Ever consulted a boyfriend’s horoscope hoping for some sign of what’s to come? Us too. There’s an easier way to know whether or not he’s a keeper, and it has nothing to do with the stars. We swear on Bill Nye: the answer might be science.
For centuries, social scientists have studied how couples build lasting relationships – and how some relationships might be doomed to fail from the beginning. This research has led psychologists to attachment theory. It’s the idea that we all develop different emotional personalities (called ‘attachment styles’) when we’re young. How we attach ourselves to our parents, siblings, and young friends has a big impact on how we’ll attach ourselves to potential partners later on. Make sense?
According to psychologists like Dr. Lisa Firestone, a good relationship takes two people who have confident, easy-going, and ‘secure’ attachment styles. “Their relationship tends to be honest, open and equal,” she writes, as Psych Alive reports, “with both people feeling independent, yet loving toward each other.”
While secure partners are good, psychologists say ‘insecure’ partners should be avoided at all costs. They’re the kind of people who never feel fully safe in a relationship so they act out or don’t fully let their girlfriends in. But how can we tell if a guy is an insecure (aka not-worth-it) partner?
We’ve compiled a list of 22 signs that reveal his insecure attachment style, making him a bad catch in the long run. Is he possessive? Stuck up? Clingy? These and the signs below all point to breakup town, so get out of there!
Guys who need to be with you every minute of the day aren’t just so in love with you that they can’t leave your side, they actually have some deeper issues going on. In attachment theory, neediness is a sign of someone who’s super insecure in their relationship.
Dr. Firestone says guys become more needy the less safe they feel in a relationship. For example, if he thinks you might dump him for someone else, you can bet that he’ll be taking up more of your time to make sure nobody else catches your eye. Ironically, the more needy he gets, the less you’ll probably like him. In Dr. Firestone’s words, “Their behavior exacerbates their own fears.”
21He’s Down on Himself
Insecure guys often have zero self-confidence. They’re absolutely convinced that something is wrong with them, so they believe that something will always go wrong in their relationships. They think failure is inevitable because they don’t deserve to succeed. Why would we want to date anyone like that?
It’s one thing to be obnoxiously optimistic, but to be so lacking in confidence that your bad attitude dooms relationships even before they start? That’s too much to deal with. Avoid getting involved with someone who doesn’t believe they are worthy of happiness and good things. You already know that YOU are worthy of that stuff, so find someone who vibes on your level instead.
20He’s Always ‘Fantasizing’
It can be sweet to daydream about the life you want, but once you find the person you want to live it with, there’s no need to keep dreaming. Guys who seem distracted or act like they wish they were somewhere else all the time don’t deserve to be around you. They don’t appreciate it anyway!
According to Psych Alive, guys who fantasize in relationships often project their own made-up identities to the world, showing a version of themselves that isn’t the most authentic. They might pretend to be a certain way (like kind or smart) that suits their imagined life. That’s nuts and not something you need to deal with.
19He’s Too Emotional
We love a boy with ~feelings~ but life is for living, and being too emotional can stop guys from actually taking action. While it’s easy to be attracted to someone who feels deeply about things, they don’t always make the best partners. Their emotions can even get in the way of their love for you, according to attachment theory.
Dr. Firestone believes that too many over-the-top emotional moments can reveal that a dude is not authentically into you, but just “emotionally hungry” for the kind of fantasy relationship mentioned above. He’s looking for someone to listen to him and isn’t picky about who. Pass.
18He’s Overly Anxious
According to research by Dr. Phillip Shaver and Dr. Cindy Hazan, 20 percent of people have an ‘anxious attachment style.’ This kind of person has a high level of need for affection from their partner, and is always worried that their partner doesn’t completely love them.
Imagine a small child whose mother leaves them in their room to go make dinner. A kid with an anxious attachment style would start wailing and believe that their mother has left them for good, even though it’s not true. Adults with this attachment style feel the same way when anything bad happens in their relationships. It’s both sad and unattractive.
17He’s Bored With His Life
If he’s bored, it means he’s both unsatisfied with his life and unwilling to change it. This kind of resistance to positivity could be a sign of a ‘resistant’ attachment style, where guys seek isolation from meaningful relationships and life experiences. In Dr. Firestone’s opinion, these people are “psychologically defending themselves” by blocking out anything that could make them emotional.
To stay emotionally neutral (which we think is boring, by the way) these kinds of guys put up walls that even Miley Cyrus and her wrecking ball couldn’t break through. Wouldn’t you rather be with someone who’s excited about life anyway?
16He’s Desperate For Attention
Some people with an insecure attachment style have ‘desperate’ written all over them. You know the type: they’re always texting first, always free to hang out, and generally eager to please any girl who gives them the time of day. This is endearing, but guys who don’t have their own things going on usually aren’t great boyfriend material.
Guys who are desperate for attention are “frequently looking to their partner to rescue or complete them,” according to Dr. Firestone. Avoid ’em! A great partner is with you because they WANT to be, not because they feel like they NEED to be.
15He’s Way Too Clingy
It might seem strange, but independence is actually a key part of any healthy relationship. We all need to feel free and confident in our own choices – and trust that our partner can make good choices independently, too. If he’s clingy, he’s not going to be able to do that.
Clingyness is a sign that a guy has major trust issues. If he clings to your every move, it means he doesn’t trust you to spend time without him, and even worse, he doesn’t trust himself to be able to occupy his own time without you. That’s just not compatible with a good long-term relationship.
Horrible but true: some guys are unreliable ON PURPOSE. It’s not just that they’re forgetful, always accidentally late, or easily distracted, they actually want unreliability to be part of their identity. They want you to know that they can’t be trusted to do things on time. They WANT to disappoint you. Wth?
Apparently this is a common part of some guys’ insecurity issues. They do things to block their partners from seeing the best side of them because they’re worried that they won’t be enough. If he’s disappointing you on purpose, don’t stick around.
Being too into himself can be a sign of something more. People who are self-obsessed are often “emotionally distant” from others, according to Dr. Firestone. They can have a tough time empathizing with the feelings of others because they’re totally wrapped up in their own heads.
Dr. Firestone’s research also shows that people with this attachment style often “parent themselves,” choosing to focus a lot of their time on solving their own problems and caring for themselves emotionally instead of talking their problems out with other people who can relate. How can he care for you when he’s busy caring only about himself?
12He’s Obsessed With You
On the flip side, he could be caring about you a little too much. Like toddlers who won’t let their parents put them down, some guys grow up to be way too attached to their girlfriends. They can’t step back and live their own lives because they’re drowning in the beauty of their lover’s eyes, or something. Yikes.
According to Dr. Shaver and Dr. Hazan, some people see their partners as a “safe haven” in an otherwise uncertain world. If he tells you that you are the only good thing in his life, or the only good thing in the entire world, that’s a huge red flag. You don’t want that pressure!
11He’s Preoccupied Or Distracted
Some people with insecure attachment styles lead “more inward lives,” according to Dr. Firestone. That means they’re less likely to tell you what they’re thinking and more likely to process their problems without involving you. We like that these kinds of people have some amount of independence, but don’t like that they tend to keep their feelings a secret from us.
You know the type. He’s always thinking but rarely willing to tell you what he’s thinking about. Attachment theory suggests that this is so he can detach himself easily in the future without feeling like he shared too much of his inner self with you. No thanks.
10He’s Possessive Of Her Time
Your time is YOUR time. Don’t let anyone take it away from you! Like Ariana sings in “NASA,” “There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘I need me time.'” You should always feel able to claim some time for yourself, even when you’re committed to a serious relationship.
Insecure guys want to keep tabs on what you’re doing to make sure that you’re not forgetting about them and their needs. That’s so selfish! As if you would forget about the person you’re dating. We say ditch any guy who gets possessive over your thoughts, actions, or time. There’s no way to please him and be true to yourself.
9He’s Inaccessible (On Purpose)
This kind of guy is unwilling to get really close to his partner. “They see their relationships from the working model that you need others to get your needs met, but if you get close to others, they will hurt you,” explains Dr. Firestone. She says that being too close to someone for too long will make this kind of person “feel trapped,” and duck out of the relationship until they feel independent enough again.
Ever been ghosted when you thought things were going really well? Chances are the person who ghosted you had an insecure attachment style that made them jump out of reach just when things started getting serious. They just can’t take the heat.
8He ‘Dismisses’ What She Says
Um…rude. Guys who don’t have secure attachment styles can often “deny the importance of loved ones” by being “dismissive” of everything they say and do, according to Dr. Firestone’s research. If they believe that girlfriends aren’t really important people in their lives, they’re quick to dismiss their thoughts and opinions as unimportant, too.
Can you imagine being with somebody who doesn’t really value what you say? We hope that this has never been the case for you before. Take our advice and avoid any guys who want to date you but don’t want to listen to you. Your body and your voice are kind of a package deal.
7He’s Distant Even When They’re Together
If you’re with somebody, be WITH them. This means you’ve got to give them attention in the moment, not just when they text you. An in-person connection is essential to a lasting, meaningful relationship. How much more obvious does it get? Some guys really don’t realize how important it is to engage on a close level with their girlfriend after they’re cuffed.
To avoid being stuck with someone who has a habit of being distant, look out for what they act like in small group environments. If they seem able to completely disconnect from the crowd around them, they can probably disconnect from you too – and that’s not a good feeling.
6He Avoids Giving Clear Answers To Questions
Avoiding giving clear answers is part of what Dr. Firestone calls being “psychologically defended.” You might remember that term from our description of guys who are boring, and someone who doesn’t answer questions can certainly be a bore. Avoiding topics and specific answers can point to something more, though.
People who do this have an instinct to keep parts of themselves secret from others. They have an agenda: they want to protect themselves in case things go south. They could be leading us on and not telling us the truth (or just telling us PART of the truth). In any case, they’re infuriating to talk to.
5He’s Always Negative
Guys who are secure in their relationships truly believe that things are going to work out, while insecure guys are convinced that something bad might be just around the corner. They might have extremely low self-confidence and believe that they’re going to ruin things. They might have no trust in you and believe that you’re going to end things at any moment. All in all, they have a negative view of your future together.
We don’t know about you, but to us, that doesn’t sound like a good time guy. That actually sounds like someone who’s a complete bummer to be around. And why date someone with no faith in the relationship? Move on.
4He Depends On Her For Everything
You might be noticing a pattern. Some of the main traits that prove that a guy is NOT the one involve his attachment style being OTT. If he’s depending on you for every little thing, you can bet he falls into this category.
Attachment theory research about how young children relate to their parents shows how kids who are way too dependent on their moms or dads often grow up to be way too dependent on their partners. You want to be his girlfriend, not his mom. If he treats you like the answer to all of his wants and needs, that’s a red flag.
3He Acts Like He Doesn’t Care
Ouch. Nobody likes to feel like their partner doesn’t care about them and their feelings. “I don’t care” is basically the worst thing a guy can say in an argument. It shows that he’s not invested in the relationship at all, and that’s exactly what he wants you to think – whether or not it’s actually true.
Guys with insecure attachment styles can often use ambivalence or a careless attitude to protect themselves from getting hurt. They try to convince themselves that their relationships don’t matter and they can survive on their own anyway, which Dr. Firestone says isn’t really true. “Every human being needs connection,” she explains.
2He’s Nervous Around Her
We’re not going to lie, this trait is kind of cute. We can’t help but feel flattered when a guy trips over his words around us or blushes when he makes us laugh. In a long-term relationship, this can be weird, though. If he’s still nervous around you once you’ve established that you’re an actual couple, he might be a bit too unstable to last.
In the best relationships, guys are secure in themselves and confident about what they bring to the table. They don’t worry about what their partner is thinking because they trust that their partner likes them either way. A guy who’s always nervous just isn’t the one.
1He Can’t Stand His Parents
This is a major emotional red flag. If a guy gets really cagey when you ask about his parents, you should definitely wonder why. If he talks badly about his parents, you also shouldn’t take that at face value. It’s true that some people have bad moms and deadbeat dads, but their child’s relationship with them is still the foundation for the rest of their child’s relationships in life, according to attachment theory.
If he dislikes his parents, he probably hasn’t processed his feelings towards them well enough to come to a healthy place of forgiveness or respectful distance. This doesn’t bode well for how he might feel or talk about you if you guys ever break up. Good luck avoiding this one!