10 things men do in relationships when they lack self-esteem

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I once dated a guy who was really insecure – he had no self-esteem or confidence. 

Going into the relationship, I didn’t think it was a big deal (lots of people have low self-esteem) but it quickly became obvious that it would affect me and our connection in general. 

If you’re going through something similar, use this guide to inform yourself of the things men do in relationships when they lack self-esteem, and how to help them through it! 

1) They apologize too often  

Men with low self-esteem will usually over-apologize – even when they’ve done nothing wrong. 

They don’t do it to be annoying (even though it can grate on your nerves after a while), but rather because they fear losing your love!

As mental health specialist Shahar Lawrence explains for PsychCentral

“When someone has low self-esteem, they may feel they’re taking up too much space, asking too much, or being disruptive. In this case, they often apologize profusely as they feel they aren’t worthy of time, space, or attention.”

This will also lead to them needing constant reassurance and validation…

2) They will constantly seek validation

Have you ever noticed your man checking in with you over every little decision he makes

I remember my ex would always ask whether I thought he looked good or not, it was endearing at the start but I soon noticed that his sense of self-worth was heavily tied into my opinion of him. 

This can put a lot of pressure on you, as their partner! 

And when men have low self-esteem, it’s not just their appearance they need validation for; it’s their actions, decisions, emotional expression, and much more. 

3) They may be over critical 

When a man feels critical of himself, he might deflect these feelings by criticizing you instead…

Which can obviously cause a lot of strain on the relationship, and make you feel terrible in the process! 

If your man does this, it could be that he’s trying to draw the attention away from his own perceived flaws and shortcomings by putting the spotlight on you instead. 

4) They avoid confrontation like the plague 

Earlier, I mentioned that when men over-apologize, it can be because they don’t feel worthy or deserving of love. 

Well, the same applies to when they’re confronted or forced to explain their behavior/actions. 

They may avoid confrontation because they’re afraid of what will happen…

In fact, one study into the direct link between low self-esteem and confrontation found that:

“People with low self-esteem’s resistance to address concerns may stem from a fear of negative outcomes. That is, they may believe that if they speak up and confront what troubles them, they risk rejection from their partner.” 

5) They get jealous easily 

One thing I noticed about my ex was that he was way more jealous than any other man I’ve met. 

Even though I never gave him a reason to distrust me, he would get suspicious over every little interaction – even simple things like smiling at the waiter to get his attention. 

You might have noticed your man doing the same…so why does this happen when men have low self-esteem?

Well, essentially, it comes down to the fact that they don’t feel like they’re good enough

They fear you leaving them for someone else, so they overreact, even to the point of control, just to avoid feeling this way. 

6) They sacrifice their own needs 

And part of the reason why men with low self-esteem don’t feel good about themselves is that they neglect a lot of their needs and desires. 

For example, you may notice that your partner goes above and beyond for you, but never takes a moment to focus on himself. 

Unfortunately, this creates a toxic, unhealthy cycle! 

They end up feeling run down, stressed out, and unfulfilled, which could lead them to resent you – even though you didn’t ask them to go out of their way for you.

7) They struggle with decision making 

When men lack self-esteem in a relationship, it may affect how they make decisions…

Case in point:

My friend’s husband struggles with low confidence. We all went for dinner one evening and he couldn’t decide what to order. 

He kept asking his wife, to the point of getting frustrated when she said to order whatever he wanted. 

At the time, I thought it was a bit strange until I learned more about how self-esteem can make making even the simplest decision hard! 

So, if your man also struggles to do simple things without asking for your opinion, now you know why…

8) They avoid intimacy

Another thing men in relationships do when they lack self-esteem is avoid getting physical.

Again, this relates to their low sense of self-worth, and not feeling good enough.

If your man rejects you in the bedroom, it’s probably not because he doesn’t find you attractive, but he wonders why YOU find HIM attractive. 

Which is really sad when you think about it!  

9) They have a negative outlook on life 

Would you say your man leans towards a more pessimistic view of the world? 

My ex found fault in everything. While I’d be outside enjoying the birds chirping away, he’d be complaining that they were too loud.

But it makes sense when you think of it like this:

If you feel good on the inside, you naturally view the world with a brighter lens…

On the other hand, If you’re feeling crappy, hopeless, and bad about yourself, that’s going to affect how you see everything else. 

So if your man does the same, this could be the reason why! 

10) They may be perfectionists 

And finally, men who lack self-esteem tend to be perfectionists, even in their romantic relationships. 

As the University of Maryland explains: 

“Sometimes, when individuals experience insecurity, they seek validation and self-worth in their achievements, possibly leading to perfectionism.

“Others may feel a sense of insecurity not about who they are but about the world (due to difficult or uncontrollable factors in their lives) and turn to perfectionism to provide a sense of control.”

You might notice your man holding you or himself to exceptionally high standards and expecting everything to be done “perfectly”…which, let’s be honest, is unrealistic and draining! 

So, now we’ve covered 10 things men do in relationships when they lack self-esteem…what can you do about it? 

How to help a man with low self-esteem

I’m going to level with you here, helping someone deal with insecurity and a lack of self-esteem isn’t always easy, but with patience and a willingness to try on both parts, it’s possible! 

My relationship ultimately broke down because he didn’t want to accept any help, nor did he want external support. 

But if you think you’ve got a shot of getting through to your man, try the following:

  • Encourage honest and open communication. Create a safe space where you can both share your feelings without judgment or harsh reactions.
  • Offer reassurance. Yes, it may feel tiring, but letting your partner know how you feel from time to time could help them feel relaxed and secure. 
  • Encourage your partner to practice self-care. Realistically speaking, nothing you do will help unless they start looking after themselves. Get them to do hobbies they enjoy, exercise regularly, and remind them to eat and sleep well. 
  • Set boundaries. Boundaries are essential for both of you, and they don’t have to be a “bad thing” as they’re so often perceived. Let your partner know that these limits are there so both of you feel respected and comfortable within the relationship.

And ultimately, you may need to encourage your partner to seek therapy. 

There’s only so much you can help them with, but a professional will be able to pinpoint exactly why they’re lacking self-esteem and give them a plan of action to slowly increase their confidence levels

In the meantime, you’ll need to exercise plenty of patience! But don’t forget to look after yourself too. If your partner refuses help, the long-term effects could wear you down, and ultimately create an unhealthy, toxic relationship

Kiran Athar

Kiran is a freelance writer with a degree in multimedia journalism. She enjoys exploring spirituality, psychology, and love in her writing. As she continues blazing ahead on her journey of self-discovery, she hopes to help her readers do the same. She thrives on building a sense of community and bridging the gaps between people. You can reach out to Kiran on Twitter: @KiranAthar1

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