12 signs a man is emotionally high-maintenance, according to psychology

We all know what the term “high-maintenance person” means — someone who requires an excessive amount of attention and resources. 

We often hear of women being called “high maintenance”, but men can be, too. What’s more, men can be emotionally high-maintenance, which can be draining on their partners. 

How can you tell if a man is like this? Here are 12 signs he requires more emotional labor than usual, according to psychology: 

1) He requires constant reassurance about your relationship

First up, emotionally high-maintenance men need constant reassurance and validation

Now, it’s pretty normal for us to feel insecure about ourselves and our partners every now and then. But constantly doubting your place and your partner’s affection is definitely not normal. 

I was once in a relationship with a guy like this, and though it was flattering at first, it became tiresome after a while. 

Having to answer endless rounds of “Do you love me? Are you mad at me?” wasn’t my idea of a healthy, forward-thinking relationship. 

It frustrated me to no end that no matter what I did, it never seemed to be enough to make him feel secure. Needless to say, it was a rather short-lived romance. 

2) He’s excessively jealous and possessive

Oftentimes, neediness is accompanied by jealousy and possessiveness. That’s another red flag that a man might be emotionally high-maintenance. 

Imagine having to explain or “report” where you are at all times of the day. Having to justify every interaction you have with someone else. Feeling the need to limit your social outings just to keep the peace…

Like the need for reassurance, a little jealousy every now and then is normal. But too much of it? It’s absolutely exhausting. And in fact, according to Very Well Mind, it’s a warning sign of a potentially abusive relationship.  

It can eventually feel like you’re always under surveillance, and that kind of scrutiny is tiring. More importantly, it gets in the way of building real trust and mutual respect. 

3) He often feels slighted or offended by minor issues or criticism

Still on the topic of insecurity, emotionally high-maintenance men also struggle with criticism

This usually has its roots in childhood – they may have grown up in a highly critical environment or with parents who had unreasonably high expectations. 

It’s understandable, yes, but the problem is, it really messes with one’s ability to receive and interpret criticism as an adult, as GoodTherapy points out. 

As a result, it would be hard to engage them in constructive conversations. They’d just see your suggestions or feedback as disrespect. 

Trying to discuss everyday issues in the relationship can be a real challenge – even a gentle suggestion like loading the dishwasher a different way can quickly escalate into a conflict. 

Which is why it’s emotionally high-maintenance – it takes a lot more effort than it should! 

4) He demands a lot of attention and time

Emotionally high-maintenance men can also be demanding. 

Change Inc. cites three reasons why people become demanding: 

  • Being taught that only others can fulfill one’s needs
  • Perfectionism
  • Fear of abandonment

It’s a complicated issue for sure, and one that calls for a lot of understanding and patience. 

The thing is, you can only be understanding up to a certain point. There will come a time when you’re all tired out from giving in to those demands to keep the peace. 

Ultimately, what you get is a one-sided relationship where you’re forever trying to fill a bottomless pit of emotional needs. 

If this sounds familiar to you, it might be time to set your boundaries. You are not “The Giving Tree” – your needs are important, too! 

5) He has difficulty managing his emotions 

phrases men with low emotional intelligence use in relationships 12 signs a man is emotionally high-maintenance, according to psychology

Obviously, if a man is emotionally high-maintenance, it follows that he’s lacking in the emotional intelligence department. So, don’t be surprised if he finds it hard to control his emotions. 

As Sara Viezzer of Simply Psychology puts it, “Without fully understanding their emotional triggers, they struggle to maintain control of their immediate reactions and might experience overly intense feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness.”

So expect some pretty dramatic reactions to what might seem like small stuff, like a full-blown tantrum over a canceled plan. Or he’ll ice you out because you didn’t answer his text right away. 

Living with this kind of emotional unpredictability can feel like you’re always walking on eggshells. 

Eventually, all that tiptoeing and finessing things to avoid upsetting him results in you feeling fully drained, plus, possibly, a dose of anxiety. You might even begin questioning your sanity. 

6) He has poor conflict resolution skills and may hold grudges

How do these responses to conflict make you feel?

  • Yelling
  • Stonewalling
  • Passive-aggressiveness
  • “You always” or “You never” statements
  • Ultimatums
  • Refusal to listen

Exhausting, right? Unfortunately, these are some ways that emotionally high-maintenance men tend to respond. 

In fact, that’s precisely why they’re high-maintenance – they squeeze a whole lot more effort out of you because they can’t resolve conflicts maturely. It’s a lot like dealing with a child. 

On top of that, they tend to hold grudges too. As we’ve established, their emotional intelligence leaves a lot to be desired. That’s why they find it hard to process the resentment that they feel and then let it go. 

7) He’s inflexible

Transformation coach Vivien Roggero cites flexibility as a cornerstone of healthy relationships. She explains: 

“In a relationship context, flexibility refers to the willingness and ability to adapt one’s behavior, expectations, and attitudes to the fluctuating dynamics of the relationship. 

It’s about embracing change, managing conflicts constructively, and nurturing a shared life that respects and accommodates the individuality of both partners.” 

But with emotionally high-maintenance men, flexibility is somewhat of an alien concept. They tend to be set in their ways, and they expect their partner to adjust to that. 

Naturally, it leads to an imbalance – the other one has to adjust, or they’d never get anywhere. This leads to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. 

Ultimately, for a relationship to thrive, both individuals need to feel like their voices are heard and their needs are being met. 

8) He never apologizes for his mistakes

“Apologies really can be thought of as the super glue of life in a way,” Dr. Karina Schumann explains in an interview with the American Psychological Association. “They really go a long way to show concern, to show that you care about the relationship, about the person, that you want to make things right.”

Unfortunately, apologies are foreign territory for emotionally high-maintenance men, as it might feel like admitting weakness or defeat. 

They may perceive it as a threat to their self-esteem, especially if they’re already dealing with insecurities or a fear of criticism. 

What does this mean for their partner? A heavy emotional burden. 

They’d have to forgive over and over without receiving any acknowledgment of the mistake and the pain it caused. 

Over time, this one-sidedness can lead to emotional exhaustion and a feeling of being taken for granted

And if I may add, a touch of bitterness. It’s hard not to feel resentful when you have to gloss over what happened again and again for the sake of moving on.  

9) He constantly complains

Negativity is just draining, period. It’s hard to be around a man who constantly complains or walks around with a cloud over his head. 

I’ve been with men like this, and it was pretty difficult to stand the whining, ranting, griping, and whatnot. 

At first, I’d try to put a positive spin on things, to cheer them up, to point out the good things they’ve got going on, but eventually, I gave up. Instead of lifting them up, I was the one getting dragged down. 

The Mental Fitness Company puts it so well: “The more you notice other people’s energy, the more conscious you become of who you want to spend time with. Energy vampires or suckers are good to avoid!”

10) He leaves all the decisions to his partner 

hes struggling with the loss of freedom in a relationship 12 signs a man is emotionally high-maintenance, according to psychology

Have you ever heard of the term “mental load”? Better Up defines it as: 

“…the cognitive effort involved in managing your work, relationships, a family, and a household. Mental load is the whole bundle of details you manage throughout the day. It has to do with your responsibilities, formal or not, as well as the decisions you have to make.”

Mental load is what happens when one partner leaves all the decision-making to the other. It’s quite common in women, as they’re expected to take on a lot of the responsibilities at home. 

Men who don’t do their share are emotionally high-maintenance because ultimately, the mental load they dump on their partners creates emotional exhaustion and burnout. 

11) He needs to have the final say about everything

The opposite end of the spectrum is just as exhausting. A man who needs to control everything is exasperating to deal with, too. 

Not to mention stifling, because it doesn’t leave much room for both partners to have a say or make decisions together. 

In the end, it just leads to resentment – being ignored never feels good. 

In extreme cases, it can even lead to low self-esteem. When your voice is never heard, you end up feeling unimportant. 

12) He’s emotionally unavailable

We don’t normally think of emotionally unavailable men as high-maintenance, but you  know what? They absolutely are, just in a different way.

While they might not be demanding or constantly needing reassurance, the maintenance comes in the form of the energy and effort required to connect with them emotionally.

Their partners often find themselves working harder just to be more intimate. They might spend a lot of time and energy figuring out things:

“Is he happy or not? What can I do to get him to feel safe and open up?” 

And so on. All while their own emotional needs go unmet. 

Bridging the emotional gap is tiring and oftentimes, thankless. It’s a lot of uncertainty with no guarantee of success. 

Final thoughts

Being in a relationship with an emotionally high-maintenance man can be tough; you’ll need a lot of patience and understanding. 

That said, these issues need to be addressed. Because even though you might have the patience of a saint, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your own emotional health.

A healthy relationship is about balance and mutual support, where both partners share both the effort and rewards. 

So, don’t shy away from seeking support or counseling – it can provide valuable tools and perspectives that help both of you grow together.

Picture of Roselle Umlas

Roselle Umlas

I am a freelance writer with a lifelong interest in helping people become more reflective and self-aware so that they can communicate better and enjoy meaningful relationships.

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