8 things men do in relationships when they have low self esteem

Have you ever had a relationship with a man who has low self-esteem?

I have… with myself!

After a really bad breakup I had a long time ago, I struggled with really low self-esteem and the handful of relationships I tried to maintain during that time were really unhappy and unhealthy.

So, I understand what it’s like to be a man who lacks self-esteem. After a lot of consideration and analysis, I’ve come to understand what it must be like to be in a relationship like that as well.

If you think your partner might have low self-esteem, or if you think you have friends who fall into this category, I know it can be a real struggle.

Here are eight things men do in relationships when they have low self-esteem, most of them being self-sabotaging and highly damaging to the relationship’s chances of success.

I hope they help you understand what’s going on and maybe even give you a starting point for making positive changes.

1) They beat themselves up

I know first-hand that men with low self-esteem really give it to themselves because that’s what I used to do when my self-esteem was at rock bottom.

First off, I got my heart broken by my girlfriend I’d been with for years and expected to marry. She left me, and I fell into a dark cycle of blaming myself.

In reality, it didn’t have a lot to do with me but with her moving out into the world and expanding her horizons. But it sure didn’t feel like that at the time.

I used to obsess about everything I could have done better, and I’d replay all the mistakes I made over and over again in my mind.

When I tried to date new people, this feeling of failure was always there in the back of my mind.

If a date didn’t go well, I’d blame myself and focus on all the things I did wrong.

And when I finally did start a new relationship, I was terrified of making the same mistakes again. Whenever something did go wrong, I’d apologize and beg and plead for a chance to make things right.

In the end, this is one of the things that ruined that relationship because this behavior showed such a lack of self-esteem and self-respect.

2) They use negative self-talk

When anyone has low self-esteem, this means that they don’t see a great deal of value in themself and their abilities to do things well or make good choices.

Their perception of themself is totally skewed.

They focus almost entirely on the negatives and ignore most of the positives of their personalities and qualities.

So, it’s no surprise that men with low self-esteem engage in negative self-talk.

They tell themselves that they’ll never find great partners.

When they do find people to be with, they tell themselves it will never last and that they’ll mess things up for sure.

Well, guess what usually happens?

This negativity ends up controlling their lives and deeply affecting their relationships so that they end up being right.

3) They get jealous

If you think that you’re not worth much, it’s easy to compare yourself unfavorably with others.

For men in relationships, this often happens and ends up producing jealous behavior.

A little jealousy in a relationship isn’t a bad thing – it shows that the other person cares about you and doesn’t want to lose you, right?

But real, sustained jealousy can be toxic and can even turn into possessiveness that is anything but desirable.

If your man struggles with low self-esteem, he’ll probably feel threatened by your male friends and colleagues. From his perspective, Jared is so much more handsome, Mike is much funnier, Jamal is way smarter, and Jeff is so much cooler than him.

So he’s right to be wary of you spending time with them – they could easily steal you away!

Well, that’s what he thinks, and he may very well start to act jealous, asking where you are and who you’re with. He’ll get upset and suspicious if you’re out late or if you don’t call him on time.

Unless you can not only reassure him but also help him find a way to increase his self-esteem, this jealousy might end up tearing your relationship apart.

Eventually, you’ll end up with someone else, and he’ll tell himself he was right, so his self-esteem will drop even lower.

4) They try to please their partners

Something that many men with low self-esteem do in their relationships is to try really hard to please their partners.

Sounds great, right?

Why shouldn’t a man try to please you? After all, you’re fabulous, right?

Sure, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with pleasing your partner… unless it’s at the expense of yourself and your own happiness.

And you don’t want your guy to just become a yes-man for you and completely lose his own uniqueness and personality. Take it from me, an ex-professional people-pleaser.

He may agree to do things that you like, but he secretly detests you because he wants to keep you happy so you won’t leave him.

He might also start keeping his opinions to himself and just agree with whatever you think. 

But in the end, you’ll start to feel like you’re just in a relationship with your own reflection instead of a confident partner who actually brings something different to the table.

5) They let themselves be manipulated

phrases men use in relationships when they feel insecure 8 things men do in relationships when they have low self esteem

Being a man with low self-esteem and a people-pleaser can bring more than a lot of hyphens into someone’s life.

They can actually leave the door open for a manipulator to waltz on in.

Master manipulators look for partners who have low self-esteem so that they can easily take the reins in a relationship.

They’ll use the man’s fear of being discarded as a motivator to have him do whatever they want. This can be about getting money, sex, emotional dominance, or anything the manipulator is after.

And sadly, the man will have little ability to protect himself. 

He may realize that he’s being used and abused, but he’ll be reluctant to do anything about it for fear of angering or losing his partner.

He may even feel he deserves it.

6) They struggle with decision-making

Men with low self-esteem find making decisions a real challenge.

They tend to have a very restricted ability to understand what they want since they’re so focused on their own negatives.

On top of that, they don’t have faith in their ability to make good decisions for themselves or their partners.

So, they end up overthinking simple decisions or doing their best to avoid them altogether. Combined with their tendency to want to please, they usually outsource their decision-making to others.

What this means is that their partners end up having to do most of the heavy lifting in the decision department, and this can be really frustrating for them.

7) They pressure their partners for sex

Something that happens in a lot of relationships with men who have self-esteem is that they start to pressure their partners for sex.

Normally, sex is based on attraction, hormone surges, and feelings of wanting to get intimate with your partner.

It’s not something that’s meant to be obligatory or scheduled. And it certainly should be something you feel you have to do.

But many men with low self-esteem look to their partners for the validation they can’t give themselves. And getting sex is very validating.

So if sex is ever refused or simply not offered, the man will feel rejected. He’ll say things like, “I feel like you don’t care about my needs,” to make his partner agree to have sex with him.

But this kind of pressure can make the partner less and less likely to want to have sex, and that makes the man apply more and more pressure until things eventually blow up.

8) They don’t take care of themselves

Self-care is incredibly important, not only for physical health but also for mental health and happiness.

People who care about themselves take time to maintain great hygiene and keep themselves looking their best. They exercise and eat well.

They also work on their mental health by finding ways to relax and reduce stress, like meditation, massage, journaling, taking quiet time, and many other activities.

When a man has low self-esteem, he often thinks that he doesn’t deserve self-care because he doesn’t think his self has any worth.

So you might see a man who doesn’t keep himself healthy and looking and feeling good. If you’re in a relationship with a man like this, it may be a real struggle to get him to do the things he should to care for himself.

Final thoughts

These eight things men do in relationships when they have low self-esteem are quite widespread and are easy to notice.

Once you do, you’ll be able to recognize a man’s issues, and with any luck, your communication and compassion will help him build his self-esteem back up.

Picture of Marcel Deer

Marcel Deer

Marcel is a journalist, gamer, and entrepreneur. When not obsessing over his man cave or the latest tech, he’s failing helplessly at training his obnoxious rescue dog ‘Boogies’.

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