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It’s no secret that confidence is a magnetizing trait in a man. We’re all naturally drawn toward those who exude assurance and energy. It’s even a bit contagious. According to Anita A. Chlipala, MA, M.Ed., LMFT, from Relationship Reality 312, Inc., being with someone who is truly confident “can make us feel happy and self-confident, too.”

Indeed, I believe that confidence is one of the most undervalued, and misunderstood qualities in a man. I didn’t fully understand how critical it was, in fact, until I found myself deep into a relationship with a wholly insecure guy.

He was a fantastically interesting, intelligent, and had a dash of snarky humor. Initially, I interpreted his deep commanding voice as confidence and his distant aloofness as cool and mysterious. But as we grew closer, I realized his confidence was actually very broken—the snarky humor was really just a cover for his wounds, a way to protect his ego. And the longer we knew each other, the more he also used me as an extension of his ego—a shroud to hide those insecurities.

I had become a tool—often a willing tool—that spent way too much of her time upholding his fragile pride. The relationship became all about him finding himself—not a mutual relationship where both parties grew and loved the world together. Not only was his lack of confidence a cancer that ultimately destroyed our relationship, but it also left us both in a puddle of confusion afterward. Only after months of analyzing what the heck happened did I realize that I never wanted to experience that again. Thenceforth, I added confidence as a “must-have” on my checklist.

There was a striking difference in dating once I started looking for truly confident men. Dating became more interesting and far more fun. I enjoyed going out. I was treated better, respected more, and I learned more. If my head was whirling afterwards, it was only from the thrill and excitement of romance—rarely from pulling my hair out in bewildered frustration (which was the norm with my unconfident man).

From experience, I learned that true confidence isn’t exactly flashy—and won’t necessarily be obvious unless you know what you’re looking for. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to identify a deeply confident man by what he won’t do, rather than what he does do. So here are four things a confident man won’t do.

01. A confident man won’t mess with your head.

Don’t get me wrong—some games will always play a part in relationships. And in good ones, the chase can be a lot of fun. But there’s a difference between innocent, coy flirting, and actively manipulating your girlfriend’s mind. “[A confident guy] doesn’t play [these types of] games because he doesn’t need to,” Chlipala says. “He feels secure in himself and knows he’s a catch, so doesn’t have to resort to tactics to catch or keep a woman’s interest.”

In other words, your confusion isn’t some sort of response that he’s using to fuel his ego, taper expectations, or—in my unfortunate case—serve as some form of subtle communication. I can’t count the amount of times I received a confusing text that, had I been some sort of magician who read minds, would have said: “I’m interested in you, but don’t actually want to show it, so I’m going to hint at it in cryptic messages and backhanded compliments that will utterly confuse you, and make you rethink your self-worth. Let’s hang out?” If a guy plays games to avoid dealing with real feelings, you should run.

02. A confident man won’t be afraid of getting close.

While there’s a myriad of reasons that a guy might be keeping a bit of distance—including pacing the relationship—if it seems like he clams up after having a discussion about his emotions or vulnerabilities, something could be up.

“Sometimes, an insecure guy will act distant because he fears if he gets too close his woman will know the ‘real’ him and not like him,” Chlipala says. Therefore, he’ll keep you at an arm’s length—staying aloof, being noncommittal. Conversely, “A confident guy will be vulnerable—he can express his feelings and interest in you, even if he’s not sure yet whether they will be reciprocated.”

03. A confident man won’t be clingy, either.

Just because a confident guy might be willing to share his vulnerabilities, doesn’t mean he wants you around all the time. As Regina Bethancourt shares, space can be a really good thing for a relationship. Chlipala explains that there’s a healthy balance between availability and distance—and while some insecure guys might hide themselves away some, others will be clingy. “[An insecure man] can continually seek closeness with his partner because it reassures him that she’s into him and reciprocates his feelings.”

So, if he reacts badly when you’re looking to have some of your own space, take note. It could be a sign that he’s using you as a way to verify his self worth—and who wants to be in that kind of relationship?

04. A confident man will address his weaknesses and will be proud of his strengths.

“Confident people are secure in themselves and believe in their talents and abilities,” Chlipala explains. He doesn’t necessarily think he’s the smartest guy in the room, but he realizes that he has something valuable to bring to the table, and sees life as a challenge that can help develop his talents. While he might know what he’s good at, he knows what he’s bad at, too. “A confident man recognizes not only his strengths, but weaknesses too. He knows his worth but can also be humble.”

Insecure men, on the other hand, might have ambivalent feelings towards strengths or weaknesses. Often, they’ll either be unwilling to see that they can bring anything to the table—wallowing in self-pity—or they’ll overcompensate with cockiness and disproportionate bravado.

When it comes to intimacy, confidence can make a world of difference helping the relationships flourish, encouraging strong communication, honesty, and reliability.

True confidence is a deeply rooted part of our character that is built up over time—and in the best of relationships, it’s something you both bring to the table.

Photo Credit: The Kitcheners