If a man says these 9 things to his partner, he lacks self-esteem

Having a partner who lacks self-esteem is not an immediate red flag, but some behaviors can turn unhealthy if left unchecked. 

And the thing is, we can’t change people. Not directly, at least. 

Self-love is something they need to learn for themselves. We can only love them within our capacity, but we cannot do the emotional work for them. 

We cannot force them to change and nor should we continue waiting for them to (as harsh as that sounds.)

In the same way that we cannot rely on others for our own healing, we can’t be emotional rehabilitations either. 

Low self-esteem will not be immediately apparent, but there will still be signs. In this article, let’s talk about the phrases they say that point to it and how much of a red flag each one is. 

Here are 9 of them.  

1) “Prove to me that you love me.”

Red flag meter: Fire truck red. The sirens are blaring in alarm. 

If a man (or anyone, for that matter) ever tells you to do something so you can prove your love, then leave. Don’t look back. 

Their insecurities are talking and it’s sounding like manipulation. If they weaponize your love into an ultimatum, that isn’t love, that’s just power play. 

Don’t give in to it.

2) “You’re gonna leave me like the rest of them.”

Red flag meter: Crimson. 

This statement sounds like guilt-tripping. It sounds almost like a threat, an accusation wrapped in pity. 

I’m not saying to never soothe your partner’s insecurity, all I’m saying is that you need to draw a line somewhere. If his lack of self-esteem starts being manipulative like this, you need to see it for what it is. 

You need to see him for what he shows you. You need to see the excuses masquerading as self-deprecation. 

3) “My ex is crazy” / “All my exes are crazy”

Red flag meter: Red lipstick red. Maybe even maroon. 

Whenever someone claims that their previous partners are crazy, I always think to myself, who was the common denominator? 

A man who lacks self-esteem and whose insecurities dictate their actions will say this line. They might even say something along the lines of “Hope you’re not crazy like my ex,” or “You’re great because you’re not crazy like my exes” as if that’s a compliment.

Well, it’s not. Someone who can so casually demean their previous partners can easily do that to you, too, once the relationship ends. 

It’s such an insecure move. 

4) “I know I’m not perfect.”

Red flag meter: A little red, salvageable if said in good faith. Very red if said as an excuse. 

If he messes up and says he’s not perfect but he’s trying his best, then cool. Wait for the changed behavior afterward.

If he says this over and over with no changed behavior, then twice is already too much. 

Perfection is overrated and to expect that from your partner is too much anyway. This isn’t a good reason not to try to be better. 

When that happens, it’s just an easy excuse. 

5) “I’m so useless.”

Red flag meter: A little red, salvageable if said in good faith. Very red if weaponizing incompetence.

Psychology Today defines weaponized incompetence as “Weaponized incompetence, also called strategic incompetence, is when someone knowingly or unknowingly demonstrates an inability to perform or master certain tasks, thereby leading others to take on more work.”

Yes, men who lack self-esteem do say this line in moments of extreme vulnerability, but be careful if this is being used against you, too. 

If they say this just to get out of things, then just let them leave completely. Boy, bye. 

6) “I feel like I’m always disappointing you.”

man phrases he lacks respect for women If a man says these 9 things to his partner, he lacks self-esteem

Red flag meter: A little red, salvageable if said in good faith. Very red if used as an excuse to get away with things. 

If a man is reflecting on his shortcomings and is aiming to do better, then this statement is just an admission. A realization, so to speak. It’s still borne from insecurities or low self-esteem, but at least it’s not used as an excuse.

But if a man says “I feel like I’m always disappointing you” and yet had no changed behavior, it was just used as an excuse. 

Know the difference. 

7) “I can’t live without you.”

Red flag meter: Crimson.

Berkeley Well-being Institute says this about dependency “In psychology, dependency typically refers to a relationship that is characterized by excessive reliance on other people (or substances) to meet emotional, physical, or psychological needs.”

So when a guy tells you, “I can’t live without you.” 

Bestie, run. 

I do not care if you love this boy with all your heart, if someone tells you they can’t live without you, that’s the stench of dependency.

They say, “You’re everything to me, without you my life has no meaning”? You think that’s romantic? It’s not. 

It reeks of manipulation. And this is coming from someone who’s experienced this firsthand. It’s controlling behavior and I was none the wiser. 

I chalked it up to him being fragile, and yes he was fragile, but he was also an assh*le. Those things can exist together in one person. 

8) “You’re the only one who cares about me.”

Red flag meter: Very, depending on context. 

Similar to the point above, although there can be moments that this could pass as genuine sentiment. 

For example, healing someone’s inner child by making better memories as adults.

Other times, it’s a red flag from someone with low self-esteem. As in “You can’t leave me, you’re the only one who understands and cares about me.”

Be discerning. 

9) “You deserve someone better.” 

Red flag meter: A little red, salvageable if said in good faith. 

Insecure men would express this sentiment that their partners deserve better. What separates the genuine from the manipulative is the follow-through (or lack thereof). 

If used as an “Oh shucks, you can’t possibly leave me. I’m admitting you deserve better, what more do you want from me?” then it’s just lip service. There’s no real action behind it. 

But if spoken after self-reflection with plans to do better, then it’s not really a red flag. 

Final thoughts

See, someone’s lack of self-esteem is not enough reason to not love them. Most of the time, they just need more understanding and care.

It only gets hazy when the insecurities are at the center of the relationship. When it becomes reason and excuse, the answer to everything, the defense against any call to change. 

That’s when you need to wonder about accountability. That’s when you need to wonder if you’re being treated the way you should be. 

Once again, you can’t do the healing for others, they must do it themselves. At most, you aid the journey, you walk with them through it and hold their hand. You can love them as best you can.

Because love? Love can do a lot but it also can only do so much.

Picture of Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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