Men with low self-esteem can be great guys, but unfortunately they tend to repeat the same patterns and missteps in relationships.
This is important for potential partners to understand as well as men who struggle with self-image.
When you know what to watch out for, you can grow in self-awareness and begin consciously improving.
Let’s take a look at the red flags that show up with low-confidence men in relationships.
I have friends with a submissive side who ended up in relationships with very domineering and psychologically-controlling women.
I am talking about the kind of partnership that borders on abuse.
Men who don’t have a great opinion of themselves are a ripe target for a psychologically aggressive individual who’s looking for a mark.
They don’t stick up for themselves and, often due to childhood trauma, seem to have been habituated to being ordered around, spoken to disrespectfully and not shown affection.
There’s nothing wrong with being an agreeable man.
In fact it can be a relationship-saver. But being too agreeable is definitely a thing.
This manifests as the kind of man who will agree to almost anything his partner says, not speak out when he strongly objects and generally allow himself to be treated as an accessory.
It’s painful to watch and it tends to attract a certain kind of woman who will not treat him very well, to say the least.
3) He puts himself down
Self-deprecating humor and putting yourself down as a joke can be funny now and then.
But a guy with low self-esteem does it as a matter of habit.
This creeps into his relationships as well, where he’ll adopt a role as the guy who “can’t do anything right” or comment things like “well, you know me” when he doesn’t get a job and so on.
If you’ve had a partner like this or been around a guy who does this, then you know just how cringe it is.
Even if the jokes and self-critical comments are fairly easy-going, it’s essentially a form of self-bullying.
Stand up for yourself, man!
4) He says sorry all the time
The other thing men with low self-esteem do in relationships is constantly apologize. Granted, they do this in their day-to-day life, too.
This is almost a nervous tic for the low-confidence guy. It’s his second nature to say sorry.
Even a partner who loves him isn’t enough to quell the instinct, and in fact he feels even more impelled to apologize and make sure she’s not angry at him or going to break up.
It can get to the point that it feels like he’s apologizing for even existing or not being perfect (none of us are!)
Being able to be self-critical has its place and is crucial in relationships, but a man who apologizes constantly tends to scare off potential partners for understandable reasons.
5) He outsources decisions to his partner
Asking help from a partner for big decisions is one thing, but outsourcing decisions to them is another.
I’ve made this mistake before and it was a bad one.
I expected my partner to try to resolve a question about where I would move and hinged it on how serious she thought we would get.
By doing this I put all the pressure on her and made her feel responsible for my future and happiness, which is not a great way for anyone to feel.
Discussing decisions is one thing, but guys with confidence issues take it too far when they try to get their partner to have the final vote on what they do.
6) Being clingy for attention and needy
Many low-confidence guys fall deep into the “nice guy” category. They may be kind, emotionally intelligent and caring, but they often have a blind spot.
The blind spot is their own behavior and mindset.
For example, they are usually very clingy and needy for attention. To the insecure guy this is just his way of showing how much he loves somebody or is attracted to her.
To his partner, this can come across as highly annoying and unattractive, especially since this man seems to have no real life apart from her.
7) Jealousy and possessiveness
Not every insecure guy falls under the nice guy category.
Unfortunately some also come across as quite “alpha” at first, too, and may even be widely seen as “players” or good with women.
The truth, however, is that their jealousy, possessiveness and bravado is a cheap smokescreen for deep self-esteem issues.
They feel the need to keep a tight leash on any partner because deep down they don’t really feel worthy of love. If they’re not worthy, she’s probably cheating or on her way to cheat, right?
Welcome to the mindset of a guy without enough self-confidence.
8) Asking for frequent validation
Receiving validation is something all of us enjoy.
But for an insecure guy it’s more like an insatiable hunger. He needs to hear how wanted he is, and if he gets one compliment he can’t help but try to verify it.
“Are you sure you really find me funny?”
“Do you think we have a future?”
It’s all about trying to find this security that he lacks inside.
As it happens, that gray area inside is the kind of anxiety and insecurity that somebody needs to be able to be patient with in order to allow a relationship to grow past its early stages.
9) Anxiety if partner takes time to respond to messages
Guys who lack confidence often lack patience.
A few hours of a text or call unanswered and they get jumpy.
It’s not even that they suspect cheating or something like that. It’s just that the unanswered message or call on the screen makes them feel unwanted.
They feel a rush of relief when their partner calls or texts back, far more than the situation merits.
Whereas a more secure person would get on with their day, the low self-esteem guy hangs his hopes on these small interactions because he doesn’t feel good about himself deep down.
10) Settling for someone they don’t want when they’re not over an ex
One of the worst patterns that guys do when they have low self-esteem is to get into relationships they don’t really want to be in.
This is usually because they believe they can’t do better or should “take what they can get.”
The even worse problem is that they’re often not truly over an ex when they get into a new relationship. This leaves them on the fence and feeling even worse about themselves.
As they smile for friends and family, they want to cry when they’re behind closed doors.
They’re winning on the outside but dying on the inside.
11) Being emotionally inconsistent and going through frequent highs and lows
Ups and downs are something all of us go through. The insecure man, however, has big trouble restraining himself from making his emotions a centerpiece of the relationship.
If he’s feeling great he expects his partner to be up on that high peak with him.
When he’s in the gutter he expects that it’s everyone else’s problem.
This inability (or unwillingness) to really take ownership of his emotions is one of the worst problems that an emotionally insecure guy deals with romantically.
Even if he has a ton to offer, his unwillingness to really regulate his ups and downs around other people ends up leaving them exhausted and tired of him.
12) Expecting their partner to be a source of emotional stability for them
Happy relationships can be a source of great emotional satisfaction and connection.
But it has to be voluntary, not forced. It’s also about two wholes forming together rather than two halves.
The insecure guy doesn’t go at it this way:
His pattern is to expect (consciously or subconsciously) that his partner will buoy him up and more or less make his life great.
This passive attitude leads to unhappy relationships, breakups and lots and lots of heartache.
13) Starting to rely on their partner as a de facto therapist
This has got to be the most humiliating of all the patterns that low self-esteem men get stuck in relationships.
They start treating their partner as a therapist.
Even without realizing it, they fall into a complaining victim mode and begin venting all their frustrations and disappointments to their girlfriend or wife.
They reinforce their own self-image as a victim and “not good enough” and then become even more hopeless, leading to a very toxic spiral in the relationship and, often, to its summary end.