Ever dated a man who struggles with self-esteem?
While everyone brings emotional baggage into relationships, having a low opinion of yourself can lead to communication barriers, hesitancy, and unfounded jealousy.
Here are 9 things men do in relationships when they lack confidence.
Pinpointing the problem is the first step to helping them grow.
1) They leave everything up to you
Men who lack confidence can be reluctant to take initiative in the relationship.
He may hesitate to make decisions, leading to a sense of stagnation.
Depending on your personality, this can translate to a lot of frustration on your part.
For instance, I fancy myself an independent woman, but I sometimes crave for the guy I’m dating to go ahead and make a reservation instead of constantly asking me where I want to go and what I want to do.
First world problems, but still.
Your partner not showing initiative can manifest in a variety of ways:
- He relies on you to make plans for outings, date nights, or vacations
- He usually defers to your choices or expresses indifference
- He rarely communicates his desires or preferences
- Romantic gestures or surprises are non-existent
- He prefers routine over exploration and is rarely willing to try new things
If you feel hurt about how passive he is, you may soon start to suspect that he doesn’t really like you, and that’s why he’s not being more proactive about bringing your relationship to the next level.
In reality, his lack of confidence is holding him back.
2) They don’t fight
Men who lack confidence don’t do well with conflict.
In a romantic relationship, this may mean that he’s both unwilling to bring up issues that bother him and defensive when you two disagree.
When you fight, he may withdraw or remain silent, leaving the responsibility for conflict resolution solely on your shoulders.
Again, this can easily convince you that he’s not invested enough to try to reach a compromise.
Moreover, this pattern of avoidance may inadvertently contribute to a cycle of misunderstandings.
The partner lacking confidence fears expressing his emotions, while you interpret his silence as indifference.
Unresolved issues left lingering beneath the surface fester and erode the relationship over time.
3) They apologize too much
Alternatively, a man lacking confidence can go the other way when it comes to handling conflict: apologizing incessantly.
He’s always the first to say sorry whenever a minor issue comes up, regardless of whose fault it was.
Not only that, but he pre-emptively apologizes for… everything.
He has an underlying fear of disappointing you, as well as a desire to maintain a harmonious atmosphere in the relationship.
So he takes on an undue amount of blame, even for non-issues.
If you can’t find a taxi after your date, he’s sorry.
If your favorite snack isn’t available at the store, he’s sorry.
If you were late for an event because *you* took too long to get ready, he’s sorry.
Does this sound like anyone you know?
4) They get jealous easily
When you lack confidence, you have the tendency to compare yourself with others, usually unfavorably.
Others seem more put together, more successful, more attractive.
You sell yourself short and feel inferior, which can cause ugly feelings like envy or jealousy.
If the man you’re with struggles with self-confidence, you’ll notice that he gets jealous easily, even when he has no good reason to.
The jealousy is rooted in a deep-seated belief that he isn’t good enough to maintain your affection in the long term.
He may also engage in self-sabotage by becoming passive-aggressive or giving you the cold shoulder.
Or, he may constantly ask you for reassurance.
Which brings me to my next point.
5) They need constant reassurance
The jealousy I previously mentioned can drive a man slightly insane or make him feel even more insecure than he already does.
To cope, he may need you to regularly remind him that you like him, care for him, and don’t want to be with anyone else.
I struggle with self-esteem, and whenever I asked my ex-boyfriend to reassure me, he was baffled as to why I couldn’t see that the mere fact he was with me was reassurance enough.
Easy – because these feelings aren’t rational.
Occasionally reminding your partner that he’s awesome and that you care for him deeply isn’t much of a sacrifice, don’t you think?
6) They overcompensate
If a man lacks confidence, he may overcompensate by adopting certain behaviors to mask his insecurities.
Turns out, overcompensation is a common response to feelings of inadequacy.
It can take a lot of forms, including:
- Arrogance (boasting about achievements, appearing superior)
- Competitiveness (he needs to outperform others in all aspects of life)
- Materialism (he showcases his expensive possessions every chance he gets)
- Self-deprecating humor (to deflect attention from his insecurities)
- Control issues (maintaining control creates an illusion of competence)
- High-risk behavior (thrill-seeking activities give him an aura of fearlessness)
If you suspect that your partner is overcompensating for his lack of confidence, keep in mind that these unhealthy attitudes are simply a band-aid.
Sooner or later, he needs to confront his real issue head-on.
7) They have difficulty opening-up
Avoiding vulnerability is another thing men do in relationships when they lack confidence.
The fear of exposing his true self, with all his perceived flaws and insecurities, leads to a reluctance to be emotionally open.
This avoidance then creates a barrier between partners and hinders the development of a more meaningful connection:
- He refrains from sharing his true feelings, fears, or concerns
- He comes across as emotionally guarded
- He sidesteps your probing questions
Genuine emotional connection is built on shared vulnerabilities and the willingness to expose one’s authentic self.
If he can’t let you in, you have a big problem.
You two need to have a serious talk about how he could overcome this issue.
However, approach the situation as gently as possible – because of the next point on the list.
8) They struggle with criticism
Men who lack confidence struggle with criticism, and their response to it can be pretty sensitive.
Even when constructive, criticism triggers feelings of inadequacy, further intensifying their self-doubt.
When you bring up something that bothers you at him, there’s a good chance he’ll get defensive.
He might also internalize the criticism, which further plummets his self-esteem.
Or, he might worry that your disapproval will inevitably lead to the end of your relationship.
To create a supportive environment where feedback is framed as an opportunity for growth rather than a judgment of personal worth.
In other words, your partner will need plenty of reassurance.
Refer back to #5.
9) They neglect personal growth
Finally, a man who lacks confidence may neglect his personal growth.
Once you’ve been together for a while, you start to notice that he doesn’t do much to improve himself:
- He doesn’t have any real goals he aspires to
- He doesn’t explore new hobbies or interests
- He doesn’t take on challenges that could foster personal advancement
- He refuses to go outside his comfort zone
- He becomes less concerned with his appearance
This neglect of personal growth can result in a sense of complacency that negatively affects your relationship.
Encouraging small steps towards personal development and celebrating his achievements, no matter how minor, will build his confidence in time.
Your best move?
Lead by example.
If he sees you’re working on yourself, he will be tempted to follow suit.
Supporting a man with low self-esteem requires (plenty of) empathy.
A little effort on your part can go a long way.
Encourage your partner to make time for self-care activities, express himself freely, and celebrate every win.
Try not to judge him too harshly and provide reassurance as often as needed.
As long as you’re patient and understanding, the only way for his confidence to go is up.