. That’s where he hit the wall; he cannot (will not) abide the discomfort of opening any deeper. I also see that his emotional bond with my daughter is stalled and he is consistently more grumpy than loving with her. So sadly, it can take time. Fifteen months in, I finally realize. I still don’t understand how he can give me such emotional security and not have it himself. He’s an exceptional man, generous and giving, thoughtful and loving, but sadly, not available.

    • Shelly Bullard on December 14, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      We are a mix of both exceptional qualities and wounds. I don’t know the details of the situation, but I would try to feel compassion for this part of him, rather than label him as “unavailable,” writing him off as a result. EVERYONE is always evolving – he has more work to do as we all do. Best of luck to you. xo

  20. Valerie on March 14, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    This is such a great article! So much of the “self sacrifice” we do as women as taught early on. In an Italian household I was raised to believe the woman did all of the shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc., and that every one elses needs came before my own. After a very emotionally abusive relationship I realized how unhappy that made me and how bad that is in general. I adopted your methods and I am finding, now that I don’t rush to be a caretaker and try to win over people with what I can do for them I attract more people who are equal partners that want to take care of eachother in a balanced way. I will also add, that I found myself still attracting unavailable men when I moved on and started dating too quickly after that unhealthy relationship. I was stil in love with that other person, so I was emotionally unavailable, even though I thought I was ready. So hard to take the time to heal our wounds and be fully ready to love when our exes move on quickly. Thanks for sharing and reminding me of all of that good stuff!

    • Shelly Bullard on March 16, 2016 at 12:26 am

      Beautiful, Valerie! Thank you so much for sharing. xo

  21. June Safford on August 25, 2016 at 1:19 am

    I don’t have a current relationship to share. My husband died 10 years ago and it was the perfect relationship although he struggled with abandonment, addiction and ill health. I was too depressed to delve into a relationship with anyone else and too annoyed at the character of today’s men to want to step out on a limb to start a new relationship. Currently dealing with the responsibility of raising 2 teen boys and now looking for someone to be a friend. I am very cautious with all the stds out there now and all the other issues that deal with screening the right connection. Want to know what I should be doing besides working on my self for when that might occur;)

  22. Kelly on August 31, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    Hi Shelly,So I did it, I had enough. I stopped being an over giver and not fulfilling my needs to make a man happy. It doesn’t work! lm working on just being me. I finally feel a calm that I have not felt in a very long time, which is very nice. I do sometimes feel like, since I stopped allowing unavailable men in my life, no one else is showing up. I keep telling myself good things come with time but some days, I’m frustrated and think, am I going to be alone forever?

    • Shelly Bullard on September 12, 2016 at 5:07 am

      No. 🙂

  23. Michelle on August 31, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    I have been working for years on this.. I finally feel I am get it.How it works for me now is: I have to be COMPLETELY willing to lose the relationship before I can share myself with true honesty! Until I could really love myself enough to settle for nothing less, I had been unwilling to take that risk. They go hand in hand. Before now, I held them as separate. This whole concept can seem very theoretical without the acknowledgement that both are necessary, and it all actually happens quite naturally as a result. Learning to love and value self, is for some of us, a long slow journey. When you are abused as a child, you have no actual reference or inner guidance to give this to yourself.

  24. Lotus on September 28, 2016 at 10:19 am

    Hi Shelly…..love reading your articles because you hit the nail on the head. I am divorced for 8 years now. Was married for 26 years when he walked out. Just found out he is getting married this weekend. You talked about not so much in finding Mr Right but being Miss Right. That got me to really look inside of me. I had 2 relationships after my divorce . Both of them were cheaters. For a while I let them treat me without respect. I thought I was OK. No wonder they left when greener pasture arrives. Im now single and working on myself. To learn how to love myself, treat myself with self respect and set healthy boundaries with family and friends. When Im ready Mr Right will appear. Much love.

  25. Kristine Horton on October 2, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    I know in relationships I sacrifice myself and it has done nothing but bite me. I’ve held the idea in my mind that if I sacrifice myself for the person I love then they will see how much I love and care for them and will thus love and accept me. It has never worked and won’t.I needed this article and I thank you for Shelly! I am not entirely certain how I will be more available to myself so I can grow and be better. I am aware I need to be better to me to have a better relationship in the future.

Before you dive any deeper...

Hi, I’m Shelly!

I’m a relationship coach, licensed marriage & family therapist, wife, girl mom, world traveler and… a damn good manifesting teacher.

On any random Saturday, you could find me hiking in the Redwoods with my family during the day AND relaxing to all songs on 🎶the foggy jazz🎶 station on Spotify in the evening with my man…

I’ve helped 125,000+ expansive, beautiful humans manifest their desires through my YouTube channel.

Over the last decade, I transformed my love life… I went from feeling terrified that I may never find love or have a family of my own to manifesting marriage, my baby, our dream home, and so much more. Now, I want to help you do the same.

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